Inspired by Leslie from Parks and Recreation, this bespoke day is an annual celebration of your female friendships, which is supposed to take place the day before Valentine’s Day. However, I think such a wonderful idea should not be limited by calendar dates, but instead be allowed run free throughout the year, to land of any day of your choosing. The day of my choosing was last weekend, when I threw an afternoon tea-party for six of my very favourite gal pals.
Now, it’s all very well to decide to throw afternoon tea, but as the date drew closer and the realisation dawned on me that not only would I have to feed these people without giving them food poisoning (I and my husband have built up a digestional resistance to my cooking but I worry when I have to inflict it on the innocent) but they would also be in my permanently-partially-decorated home, free to roam and open doors and drawers at will. This required a strategy.
First thing was the menu. I need something that I could easily prepare, would earn me a shot at the domestic goddess title, without actually requiring too much effort. The golden rule from Ms Delia Smith is that you should buy something and make something, so I decided on:
- Three types of sandwich cut into triangles
These are easy, make as normal, cut into triangles held together with toothpick, arrange nicely on display stand
- Scones with jam, cream and butter
For the scones you could make from scratch, but I bought a ready-mixed Odlum QuickMix packet and added what was needed. My special touch was using my heart shaped scone cutters to make heart shaped scones – so cute. Jam, cream and butter I just served in cute little dishes
Bought a Bake-it-fresh JusRol pack, rolled and popped in the oven
This I just bought in a packet from Tescos. Took from packet and placed artistically on plate, job done.
- Brownies with cream and strawberries for dessert
I bought a ready-mixed packet and once I had cooked them, I simply arranged on a pretty plate
- Champagne with strawberry icecubes
Getting Ready. The Timeline:
Three or Four Days before G-Day
- I cleaned the house top to bottom. I scrubbed bathrooms, hovered, cleaned and put away clothes, emptied bins: the works. I gave it the full mother-in-law-about-to-visit treatment.
- I also did the shopping, and got in all the supplies that I needed.
Night before G-Day
- Cleaned again, but this time it only needed a light spruce, the heavy work having been already completed.
- Made heart-shaped strawberry ice-cubes, by dicing strawberries into a heart-shaped ice-cube tray.
- Picked out and tried on clothes for tomorrow – when you are in a rush it is not the time to discover your skinny jeans no longer fit.
- Make sure you have enough display plates and stands for the amount of food you will be serving, and that you have enough delph and cutlery for all the courses, and all your guests.
- Up out of the bed at 7am.
- Set alarm to 12pm, two hours before arrival time of 2pm.
- I started cooking at 8am by turning on the oven to preheat.
- I checked all the cooking instructions, and the first things made were the scones as they took the longest to cook.
- While they were cooking I made the sandwiches.
- Once the scones were done, I put them on the cooling rack and started the croissants: they were rolled and put in the oven.
- While they were cooking I set the table and laid out the brioche and sandwiches.
- Once the croissants were ready they went onto the cooling rack and the brownies were next.
- As the brownies cooked, I finished laying the table.
- Then I cleaned dishes and started to clean the kitchen when alarm went off – 2 hours to go. I decided to finish cleaning the kitchen, which took a half hour, before going and getting washed and dressed myself.
Point to note: It is always better to be dressed long before guests arrive, in case somebody arrives early. You can always get an early bird to help you with the set-up, you cannot invite them to help you apply your makeup. And you certainly don’t want to run over time and have all your guests arrive when you are only half dressed.
- Once dressed, I laid out the scones and croissants on the table, and put the brownies to one side for later.
- I cleaned dishes again (because I did not want the dishwasher whirling away while we were eating), and was just pouring a glass of champagne when bing-bong, the doorbell rang to signal the arrival of the first guests.