Japan Children’s Party

Many, many years ago, my dad went to Japan on a business trip. He made good friends there with another businessman, named Seiji. Seiji was newly engaged to Noriko, and when he had to come to the States for an extended stay, he brought his new wife, Noriko, with him. Not only that, but Seiji and Noriko stayed with my parents for several weeks until they got their bearings for life-American. I remember the seemingly meditative way Noriko arranged a few flowers and leaves from our garden in an ikebana vase she had brought with her from Japan.

Up until then, the only thing I knew about the Japanese culture I had learned in a black-and-white movie about Japan shown in my 3rd-grade class. Oh, and I had read Rumer Godden’s charming stories about the Japanese dolls who come to live with little English girls, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, and Little Plum.  (I never did build the Japanese doll house from the plans included at the end of Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, but it’s on my Bucket List still.)

Anyway, our family friendship with Seiji and Noriko was further solidified when my mom and I visited Japan as part of a tour with my sister-in-law-to-be, who was on a quest for bridesmaids’ fabric – but that’s another story.  My mom and I visited Seiji and Noriko in their home outside Tokyo, after Seiji had commuted into Tokyo two hours to pick us up at our hotel and escort us back to his home (four hours round trip)…  The tatami mats, the tokonoma alcove, fresh sushi and sashimi for dinner, and all the electric gizmos attached to their television set that allowed their two young boys, Hiroki and Wataru, to compose music on their computer/keyboard/ television screen (just for fun, of course) gave us a taste of Japanese culture shock.

Fast forward a few years, and Noriko and Wataru came to visit me and my family while they toured California college campuses for Wataru. After that, we were often surprised by special gifts from Noriko. Once it was a golden soccer ball named “Lance” from the World Cup that had been held in Japan, sometimes it was school supplies just right for little hands, or travel guides from Kyoto or Mt. Fuji (as if I needed tempting).

So, one summer after Noriko and Wataru’s visit, we decided to have a Japan Party just for fun. I admit, it was probably more my idea than my kids’, but I had this notion that it would be good for them to experience other cultures, even if it was only at home. My son had learned how to fold samurai origami hats from his third-grade teacher, and I had gone crazy buying tropically-inspired origami paper on a recent trip to Hawaii, so I decided to put the two random events together and come up with an invitation.

jap invite coverjap msg invite




We went to our local library and checked out a few books on Japan and Japanese culture, including cookbooks. We shopped our local Marukai store and came home with craft supplies, one-dollar-each Japanese-style tea cups, and loads of edible delicacies. And then the day of our party came.Japanese party table

I laid out woven beach mats (purchased on sale at an ABC store in Lahaina) on the floor for our tatami mats. I borrowed some bricks – stored in the garage for some unknown reason – from my husband for table “legs.” I laid a folding table on top of the bricks without extending the legs; that gave me a low table at which the kids could kneel. Noriko had sent me a beautiful tablecloth that I used. Party City had some Asian-inspired plates. I added the tea cups that we had bought, and chopsticks that the kids had rolled in napkins, an orchid from Trader Joe’s for a centerpiece, and our table was set.Japanese party table

From the library cookbooks and Marukai supplies, it was easy to plan the menu.  My daughter got inspired and drew her own kimono, so I used that to set off our menu.

jap menu

It was also easy to plan the crafts that, of course, the kids would want to do. Well, at least I would want to do… The kids were good sports and went along with me: life-size origami samurai hats, kimono-girl book marks,

fish pennants to hang outside on Children’s Day (May 5)…

and then they got to play, so it was all good.

Many years later, my daughter visited Noriko and Seiji in their Tokyo home.  I like to think it wasn’t all foreign to her…

Cleo-chan & Noriko

Ice Cream Cake

My sister gave me the idea for this recipe when my kids were much younger. I liked it because it was a project I could give my kids to do all on their own, when they were still pretty small.

Bundt cake pan
1 store-bought angel food cake, torn into 1-2” pieces
3-4 small containers of your favorite ice cream (my son’s favorite flavors are Chocolate Chip Mint, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Cookies n’ Cream; I always add some Strawberry for color)

Scatter some angel food cake pieces in the bottom of the cake pan, then spoon a few scoops of each ice cream flavor over the angel food cake. Repeat this process until the Bundt cake pan is filled with angel food cake pieces and ice cream. Cover the pan with foil and freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight. Before serving, remove cake from freezer and slide a knife around the sides of the cake. Dampen a small towel with hot water and wring towel almost dry. Invert cake pan onto serving platter, and wrap hot towel around base of pan to unmold. Return cake to freezer until ready to serve.

Birthday dessertsIf decorating the cake for a Knight party, break a chocolate Hershey bar into rectangles and insert chocolate pieces into cake so that they look like battlements. Make pennants by gluing a piece of wired ribbon to the end of a bamboo skewer and insert skewers into cake also. Remember to add candles!

Knight invitation

As usual, I was late getting my party inspiration juices stirred up for my son’s Medieval Times birthday invitation, so I ended up at the computer one very late night, googling “royal proclamations.”  I lucked out: the first entry I found (from 1723) was almost perfectly worded for my purpose.  A few modifications, and this is what I wrote:

Lawrence George 1, by the grace of God,Inside Knight invitation Knight of Castle (1234) Sanditon, and its backyard Commonwealth, defender of the faith and of our Church in earth the supreme head, to all our most loving and faithful friends and family, and also our mostly obedient pets, and to every of them, greeting:

Where it will please Almighty God, on Saturday next, the 18th November, to call together the afore-mentioned parties to join in the revelry, celebrations, and goings-on that attend the twelfth birthday dinner feast of the same Lawrence George 1, hereafter known as Sir Lance, at Castle Medieval Times of Buena Park, to witness in all the full glory, regalia, magnificence, etc. the tournament of jousting, swordplay, and horseplay that ensues. Carriage departs from Castle Sanditon at half after four o’clock in the afternoon of the same day. Return will be by same later in the evening.

The favor of a telephonic reply by 12th November is requested at 123-456-7890.

Crossed letter-openersI printed the text in a plummy-red color (using Word 2013 Blackadder font) on vellum, that I trimmed down to 7 1/2″ x 10″.  The next day, I got my son to sign all the vellum sheets and I added a wax seal of his initial to match the ink color.  Then I glue-pasted the printed vellum to a gold Venetian-marbled sheet, measuring 8 1/2″ x 11″.  (I had pre-printed the marbled paper with the crossed images of two letter openers that I borrowed from my son; I simply scanned one letter opener, then rotated a copy of the image on top of it.)

Then I folded the proclamation in thirds and wrapped it with a “ribbon” of plum-red velour paper trimmed to 3/8″ x 9 1/2″.  I glued a “jewel” to the end of the ribbon and affixed the tab with a glue dot (so it would be re-sealable).Invitation outside

The folded proclamation fit inside a business-sized, buff-colored envelope – and off it went!

Medieval Times/Knight party for a 12-year-old boy

As my kids got older, the backyard lost its appeal and birthday parties were more appealing if “we could go somewhere.”  So, when my son turned 12, he got the idea to go to Medieval Times with some off his friends.Medieval Times guest knightsAlso, our house was under construction at the time, so throwing a birthday party away from home was almost a necessity.  This was a real departure for me – a dedicated DIYer, but I was wisely able to relinquish total control with grace and dignity.

I also came up with a cute and really easy invitation:Invitation outside

Fortunately for us, Medieval Times is practically in our backyard, so renting a van to transport all those boys (with my husband as chauffeur/bus driver) was a no-brainer.  (I drove the girl-car for his sister and her little friend.)Damsels in no distressPre-dinner entertainment was graciously provided by Medieval Times in the manner of group photo ops, sword-making demonstrations, sword displays, heraldry displays, and the purchase and use of the ubiquitous foam sword for each of our visiting knights (and ladies).Sword photo

The use-your-hands dinner and jousting tournament was enjoyed by everyone.  Frankly (and snootily), I had assumed that watching this pretend production would be cheesy and silly, but I was happily surprised.  The equestrian display alone was impressive; the Medieval Times performers are remarkably good stunt men (and women) – and I would be happy to see them again.  And the food was tasty enough – considering that I didn’t have to lift a finger (except to eat), it was delicious.  After the show was over, we brought all the party guests back to our house for the birthday boy’s favorite (and easy) ice cream cake (decorated with Hershey’s chocolate battlements and ribbon pennants) and snickerdoodles.Birthday desserts

In the immortal (and probably inaccurate) words of Shrek’s friend, Donkey, “My little baby’s all grown up and off slaying dragons!”  Fun times at Medieval Times…


DIY Tex-Mex Thanksgiving invitation

My invitation for our Tex-Mex Thanksgiving this year was pretty simple and easy.  I had looked for more formal invitations in local stationery stores but found nothing that was “Tex-Mex” that also said, “Thanksgiving.”  So, naturally, I made my own. Tex-Mex Thanksgiving inviteI found some pretty textured brown paper at Michaels that I used for the “folder” – just an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet that I cut in half (to 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″).  I had some leaf cut-outs left over from last year that I’d bought at The Paper Source; on those, I free-handed “Giving” and “Thanks” with a gold metallic marker (extra fine point). And then the leaf cut-outs were affixed to the invitation with some metallic foil leaf stickers.

I tried to find a Tex-Mex inspired paper on which I could actually print our invitation, but – nada.  (Maybe I should have spent longer than ten minutes looking!)  So, I made my own:  using vellum paper, I simply printed online clip art of chili peppers from Word 2013, and the text (using Gabriola and Playbill fonts).  I also placed a few fall leaf stickers under the vellum for that traditional Thanksgiving feeling.

Tex-Mex Thanksgiving open invite_mod

And here is the wording:

Please join us for Dinner

Tex-Mex style!

Thanksgiving Day

Thursday, November 28th

at 3 o’clock in the afternoon

at our Home

Thank you for sharing this special day!

Rsvp Dave, Kathy, Roger, or Kris


Sure wish you could join us!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tex-Mex Thanksgiving

The holidays started last month with my husband’s birthday, followed by Halloween.  Even more than usual, they are flying by.  And no, it doesn’t help that Thanksgiving is late this year, making Christmas early.  I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach, or the back of my brain: I should have finished my Christmas shopping last week already.  For those of you who have already finished your Christmas cards (memo to self: get Christmas cards), thank you for your inspirational role-modeling.  I’m hoping next year will be more organized.

In the meantime, I did plan my Thanksgiving celebration; it’s Tex-Mex this year, in honor of my son’s new Mustang status.SMU DreamerI just read it off to my son, who is in Dallas at SMU, and he said that it was making him hungry already.  So, I’m sharing it with you here.  Special thanks to Kim Pierce, who wrote a great piece for the Dallas Times on a Tex Mex Thanksgiving, way back in 2007 (talk about planning ahead!).

And I also got my invitations out, thankfully.  They were easy to do, but a nice blend of traditional Thanksgiving, and Tex-Mex touches.Tex-Mex Thanksgiving invite

Here’s my plan for the menu:

I’ll start with simple cheese quesadillas (for the few picky eaters in my family), garnished with my guacamole because I love it, and accompanied by Chipotle Shrimp Tacos.  Because Thanksgiving dinner is such a huge meal, I’ll substitute for the soup course with a light salad (thank you, Martha!), sprinkled with pepitas.

The entrée, high-heat roasted turkey (seasoned with Tex-Mex spices), will follow.  The seasonings for the Tex-Mex rub on the turkey are simply borrowed from the seasonings recommended by Kim Pierce for the chili gravy that she wrote about.  The high-heat method is straight out of Fine Cooking; their technique is not only easy but delicious.  I’ll just make a simple pan gravy from the turkey drippings; I think it will be a lighter complement to all the food on the buffet.

Now for the sides: Ancho Chilis Stuffed with Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry-Mango Relish, Tex-Mex Zucchini, Smoked Baked Potatoes with El Rancho Chili con Queso, Mexican Corn Stuffing Casserole (without the cheeses), and Flaky Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuits.  The sweet potato, cranberry, and potato dishes are from Kim Pierce’s article also; they read like authentic Tex-Mex recipes (not just traditional Thanksgiving dishes with Tex-Mex spices – like, ahem, my roast turkey recipe – !)   The zucchini recipe is from Fine Cooking, too, and the stuffing recipe is from cooksrecipes.com.  The biscuits will be a blend of two recipes, Flaky Angel Biscuits and Cheddar and Jalapeno Biscuits (from Simply Recipes.com).

Now, for the dessert.  It might just be my favorite part of the meal… Pumpkin Flan (adapted from a special family recipe), Pecan Pie (because my from-Houston-friend says every Texan serves pecan pie at Thanksgiving), and Chocolate Tres Leches Cake, because we need something chocolate, don’t we? (The Chocolate Tres Leches Cake is also from Fine Cooking.)

I know I have so much to be grateful for.  My family is basically healthy; my living-away-from-home-son is happy where he is, my teenage daughter is finding her way (whether she realizes it or not); my husband is infinitely patient with all of us; my dog plays like a puppy still; I have made some new friends who have stepped up as old friends have moved on; I still have old friends; and I have Thanksgiving Dinner coming up.  I am looking forward to the Conversation Starters we always use,conversation cupthe Pictionary Challenge that always follows, and our tradional placecards. Turkey place cards I thank God for these blessings, and I sincerely hope that you are blessed as well.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

The end - SMU Dreamer!

Flaky Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuits

This recipe, adapted from Flaky Angel Biscuits, is also inspired by the Cheddar and Jalapeno Biscuits recipe from simplyrecipes.com.

4 c. flour, plus more for rolling (but only a little, if the dough is chilled)
1 c. polenta (or fine-milled cornmeal)
8 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3 T. sugar
½ t. cayenne pepper
6 T. diced jalapeno peppers
¼ c. butter, chilled (unsalted)
½ c. shortening, chilled
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 t. dry yeast
½ c. warm water
1 ¾ – 2 c. buttermilk (warmed 1 min. in microwave)
¼ c. milk
¾ c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (except yeast, cheese, and jalapeno peppers) and mix well.  Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender until butter and shortening are the size of small peas.  Dissolve yeast in the water (ideally warmed to about 105-115° F), stir and allow to swell (about 6 mins.).  Add yeast and buttermilk to dry ingredients, and toss with fork to blend and moisten, creating a soft dough.  Lightly mix in cheese and jalapeno peppers.

Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 8 hrs. or overnight; dough can be kept in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

To bake a few biscuits at a time, remove portion of dough. On lightly-floured surface, roll dough to thickness of 1”.  Cut into similar-size rounds or wedges with knife or biscuit-cutter.  Brush generously with milk.  Sprinkle with additional cheddar cheese, if desired.

Jalapeno cheddar biscuits

Place on baking sheet.  Bake at 425° F until lightly browned on top, 12 – 15 mins.  (makes 24 –  2 ½ “ biscuits).

Frontier Party for 6-year-old

There’s a general, well-known rule of thumb for the number of guests at a kid’s birthday party: Child’s age + 1 = number of guests. That works really well until your child enters compulsory education; then his classmates become his daily playmates, and ideally, he can’t narrow down his list of closest friends to just seven. In a perfect world, I like to think that means I’m raising a child who is inclusive and friendly. In the real world, when my son turned six and was just in kindergarten, that meant that I was faced with managing 38 (including my own) children for two hours. (The two-hour time limit was my arbitrary window of insanity.)The birthday boy

Well, my son came up with an idea that was actually do-able: a Frontier Party. He was very clear that it was not a Cowboy Party, or a Pioneer Party. All the days we’d played hooky from preschool and gone to Disneyland instead had paid off, and he wanted to recreate Tom Sawyer’s Island and Fort Wilderness in his backyard for his birthday. I think he also thought he wanted a coonskin cap, like the one Daniel Boone wore, and were then available in Adventureland in the Bazaar. (Now, I think they can be purchased at The Briar Patch, just past the Haunted Mansion, on your way into Critter Country.)

That many invitees plus limited time (I admit, his birthday had snuck up on me!) meant I needed an invitation that was easy to do. I found some printer-friendly paper at a local stationery store (my paper was decorated with cartoon-like mountains and trees, but any paper with “Mountain Scene” or “Fall Foliage” would do), and one night (very late) sat up and typed out the text. I was a little bit punchy, but the end result had a cute flavor and I think worked out well:

Frontier Invite-Blog-RevisedHowdy!  This here is a formal invite to head west to the edge of the Eastbluff Wilderness and rendezvous with the Scouting Party gathering there to celebrate Danny Smith’s 6th birthday on Saturday, November 11th from 2:30 – 4:30 pm…  Explore the frontier on a scavenger hunt, cook up some wild grub, tell tall tales ’round the campfire, and generally have a hoot…  Rsvp to the bona fide, certified rangers at 123.456.7890 by November 6th…  Hope to see you there!

(Because we were inviting everyone in his kindergarten class, I didn’t even have to pay for postage: I just dropped off the invitations the next day at school, and one of the volunteer-moms distributed them in the kids’ take-home bags.)

Frontier envelope

Once the date and time were set and the invitations were done, I had to plan the actual party. I started with activities; I was looking for ideas that were kindergartner-friendly and wouldn’t break the bank, and theme-oriented, of course. I figured the kids could do crafts for the first 20-25 minutes of the party, while everyone was arriving. The second half-hour would be devoted to the scavenger hunt (ahem, the tracking party), followed by 30-40 minutes of cooking lunch (hot dogs and s’mores) over campfires, eating cupcakes (instead of birthday cake), and finally, opening gifts. After that, it would be time for the guests to go home – phew!

By party day, we had 30 scouts to accommodate. I rented three kid-sized tables and 30 kid-sized chairs; I covered the tables with plastic tablecloths from Party City (light greengreen, and orange), and purchased paper plates and napkins in similar “frontier foliage” colors: mostly dark green, and some brown, orange, and yellow. (I didn’t need cups because I was serving juice boxes for beverages, and I didn’t need silverware because the food was all handheld).

The party starts

I also printed up name tags (just pre-printed package labels with a sticker) for each guest when they “checked in” at the front gate; I wanted to make sure the adult-helpers could identify each guest by name.

Name tag girl

The craft activities were simple, but cute and easy to execute:
1) Wampum bracelets (for trading with Indians) – made out of leather laces (that I pre-cut) and pony beads.


Serendipitously, this reinforced the patterns and sequencing tasks the kids were doing in school, so it was definitely age-appropriate.Lance6bday32) Bird seed feeders – made from toilet paper rolls smeared with peanut butter, then rolled in bird seed, and strung with red yarn for hanging. (I also had a box of baggies and a black sharpie – to stash the finished feeders and label the bags.)

Making bird feeders3) Pretzel log cabins – made from stick pretzels and peanut butter, stacked like Lincoln Logs. (The scouts constructed these on small paper plates that were then labeled with each scout’s name with another black sharpie, and placed in a baggie.)

Peanut butter crafts

4) Leaf rubbing placemats – made from purchased plain white placemats, various leaves collected at our local park, and crayons.


5) Coloring pages – reproduced from some very old Disneyland coloring books, with images of Trapper Mickey heading off into the forest with Goofy, or sitting around a campfire with Chief Donald.


Wolf TrackCrafts were followed by a scavenger hunt, thanks to the creative talent of my party-planning-friend-in-arms (hmm, -cahoots).  The scouts were divided into six scouting parties of five, each led by a mom or dad who had volunteered to help.  RaccoonTracks

Each scouting party was given a brown bag with handles (recycled from the local supermarket), and labeled with the party’s name.  Each bag also contained a small compass, and a baby-food jar with a punctured lid for collecting insect specimens.


Our six groups included the Bear, Wolf, Porcupine, Cougar, Fox, and Raccoon groups. Each bag had a large picture of that group’s footprint or track.PorcupineTrack

This was important because each group had to find their “track” clues in the neighborhood to help them collect the items on their scavenger list.

The tracking clues were simply plain pieces of paper decorated with a group’s specific track and then taped to the ground.

CougarTrackUnder the paper was the actual item to be discovered or a clue as to where the next item could be found. BearTrackThe supervising parents, or “guides,” had been given some directions as to where to lead their scouting party in case finding all the items became too daunting.  (Earlier in the day, we had distributed water bottles and feathers for later collection.)

Frontier Scouts’ Scavenger Hunt Directions:
Porcupine Team

Follow the trail, and you shall find
All these things we have in mind.
With your eyes only, watch out for:
   someone wearing green clothes
   a flag
   a dog
   a cat
   someone on a scooter
   a spider web
Leave the Scout Camp gate and head south (right).
Beware of a monster poisonous spider in a tall palm tree as you hike.
A brainless man with straw for arms you shall pass.
   Don’t be fooled by his smile.
   Keep on the path headed south.
DO NOT DISTURB THE OCCUPANT. It could be Dracula’s home. Save your blood. Continue slightly south-east.
Don’t forget to stop for water by a bush with yellow flowers. Scouts can’t get dehydrated.
(At Tommy Smith’s house: 1234 Buckingham):
   Two short palms guard the gate.
   Enter now – don’t dare wait.
   At the door, you shall meet
   A fair lady that you shall greet:
   “Lady, lady, what windy weather
   Will you please give us a feather?”
When two roads cross, it’s a dangerous place. Make sure that the direction that you face is east (left). Cross with care. Crazy wagon drivers may be there.
Trudge up a steep hill.
   Another crossroad you shall find.
   Stay with your leader – don’t get behind.
   Cross safely… if you can.
The third crossroad is very tricky… a wrong turn would be fatal. Go west (left). Proceed to a great open wilderness (park).
Remember – no collecting from settlers’ or squatters’ yards. It might make them ornery and cantankerous. Collect from the great open wilderness:
   6 different leaves
   6 different flowers
   6 stones
   1 piece of litter
   6 sticks
   1 pinecone
   1 sweet gum ball
   1 live bug
   1 lost toy
   1 bottle or can
Leave the northern edge of the wilderness, heading west. Under the porcupine tracks, find a penny. (Please retrieve the track!)
At the street sign that begins with “A,” you will find a scout’s collection. Collect a picture of your team animal.
Head down the mountain and at the second street that begins with a “B,” turn south (left), and return to Base Camp. Welcome Home! Now, c’mon in and we’ll rustle you up some grub!

But it was just daunting enough, and all the kids had a great time running through the neighborhood, stopping at some pre-arranged “cabins” to collect items that couldn’t be found in nature, and going to our local park (a five-minute walk away) to collect the nature items.

Meanwhile, I stayed at home and set up the “campfires” – portable, disposable barbecue grills that I purchased at end-of-summer sales at our local super market (of all places!).

Roasting hot dogs with help

Two more volunteers helped me get the coals going, and set up the food supplies: juice boxes, wooden dowels (that had been pre-soaked in water since the night before) for skewering, hot dogs, hot dog buns, ketchup and mustard, plates, and napkins. The roasting activities were all supervised by the parent “guides” and any parent stragglers who were hanging around – and believe me, there were plenty of stragglers!

There were also healthy alternatives, like celery sticks, baby carrot sticks, grapes, and black olives for sticking on your fingers (of course).

Eating lunch

Hot dogs were followed by s’mores: marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers.

Finally, the s’mores were followed by singing “Happy Birthday” and cupcakes, one of which had birthday candles for the Birthday Scout.

Some of the party-goers started going home at that point; each guest left with a Kraft bag labeled with their name in green or copper-colored puffy paint (for that tactile feeling), and filled with a small compass and flashlight (both from Oriental Trading), and their craft activities (the bird feeder, wampum bracelet, log cabin, placemat, extra coloring pages, and a homemade shortbread cookie in the shape of a maple leaf.) I heard one of the moms say how pleased she was with the low-key nature of the party favors – they were simple and personal.

The scouts who wanted to stay helped my son open his gifts. And that was the end of the party! It was two hours of jam-packed fun. It was not outrageously expensive, but being organized and prepped meant that every minute was filled with meaningful activity.


Menu for a Tropical Tea

Enough reminiscing! What would I finally serve for a Tropical Tea?!

Start with Pimm’s Punch (not to be confused with Pimm’s Cup). I first had Pimm’s Punch at Bettys in York. It was a hot day, we’d been walking and waiting for hours, and this hit the spot. It was so refreshing. I don’t know the secret ingredient in Pimm’s, but it’s brilliant. If you have a sense of humor, skewer the fruit garnish with a little umbrella pick!

Then, present a tropical fruit platter. Try to have the fruits all sliced similarly (and thinly): papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, honeydew, some orange slices (minus the pith), a few strawberries, and all of it sprinkled with finely grated lime peel (and maybe a little lime juice).

Follow with “sandwiches,” except you don’t have to use bread necessarily. For instance, macadamia-crusted goat cheese can be served “open faced” on Belgian endive, topped with a dollop of mango-papaya preserves. Offer at least three kinds of sandwiches, of course, for essential variety.

Scones next, made with dried apricots and lemon peel. Lemon curd and Devonshire Cream accompany the scones , of course, but instead of the traditional strawberry jam, use something tropical – like papaya butter, or pineapple preserves.

Finally, dessert! Coconut bars, shortbread cookies sprinkled with tropical sugars, banana bread tea loaf, and something(s) spectacular… like a Hawaiian twist on Eton Mess, or individual coconut crème brulees, petite Key lime tartlettes, or a spectacular pineapple-rum cake, layered with coconut cream, and topped with toasted coconut flakes.

And what beverage goes with all these delectables? Tea, of course. Offer Yorkshire Gold for the purists, pineapple-infused black tea for the adventurous, and my favorite – Rejuvenation (herbal) tea – for anyone needing some aloha spirit revival.

To set your table island-style, use anything that reminds you of palm trees, the beach, tropical flowers, Hawaiiana, and warm sunny days. You know how you never want to leave your Hawaiian vacation? Well, you won’t want to get up from your Tropical Tea table either. Sounds perfect!

In a macadamia-nutshell:

Pimm’s Punch

Tropical fruit platter

Sandwiches – Macadamia-crusted goat cheese on Belgian endive, topped with mango-papaya preserves
Cherry tomatoes stuffed with curried egg salad
Kalua pork lettuce cups with poi garnish
Mauna Kea shrimp with peanut sauce

Apricot-lemon scones with Mock Devonshire Cream, lemon curd, and pineapple preserves

Desserts – choose at least three:
Coconut bars
Shortbread cookies sprinkled with tropical sugars
Roy’s Banana-macadamia bread tea loaf
Eton Mess Aloha-style (meringues, chopped fresh pineapple, whipped cream with
chopped macadamia nuts, all topped with toasted coconut chips)
Individual coconut crème brulees
Key lime tartlettes
Pineapple-rum roulade cake, layered with coconut whipped cream

Teas – Yorkshire Gold
Pineapple-infused black tea
Rejuvenation tea
Milk and sugar cubes

Enjoy! Aloha! And mahalo nui loa for reading my blog!

Tropical Tea

I had tea with my mom and sister last week and we got on the subject of, well, of tea parties. My sister wanted to know what was my most memorable tea? That was easy: the tea I had sitting on the Banyon Veranda of the Moana Surfrider (now it’s called the Beach House Veranda) in Waikiki.

When our kids were still pretty small, my husband and I took them to Hawaii – first Maui, then later that week, Oahu. I had found a real deal on the Internet that made the Oahu part of our trip do-able. By the time we landed in Honolulu, got our rental car, and got to our hotel, it was the early part of the afternoon – but late enough that I knew we had to feed the kids and fast (or we’d have screaming menehune on our hands). Unfortunately, the hotel we checked into was not what it had appeared to be on the Internet. The walls were uncovered cinder block, the open air hallways looked out over the local red light district, the kitchenette needed its aluminum stove liners replaced (yes, it was that kind of kitchen), and the linens on the bed felt gritty. The neon lighting did not add to the ambiance – but did make us think about leaving them on all night to keep the cockroaches hiding. Gosh, the lobby pictures on the Internet never hinted at what we’d find in the rooms – ! And we were just a block from Waikiki Beach! I should have known better – but at least, I learned quickly.

Anyway, both kids were hungry and we decided that the first thing we’d do would be to get them some decent food. Then we’d tackle the problem of accommodations.
Back in the car, and out on the road again, up Kalakaua Avenue, and there we were, in front of the First Lady of Waikiki – and they had valet parking! We hopped out of the car and went searching for food. A place this refined would surely have something appetizing for keiki. And then I saw the placard: Afternoon Tea on the Banyon Veranda. Forget the kids, I needed soul-rejuvenating, and tea on the Veranda was going to do it (plus, they had a keiki menu). As we waited for a table, I thought to ask the concierge what the availability was… alas, they had absolutely no rooms.

I returned to the placard to wait for our table, and was greeted by name by the hostess. How did she know my name already? She led our family to our table and promised my starving kids that their tea would be out directly. My husband excused himself to wash up, just as freshly squeezed pineapple juice arrived for my son and daughter. I only got one sip: it was the most amazing thing any of us had ever drank, and the kids knew something good when they got it. Meanwhile, where was my husband? Our grown-up tea was delivered, but I was trying to be polite and not eat without him. The kids went ahead without him, but I waited – patiently, not so patiently, where was he?!

My husband finally returned – all smiles. Wait, did you drink a mai tai without me? In response, he handed me a room key – to the Moana, of course. When he’d excused himself, he’d gone back to the Front Desk to double check on room availability. The staff listened to his story of woe, re-checked their rooms, and noticed that a reservation was going to be cancelled in 10 minutes if the person booking the room did not show up. So, my husband waited, the guest never showed up, my husband registered for the room, drove back to the dive hotel, collected our luggage, checked out, returned to the Moana, checked our luggage with the bell captain, and finally, returned for tea.

That day, my husband became the ali’I of aloha – he lives aloha. Mahalo to my big kahuna!