Category Archives: party

On this page:
  • Tea
  • After the tea party
  • Tea, a drink with jam and bread
  • The economics of entertaining at home
  • Quinn’s birthday party – all-you-can-eat sushi!
  • Trying something new

Tea

One of my indulgences is hosting tea parties. I love bringing friends together for conversation. There’s something about an unhurried afternoon when people can come and go as they please, enjoy some snacks and as much conversation as they’d like, and share their lives.

After lots of experimentation, I’ve settled into a good routine. The week before, I prepare tarts, biscuits, muffins, scones, or other delectables that I can stash in the fridge or freezer. I think about dietary restrictions and make sure there’s something for everyone. When guests come (or a little before), I get small portions ready.

Even if no one makes it (life happens!), I’ll have a freezer of goodies to see us at least through the next week. Yay!

People always come. Most of the time, lots of people do. We crowd around the kitchen table, unwrap the favourites that people have brought, and share stories and tips and questions and advice.

There’s something about these low-expectation whoever-shows-up get-togethers that feels wonderful. When I read about the extended family dinners Trent wrote about on the Simple Dollar, I thought, “Yes, that’s what I do, except tea works better for me than dinner.” Less juggling of dishes, less competition from other weekend priorities, less need to get everyone together at a specific time.

I’m planning to host another tea party near the end of the month, or perhaps mid-May. I’ll buy a few more saucers so that I’m not always scrambling to find a clean one for later visitors. It’s a good time for lemonade and lemon curd squares. (W- makes awesome lemon curd squares with shredded coconut.) Pies and tarts are starting to give way to fresh fruit and lighter breads (perhaps some pandesal?), but maybe I can learn how to make pecan tarts. Soon it will be barbecue season, which opens up even more possibilities.

If you haven’t hosted a tea party or other get-together yet, try it out. It’s fun, surprisingly frugal, and a great way to connect.

After the tea party

Almost six hours of conversation over tea and assorted goodies. (I made home-baked vegan apple pie and non-vegan biscuits!)

Somehow, the numbers always work out. Just enough people to fit around the kitchen table, perhaps with a few extra chairs and a piano bench.

Now the house is quiet. The dishes have been put away. I don’t feel tired, as I sometimes do after social events. I don’t feel like I’m buzzing. I feel grateful.

It’s amazing that in just three years, we’ve built these friendships. It’s amazing that when new people join us, they feel at home.

I enjoy this a lot. I enjoy creating a space where people can connect, and where they can wander off to bookshelves or puzzles when they need a break. People don’t worry about how to start a conversation because there’s usually one or two to join, and people ask questions to draw others in. It’s a very different dynamic from cocktail parties, and I find it to be a lot more fulfilling.

It took us a bit of experimentation to get here. Lunch and dinner parties were fun, but timing was complicated. I wanted people to be able to drop in whenever they were available and leave whenever they needed. Tea is so much better. When guests arrive, I simply pop home-made biscuits into the toaster oven and heat up the water. Potluck tea is much easier, too. Potluck lunches and dinners take coordination of entrees, and many of my friends don’t have good cooking set-ups yet. With tea parties, people can bring different kinds of teas and sweets, and everything goes well together.

I’d like to host a tea party every other month. It’s a great way to hear from my friends, meet people they know I’ll get along with, and see everyone grow.

I wonder: how can I translate this to other spaces? Can I create this feeling online?

Tea, a drink with jam and bread

One of the things I realized during my birthday reflections was that I’d like to get better at keeping in touch with family and friends. I missed having a group of close friends who were friends with each other and the lively interactions and in-jokes that result. I periodically keep in touch with my friends in the Philippines and I have a small group of friends in Toronto who regularly come to my get-togethers, but I wondered if I hadn’t paid as much attention to this aspect of my life because I had focused on building my relationship with W- (status: awesome!).

Based on last week’s Skype party and this week’s tea party, I’m lucky to have such fantastic friends. I hardly spend time with people one-on-one, but I felt right at home with everyone. Maybe it’s because these friendships aren’t based on shared activities, but on the fact that I like who these people are. Even these brief glimpses into their lives give me warm and fuzzy feelings. Get-togethers become a way for me to get to know them better and to introduce them to other people I also like–which result in interesting conversations I get to eavesdrop on, yay!

The chest freezer we bought last Friday turned out to be incredibly useful. I rolled and cut a large batch of biscuits the night before the party and a batch of scones the morning of the party, and I put them on cookie sheets to individually freeze. Once they froze, I transferred them to bags and put the bags in the chest freezer. During the party, keeping the table stocked with baked awesomes was just a matter of taking out the right number of frozen items, putting them on the tray, and baking them at 450′F for around 12 minutes. Win!

The first hour or two was pretty busy because I wanted to make sure everyone had mugs, some kind of drink, some kind of snack, and so on, and because people brought interesting new teas I and breads I just had to share. =) Once we’d gotten lots of baked goods and teapots on the table, things settled down, and I wandered in and out of great conversations while topping up the snacks and drinks. Great stuff! Now I’m tempted to save up for and find one of those multi-tier trays so that I can make the most of our table space… <laugh>

I set seats around the kitchen table for early-comers. People pushed the chairs in and stood around when we reached about 12 people in the room, occasionally pulling out chairs if they wanted to sit. Some people also sat on the deck to enjoy the garden view and a bit of quiet. If I set some more mugs and snacks out there, we could expand the party more easily. I’m looking forward to figuring out how to make these get-togethers even better without making them overwhelming. There are so many other groups of people I’d like to bring together. =)

What I liked the most: how people connected and helped each other out. I love that! Love love love love. If I can bake and cook and host and do all of that more often so that my friends from different circles can come together and connect the dots more often, I’m all for it. I love how people are ready to talk about what they’re interested in, what they’re working on, what they need help with, how they can help other people… I love having get-togethers where people just skip past the small talk and get to what they really want to talk about. =D

Thanks to everyone who made it, and thanks also to everyone else who made last year fantastic! Let’s find out what adventures this year will bring. =)

The economics of entertaining at home

Last Saturday, we hosted a dinner party at our house. There were eight people, including me and W-. For starters, we served broccoli and cauliflower crudites with blue cheese dip and home-made hummus. For the main course, we served vegetarian chili and chicken curry, accompanied by naan bread and basmati rice. People brought dessert: halva, chocolates, sesame snacks, buns, and all sorts of assorted goodies. The party went from 7:00 to 11:30 or so, and we had tons of fun chatting about storytelling, university advice, and whatever else came to mind. After the party, we had a week of leftovers to feast on. I estimate that we ate just a third of the food prepared.

Ingredients bought for the party: $52.81 total
Home ingredients used: Approximately $10 (one pack of chickpeas, half a pack of black beans, half a pack of red beans, three packs of curry paste, assorted spices)
Estimated cost of party: ~$63 / 3 (as we only ate a third of the food available) = ~$21 total, or ~$3 each

plus the cost of whatever desserts people shared, of which we probably ate a fifth. Maybe a total of $4 each, for the whole meal + desserts?

I don’t think you can find a restaurant in Toronto where people can eat such a spread for $4, or stay for so long and chat with such ease without the waiters trying to drop hints about freeing up tables. ;) Nor could you find a restaurant with such friendly cats, I think – Luke was _such_ a charmer, immediately identifying the cat fans and climbing onto their laps for a good purr.

I traded time for these savings, of course, but not as much time as one might expect. Pre-cooking the beans using a pressure cooker took up most of my Friday evening, which was a good time to relax and unwind. Chopping everything up for all the meals took an hour, and cooking both the chili and the curry took another hour and a half – during which I was learning more about cooking, thinking about what was going on in the week, and planning what I wanted to do next. (And listening to bouncy Japanese pop songs…) Time well spent.

And the conversation and company? Priceless.

If we had more chairs, or found some way to squeeze more people into the house (in an elegant way that doesn’t mean some people are privileged enough to sit at the table while everyone else just stands around ;) ),I can easily scale up. It seems that the time and money I spent on the get-together could scale up to 24 people, and even more if we decided to make it a well-organized pot-luck get-together.

What would this house look like with 24 people in it? Where would people sit? How would we deal with the coats and shoes? Someday I’ll figure that out. =)

Tonight I’m attending a dinner get-together for recent hires in my department. The pre-set menu is $30 per person. Now that I look at that sum, I’m thinking, “I could host a quite a dinner party for that amount!” ;)

Quinn’s birthday party – all-you-can-eat sushi!

Quinn celebrated her 22nd birthday party at Mariko Sushi (851 Bloor St
W), which has a decent all-you-can-eat menu for CAD 14.99 (~ 20 with
tax and tip). It was a wonderful evening of round-robin discussions as
we introduced different aspects of ourselves. We started by giving our
names and our favorite type of sushi. Fan asked what our official job
titles were, then I asked people to talk about one of their non-geeky
aspects. Each (re)introduction spawned other conversation, and I
really enjoyed getting to know everyone at the table a little more
deeply.

It was a good party held in honor of a great friend. =)

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Trying something new

I’ve decided to do something about my media deficit. ;) Yesterday, we
did a trial run of a video party. As usual, we went through several
alternate plans. It was lots of fun, though!

Plan A: Use the common TV room in the basement. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Plan B: Use the second-floor TV area. No DVD player.

Plan C: Use the second-floor TV area and hook up Simon Ditner‘s laptop to it. We had the right cable (you gotta love geeks with cables!), but couldn’t figure out how to select the video input.

Plan D: Use the projector Roger Yang brought and beam the video onto the wall of my living room. THe projector speakers turned out to be fairly good, so we didn’t need external speakers. (Good thing, too, as I didn’t know where I could find speakers.)

Plan D1: Watch Aardvark’d, a video about software development. The DVD that Jedediah Smith burned had problems, though.

Plan D2: Watch the music videos that Quinn Fung brought. Michael Gondry did the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I enjoyed. The music videos were terrific. =)

Definitely mind-expanding, and not a bad beta party. We’ll do that
again sometime!

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