Monday, September 10, 2012

Vintage Afternoon Tea Baby Shower (+ the all gluten-free challenge)

If you like this party and want to throw your own "vintage tea party" and accessorize with charming party printables, head to my Etsy store here or to the blog's shop section here.

I'm happy to finally share this intimate and beautiful "shabby chic" vintage afternoon tea party I put together for a very dear friend who is expecting her first child. I briefly describe how the idea for this baby shower came to life here, if you are interested.
As I mentioned on this post, the guest of honor is gluten-intolerant and I wanted her to be able to sample all the food she wanted without restrictions... well, minus the alcoholic welcome drink, sorry! Thus, everything served at this baby shower was gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in all types and forms of wheat (including spelt, kamut, faro, durum...), rye and barley.  It is mainly present in breads, crackers, pasta and beer (oh no, not the beer!! Don't worry, there are a few GF versions on the market now... Phew!)  It can also be hiding in commercial salad dressing, soy sauce, mayonnaise, processed meats, packaged soups, vanilla flavoring (not the real extract), ice cream... That's because gluten can often be disguised in the form of artificial flavors, fillers and thickeners (another reason to eat natural and homemade!) and even in some toothpastes, hidden under "natural" flavor!!  Here's more information on gluten, gluten sensitivity/intolerance, wheat allergy and celiac disease.

It is important to note that when preparing foods for people with certain food restrictions or allergies, you must watch closely for proper food handling.  Make sure there's no cross-contamination with other red flag ingredients by clearing your workspace of any possible allergens and washing your hands often. Read labels for foods manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat/barley/rye products and its derivatives such as (barley) malt, semolina, grain alcohol and vinegar.

Be mindful that some celiac people might have reactions to oat products as well, since they are commonly grown near crops of wheat and rye and can suffer cross pollination. Be sure to ask your guests how they feel about it and if you need to, check if the oat is certified gluten-free.

I made all the food myself (minus the bread - I used Udi's whole grain sandwich bread), and even though I haven't baked exclusively with gluten-free flours before, I was pretty confident that, if something didn't go so well, I had a great back up plan: there's a wonderful gluten-free store right next door to my apartment building (it's actually the only dedicated GF Grocery Store in all of San Francisco!) Not only they offer a great selection of products, the whole staff is adorable, knowledgeable, very helpful and makes you feel like a special friend :-)
It's tea time!!

To start our "travel in time",  I went on to work on the music selection, rotating a few different CDs. But I kept going back to this one I love: "Stylish Songs for Unforgettable Gals" (fitting, huh?), with performances by  Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and other great lady legends.  I think it set the mood perfectly and transported all of us to another era...
For the buffet centerpiece I arranged together a few items I already had at home. My first advice for anyone planning a party? "Shop" at home first. I always find new ways to use old pieces or find inspiration in forgotten objects around the house.  So here's what I found: 
1. a big letter "K" from my son's bedroom (my friend's first and last name start with this letter, so it was a homage to her and to her "baby K.", since I didn't know his name yet);
2. my good old pregnant wire dress form all dressed up with a hair flower band and a blue ribbon;
3. a silver mint julep cup (found at Thrift Town when I went looking for my baby's highchair) holding a pearl necklace and gerber daisy napkin holders;
4. an antique silverplate tray from Goodwill I repurposed by painting the center in chalkboard paint;
5. mismatched tea cups under a glass cloche;
6. blue tablecloth used at the Elvis Presley theme party and a lace table runner (a gift from grandma);
7. and many, many paper butterflies!

I have this pregnant wire form since my first pregnancy and I like to think it brings good fortune to future mammas... Here's another way I accessorized it to match the décor.
 I gathered a few antique tea cups and piled them up under a glass cloche for visual interest
These paper doily hanging decorations are so adorable, fun and whimsical!  I love their ethereal beauty and the ease it was to make them! 

1. Just measure the circumference of the doily area you want to cover (in this case, the uncut space in the center, where is just plain paper, without "lace" decorations).
2. Cut round circles of pattern paper to these dimensions and glue them to the doilies.  
3. Lightly fold in half and set aside. Do this to as many as you want to be clustered together.  I used 3 "composed" doilies/paper per hanging mobile.  
4. Glue half of one back side to the other half back side of another doily. This is where the fold you previously made comes in handy, marking the center and highlighting where you should glue them.
5. Attach a nylon line, hang, and admire :-)

Mismatched textured glass bottles with cold drinks: coconut water, limeade, orange juice and filtered water.

Antique utensils printed napkins and holder. The holder is actually a recipe book display I got from Anthropologie many years ago. A good polish brought it to life again :-) Here's a good way to naturally clean silver using salt (or baking soda), aluminum foil and boiling water: line a large pan, baking dish or kitchen sink with aluminum foil. Pour really hot water mixed with the salt/soda and arrange your silver utensils on the dish. The aluminum attracts and removes the tarnish like magic! There's a nice visual guide here.
I cut strips of the patterned "shabby chic" digital paper collection by fellow Brazilian Kika Esteves and then cut the edges using a doily lace paper punch from Martha Stewart Crafts. I wrapped them around champagne flutes and added a delicate butterfly cut from the same papers
Small paper doilies dyed in blue food coloring served as coasters for the welcome drink "Bubbles & Blue". Simply combine equal parts of chilled champagne & Hpnotiq.  Cheers, saúde!!
I even dressed the Hpnotiq bottle with a vintage crochet lace.
As table confetti, I used two different sizes of butterfly paper punches, both from Martha Stewart Crafts as well.  The ones resting on top of the flutes are the larger ones.

The day before the shower I realized I didn't have a bowl that would be "retro enough" to serve the quinoa salad in. A quick stop at Out of the Closet solved this problem, as I found this gorgeous glass and silver bowl.  It did create another "problem" though - I found 2, and not just one bowl and just had to use them both :-) So I went with a mixed greens salad and whipped a quick raspberry-champagne vinaigrette.
My friend Paula (also on a GF diet) brought her delicious leek quiche in a gluten-free crust. Thanks!!

With leftover paper and doilies plus a few drops of food coloring (from the "Time Flies" party), I made these simple decorations for the wall.  Here's how you can do it too:  
1. dilute food dye in water and stain the doilies by submerging them for a few minutes and very carefully removing afterwards;
2. let them dry over a kitchen towel (a bunch of paper towels would work too);
3. in the meantime, cut circles of design paper matching the circumference of the inner part of the doily;
4. once dried, glue them together (you might want to weight them down with a heavy book to flatten.)
They were stuck to the wall with double-sided tape, but you can thread them on a fishing line, ribbon or baker's twine and hang like a garland if you so wish.
Each place setting consisted of a mismatched dinner and salad plate; teacup and saucer; fork, knife, dessert spoon, demitasse spoon and butter knife; a crochet doily; cloth napkin and ring; a blue Fleur de Lis drinking glass (Pottery Barn) with a paper straw (from my son's Soda Shop & Diner party) on an antique glass and silver coaster; and a side dish of European butter sprinkled with fleur de sel.  This "butter dish" is actually a tea light holder. As I said before, "shop" your own home and you'll be surprised at how many different ways you can use a single object.

For my guest of honor, I offered a special set of "baby-boy" blue handle utensils.  I know sometimes it is frustrating to be planning a party and not be able to find exactly what you have in mind. But it compensates when at other times I'm not even looking and then spot things like this fun set of fork, knife and spoon.  For $0.99 cents a piece at Target, of all places.  Such a joy!
 Pick your favorite :-)

Lovely details inside these two teacups

Almond "thumbprint" cookies with raspberry jam and "doily" shortbread cookies.  Notice how I decorated the glass candle holders with white lace?
And this is how you make the romantic crochet doily-imprinted cookies: just press the doily down and roll with a rolling pin. Then tear off the excess around it or use a large round cookie cutter to do so. 

I wrapped the tea sandwiches with the same strips of paper I used for the champagne flutes. The food pick tags have scalloped edges and a vintage picture of tea cups, teapots, china plates and ornate utensils on top of the design paper.
Feta, Roasted Red Pepper & Walnut (recipe at the end of this post); Homemade Pesto with Smoked Mozzarella & Heirloom Tomatoes; and Smoked Trout, Horseradish & Watercress (using GF mayo.) All super tasty!  

It's all in the small details: mini chair place card holders
Pão de queijo is a Brazilian delicacy made using tapioca starch, eggs, oil, milk and cheese. They are crunchy outside and gooey and cheesy inside. I'd say it is a distant cousin of the Hungarian flaky pogácsa and the French gougère (which uses regular wheat flour, and is a bit drier inside.) There are countless versions of the recipe, but I have yet to find someone who doesn't like this treat, specially when is just fresh out of the oven! Parmesan-Black Pepper Biscotti: I adapted my tried-and-true savory biscotti recipe using Bob's Mill GF flour mix (and a little leftover of King Arthur's GF version as well.)
I finally got to use my toast rack from Pier 1.  I knew it was an essential item to have handy ;-)  Cherry and apricot jams were served in a white porcelain dish nested inside antique glass and silver coasters.  I thought the plain white dishes were "too contemporary" and added the little vintage touch with the coasters.
Lemon wedges, demerara sugar cubes, stevia packets, hot water, fresh flowers and milk on a footed antique tray.

Just in case we needed more options to sweeten our tea... agave nectar, maple syrup and mesquite honey inside vintage syrup dispensers from Etsy.
Sweets & Tea table. Unfortunately, the Hazelnut-Chocolate Tart is missing in this picture. I promise I'll make it again, post pictures and share the recipe. Think "rich Nutella cheesecake with a ground almond crust."  Divine!
I made customized envelopes for the tea bags and labeled each of them. Inside this old box lid I displayed the invitation that was sent out to guests. Teapot graphics from the Graphics Fairy (thanks, Karen!)  On the invitation I asked the ladies to "get in a vintage mood - and outfit", and they did so very elegantly :-)

The flower vase is an old hand soap pump from the bathroom. The screw top became very rusty, but the beautiful cut glass work prevented me from tossing it.
Blueberry "Cheesecake" Macarons. Remember my somewhat frustrated experience with my first homemade macarons? This time I used blanched almond flour instead of the almond meal I used previously and the texture was slightly smoother.  I think I might be getting somewhere...
I found a guide on "English Tea Etiquette" online, printed and framed it for display on the support table.  It offered some peculiar advice, from an extensive and detailed description on how to hold a tea cup, to the proper way to stir and sip it. My favorite one was "Tea sandwiches and treats should be eaten in delicate bites. Remember to smile and chat between bites." Since this was in no way a formal gathering, I told the ladies they were not required to follow any of these rules. Besides of course, to “smile and chat between bites.”
I made my friend a découpage "K" using paper, glue (mod podge) and a clear waterproof acrylic sealer.
In case you are wondering... these fantastic food card holders are nothing but repurposed hand-bent mismatched antique forks. Give it a try!
I made these whimsical gluten-free cupcakes filled with mixed berries and hazelnuts. I frosted with a simple recipe of buttercream, lightly sprinkled with blue pearlized sugar and for the grand finale, edible rice paper butterflies from Sweet Dejà Vu. Yep, that's right, edible :-)
It was the first time I frosted cupcakes using a pipping bag and tip. I watched a couple of video tutorials, but that only confused me even more (some recommend that you start at the edges and work inwards, others offer advice on how to start in the center and continue in a outward circular motion...)  I admit I had to scrape the frosting off a couple times on the first one, but then it was a breeze (well, sort of) once I got a hang of it!
I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I made this pastry stand the morning of the party. After I made the cupcakes - frosted and all -, I realized that the wire stand I had wouldn't be able to hold them all or be easy to transport (I actually lost a couple of the sweets when moving them to the table...)  So I "hired" hubby for the job of drilling through these antique plates and then I assembled the rest. I already had all the materials I needed, just never had the time before to actually execute this project.  I'm so, so glad I did it! It looks gorgeous, perfect for the occasion, and best of all - homemade! There are several tutorials online - go ahead, you can do it too :-)
I found more vintage accessories and decoration pieces that I thought I would, so at the last minute I decided to put together a photo booth and use these items as photo props, just like I did at my son's birthday party a month before. Antique rotary dial phone (I also used it at our Halloween party last year), perfume bottles with atomizers, gloves, tiaras, fascinators, pearls, feather boas, shawls and lace hand fans.  A floral Ralph Lauren tablecloth served as a "shabby chic" backdrop.
I displayed the party favors by the side of a framed ultrasound of the baby which I copied from my friend's social network page to surprise her.
If you missed the post about the baby shower favors and the tutorial on how to make them, check it out here. I offered the ladies chocolate-covered spoons wrapped in delicate blue organza drawstring bags with a tag attached reading "Stir your hot milk with this chocolate spoon for a real treat!" An easy and charming party favor that goes beyond flavoring your hot drink, since they can keep the spoon for many other uses after that.

Roasted Red Pepper, Feta & Walnut Dip

I adapted this dip recipe from Bon Appétit Magazine into a Roasted Red Pepper-Feta-Walnut "Pesto" to fill my tea sandwiches.  Here I share my take on this garlicky red pepper spread (for the pesto recipe, click here.)  Enjoy!


  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 cups crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (use more for a thicker, more spreadable consistency)
  • salt & pepper

  • Method:

    Char peppers directly over gas flame or under broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic, letting it "sweat" for 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and quarter peppers. Purée peppers, oil, garlic, cheese and walnuts in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill at least 3 hours or overnight.  
    Here's a lovely portrait of some very distinguished ladies :-)


    1. Flávia,seu bom gosto e criatividade são ilimitados...Parabéns pelo seu trabalho inspirador!!!

      1. Muito obrigada, Cíntia! Que bom que posso inspirar outras pessoas também. Sucesso nas tuas festas!!

    2. Flavia, que linda essa festa! Impecável em cada detalhe.

      É muita inspiração para uma festa só!
      Parabéns pelo talento de ouro!


    3. Flavs, it is so nice to see all the pictures! So many details to remember! I wish I could have breakfast or tea served like that every day! You were spot on with the Shabby-Chic style, it made me feel very special and appreciated. Thank you so much for putting so much thought in every detail, from the homemade Gluten-free macarons to edible butterflies on the cupcakes! Everything was perfect! Only you to pull it out. I had a great and unforgettable time! Thank you!

      1. Querida, muito obrigada!!! I am so touched with your comment. I love you and our friendship, even if we don't see or talk to each other as often as I'd like to. This goes to prove that true friendship sees no boundaries. I'm glad I got to throw you and baby this mini shower and happy you liked it. Can't wait to see you again, and next time I'll get to meet the new (little) man in your life :-) Boa hora, minha amiga!

    4. Flave, PERFEITO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amei o drink azul, o mais delicado que já vi... a cor é linda! Os garfos distorcidos, a ideia da padronagem para a massa, os porta-retratos, os tons pasteis... nossa, é muita coisa pra admirar e comentar! Te amo muito e sou sua fã númeo 1!!!! Isso sem falar no que comentei pela manhã: seu texto pra revista ficou incrível, vc escreve super bem, de uma maneira clara, fluida e deliciosa de ler! Um beijo enorme da irmã corujona!

      1. Fiquei comovida, motivada e sem graça, tudo ao mesmo tempo, ao ler a tua mensagem :-) Sabes que também te admiro DEMAIS, não é? E a tua crítica e o teu incentivo significam muito pra mim!! Prometi à mamãe um chá como esse quando ela estiver aqui da próxima vez. Quem sabe tu não vem junto? Vai ser uma delícia!

    5. Cada dia mais encantada com as tuas criações :) Beijos!

    6. Flavia, uau, essa festa ficou maravilhosa, de tirar o fôlego mesmo. E imagino como é difícil fazer uma festa só com receitas gluten free, realmente um desafio.
      Parabéns, ficou tudo maravilhoso, tenho certeza que a futura mamãe ficou emocionada com tanta beleza e carinho.
      Um abraço,

      1. Muito obrigada, Maria Tais! Como ja disse, sou super fã das duas festas tambem :-)
        Acho que a parte mais difícil de adaptar as receitas tradicionais a sua versão sem glúten foi o tanto de informação encontrada a respeito. Eu não fazia idéia de que até baunilha liquida continha glúten! E a textura e consistência de algumas coisas também. Apesar do glúten não ser necessário na confecção de biscoitos, ele ajuda a dar uma "liga" e achei que os meus biscoitos ficaram mais quebradiços. Mas igualmente deliciosos, e êh isso que importa :-)

        O chá GF foi um desafio sim, mas muito bem-vindo, pois sempre me interessei por alimentação saudável, o valor dos alimentos... Realmente não foi muito difícil achar farinhas e outros ingredientes aqui, e como disse no post, tem uma loja maravilhosa bem embaixo do meu prédio. Mas confesso que prefiro manter minha dieta com o coitado do gluten, já que não tenho problemas com ele. Em casa sempre tenho uma variedade de farinhas (que nem sei se encontra-se todas no Brasil) e gosto de alterna-las: integral comum e branca, spelt, de grãos germinados (adoro essa!), de amêndoas, pistachio e castanha do Pará, de milho, centeio, quinoa, amaranto... e por aí vai!
        Beijo enorme,

    7. Que luxo! Parabéns!
      Forte abraço

    8. Flavia parabéns pelo excelente trabalho! Muito original a decoracao, adorei!
      Agora vou acompanhar de perto seu trabalho, já estou seguindo!

      1. Mel, muito obrigada e seja bem-vinda! Espero inspirar e trocar idéias sempre!

    9. Parabéns! Que beleza de trabalho e quanta delicadeza usada na ornamentação! Sou colecionadora de xícaras e bules antigos, fiquei louca quando vi a chamada de sua irmã lá pelo Face.
      um grande abraço, carioca

      1. Obrigada Beth "carioca":-) Aproveita e organiza um chá com as tuas louças também. Se não quiser arriscar quebrar alguma da coleção, faça como eu e use-as para decorar empilhadas, que tal? Beijos!

    10. Flávia... Sem palavras. Vc se supera a cada festa. Impossível competir! (ainda bem que eu nem tento!!!) Hahahahahahaha
      Amei tudo! O que é aquela mesa com as câmeras? Lindo , lindo, lindo!
      Eu, particularmente, não curto muito esse estilo de vintage, mas ficou tãããão delicado que me conquistou :)
      O que mais me impressiona é que você não só planeja, mas FAZ tudo em casa! O detalhe daquele cookie rendado é simplesmente encantador. É daquelas coisas que fazem você sentir o carinho do anfitrião e o prazer que ele tem em te receber... Lindo!

      Parabéns sempre!


      PS: No final das contas, vc confeitou o cupcake de dentro pra fora ou de fora pra dentro? Estou iniciando nessa arte tb ;)

      1. Obrigada, Renata! Imagina, eu também fico louca quando vejo algumas festas por aí e penso a mesma coisa: eu nunca vou conseguir igual... Mas sabe o que? Tenho prazer nos preparativos sim, mas o importante mesmo é a gente curtir o evento e as pessoas que fazem ele possível, nossos convidados. O resto é detalhe...

        As câmeras são minha paixão e as coleciono há muitos anos. Ficam em exposiçãp permanente na minha sala e achei que se encaixavam perfeitamente no estilo do chá :-)

        Quanto a fazer tudo... eu poderia ter comprado muita coisa pronta, inclusive aqui no prédio tem um mercado GF, mas sabe quando a gente tem uma idéia do que quer na cabeça e não acha em lugar nenhum? Aí eu fico inventando coisa... :-)

        Ah, sabe que agora eu não me lembro do que fiz com os cupcakes? Mas acho que acabei me decidindo por começar por fora e finalizar no centro... Se tiver dicas, compartilhe!

    11. Que linnnnnnnnnnnnnnndo
      Quanto capricho..
      Amei cada detalhe...os garfos em pé na mesa, os sandubinhas embrulhados delicadamente, as borboletas.... um sonho!

      1. Obrigada, Marta! E eu vou ficar ansiosa esperando ver o chá das xícaras de vocês meninas talentosas!

    12. Agradeço a todos os comentários carinhosos, e pela visita ao meu cantinho virtual. Um ótimo fim de semana a todos!

    13. Oi Flávia
      Como muitas cheguei aqui através do blog da sua irmã, e posso dizer com segurança, meu deus que família talentosa!!!
      Eu tenho um furador da Martha igual a esse seu usado pra fazer os wraps de sanduiches e das taças. Mas o meu perdeu o corte =/
      e eu usei super pouco, mas sempre tem um pedacinho do papel q sai comido... minha dúvida é se vc sabe algum jeito de amolar isso... poxa o desenho é tão lindo, e aqui no Brasil... eu nao paguei barato não! ehehe
      Beijo, obrigada e parabéns


      1. Oi Raquel, muito obrigada pela visita e pelo elogio! Experimenta usar o cortador pra cortar papel laminado (meio chatinho, mas ajuda a amolar.) Outra idéia é cortar papel de cera (wax paper, usa-se pra embalar sanduíches, separar camadas de biscoitos em latas...) para lubrificar. Faço isso de vez em quando. Não deixa suuuuper afiado, mas já ajuda. Peguei essas dicas na própria embalagem dos cortadores da Martha Stewart. Boa sorte!!

    14. I love the textured glass bottles. Can you please tell me where you purchased these? I would love to create a party just like this

    15. Thank you, anonymous. I've collected the bottles over the years... I think the ones on the photo are from Pier 1 and Marshall's/TJ Maxx stores, but I also have bottles from flea markets and passed down from relatives. Good luck on your party! If you need printables with the patterns I used at this tea party, I have them available at my store:

    16. Hi.. thanks for posting the details of this beautiful party. Last weekend I threw a High Tea baby shower for my sister, and got great ideas from your party, especially the hanging paper doilies and wrappin gup of sandwiches.
      Here is the link

    17. Hi Tania, thank you for the compliment :-) I am so happy that I got to inspire your beautiful party! I just saw the pictures, it looks amazing - I especially love the delicate sugar hearts and the decorated cookies! Such a lovely idea :-)


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