Monday, September 25, 2023

Tea Report

 Hello all,

I cannot very well leave my readers without a report of the Autumn Tea. I just know you have been holding onto the edge of your seats, waiting to find how it turned out! ;)

In short, it turned out very well! I worked on decorations up to a week before and cooked for 3 days ahead of time. (Typical, I would say...either I cook for a week ahead of time and spread out the work, or something comes up and I end up cramming all the cooking into the last few days.) I ended up leaving out one recipe that I could not finish in time for the tea, because...

The power went out for 1.5 hours on the day of the tea. God answered prayer and turned it back on in time for most of the food to be done for the tea. I simply didn't have time to finish the Maple Walnut Sticky Buns I had planned for desert, but the crisp and pumpkin pie were just fine for the desert menu. Over all, I would say the tea was a success! 

Interestingly, not much tea was actually consumed. The hot cranberry apple cider that my mother made was simply irresistible, and it was more popular than the tea! I am partly to blame, because I had many cups of the juice and not one cup of the tea.

I've made up for it while I worked on this post by having some iced tea, now that there is no more hot cider. 

If you're curious about the menu, please refer to my last post. A few things changed between my posting and our eating - we added grapes, rosemary cashews, hot apple and cranberry cider and roasted butternut squash soup to the menu, and the maple walnut sticky buns, as you read above, never came to full fruition. Oh, and the potato leek soup turned into a potato shallot soup. It tasted just fine.

Onto the decorations: our theme was grey, buffalo check, and galvanized metal to go with our wooden table and the lodge vibe of our downstairs. We had the placemats already, and I made some things and we used what we had, so our spending on decor was a small amount.

 I bought this cute milk can and the faux foliage inside. My younger siblings gathered some fresh foliage to add to the arrangement.

I had so much fun making buffalo check decor. I loved how these food cards ("interpretive signs") turned out.
I used my mother's papercrafting supplies and the computer/printer to make the paper items.

These make more sense when they have napkins inside of them ;) but yes, they are paper napkin rings. 
Why the blue? You may ask. The china we were using for the tea was accented with a beautiful frosty blue, so I was trying to incorporate that color into the decor. 

Decorations on the shelf at the end of our dining room.

A good time was had by all, and as always the leftovers are nice to have around. 

And, if nothing else, it's always great to have this great excuse:
"Younger Brother, thou must wash the dishes tonight."
"Why canst thou do it, Older Sister, since thou art only reading thy novel on the couch?"
"Because, Younger Brother, I made thee that big ol' tea party 2 1/2 weeks ago. Now get to it."

--Miss Humphrey

Monday, September 18, 2023

Steps I Take in Preparing a Tea

Hello all,

I still intend to get a sewing post out one of these days.

Right now, I'm working on planning our annual Autumn Celebration which happens in the form of a High Tea. Now, before you think "tea party" and imagine little girls at a little table drinking from little cups, let me assure you that a High Tea is something of quite a different nature. My family is made up of mostly men, and the Autumn High Tea is always satisfying (and satiating, thanks to all that butter) to everyone. Rather than an arrangement of dainty tea sandwiches and macarons, it is a buffet of hearty, special fare that is fun to eat.

Last year's Autumn Tea

The first step I usually take when preparing a tea is to make a menu. This year, my menu looks like this:


Everything Biscuits

Potato & Leek Soup

Ham & Apple Tea Sandwiches 

Carrot Salad Sandwiches

Fennel Italian Sausage Pizza

Individual Double Crust Cabbage Pies

Vegetables & Ranch Dip



Individual Pumpkin Pies

Maple Walnut Sticky Buns

Blackberry Apple Crisp


Apple Cider


I don't stick to the formality of having courses; I like to do buffets. We load up a serving table and keep the bulk of the food off of the "eating" table, which is usually crowded enough with china.

 A previous autumn celebration.
I'm thankful to say that we have a bigger table now.

Let's talk about what's on the menu!

I got my recipes from a few different locations.

Everything biscuits: I have never tried this recipe from Ken Haedrich's Harvest Baker cookbook before, but it looks amazing. A few other recipes of his have become family favorites.

Potato & Leek Soup is another new one I pulled off of the web. I don't have much to say about it yet, but I think it will go well with the biscuits.

Ham & Apple Tea sandwiches: we found this recipe in a Tea Time magazine a few years ago. I don't stick to the recipe anymore, but the basic idea is ham, apple, sharp cheddar cheese and mayonnaise. You can add greens to it as well. It is an incredibly good tea sandwich;)

Carrot Salad Sandwiches: for this one, I don't have a recipe for you. My grandmother, who used to own a tea room, always made them when I was little, and they are delightful. They're a mixture of carrots, cream cheese, mayonnaise, chives and dill packed between slices of bread.

Fennel Italian Sausage Pizza - another recipe from the Harvest Baker. This is a pizza you must not miss. It is decadent - and even more so if the bulk of Italian sausage makes it to the pizza before the cook eats it!

Individual Double Crust Cabbage Pies: a labor of love that takes cabbage to a whole 'nother level. Another one from the Harvest Baker. 

Veggies and Dip: you could tell me just as much about this dish as I could tell you.

And then we get to dessert. 

I have found a delightful recipe for Pumpkin Pie. The best, I would say, but I know everyone has "the best" :). It's from the Bobbette and Belle Cookbook. (It also has a recipe for a chocolate cake that will send your levels in all the wrong directions but it is the best I have ever encountered. I enjoy it for birthdays sometimes. Their buttercream frosting is fantastic, too. No wonder - they're Canadian bakers.)

Maple Walnut Sticky buns and Blackberry Apple Crisp are both from "Fall Baking" magazines. (2019 and 2023.) I may have made the Maple Walnut Sticky Buns before as cinnamon rolls. The Blackberry Apple Crisp is a new recipe to me.

And Apple Cider is an essential at any autumn celebration - like tea is at a tea party. So there you have it - my menu elaborated on.

So, I've got a menu down. Except...Squash is still trying to edge its way into the tea party menu. I am not sure whether I will open the door and let it in or not. I guess you will find out after the tea party :)

What next? A shopping list, of course! I'm not as good at this as I should be, but it's important to write down amounts of items that you need. Don't just say, "I need butter for my tea party" and buy a pound of butter. Add up all the butter in your recipes and then add some extra in for the biscuits/bread. (Then add 7 1/2 lbs. of butter to your grocery list. It will be far more accurate ;)

Still in the planning stage is my timeline. I skim recipes and see how long it takes to make things and how much you can make ahead (!!!). It's important to see which recipes should be served hot and think about which ones you could make ahead and heat up again. Then, I usually end up writing a timeline for my food production. Our goal should always be to take as much pressure off of the day of the tea as possible. One way to do this is to schedule the tea party for an evening hour. Believe me. It makes a difference to have all day to work on your day-of dishes.

When you write a timeline, write it down to the last task. Whipping cream at 5:15 or heat up the soup at 4:45 or or whatever. And always over-estimate the time it takes to do things!

Don't forget to plan what china and decorations you are using. This year I was able to incorporate a dark shade of powder blue into my autumn centerpiece because my mother and I had figured out we were using her set of powder-blue accented china BEFORE we went shopping for decorations. Our house has a lodge-vibe in the downstairs which we factored into our tablescape decorations.  Things will coordinate this way! :)

Well, this is what I have for you all today. I hope you enjoyed reading a few of my thoughts on teas. Teas can range from a simple, one-and-one cup of tea and a cookie to a monumental affair for 100+ people. There is so much opportunity for creativity and variety in these wonderful times. I like getting to make recipes I don't usually have the opportunity to, and though it always gets stressful at the end, right before everyone eats, (every. single. time.) I enjoy the occasion.

to God be the glory,

Miss Humphrey

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Popping In Again

 Hello all!

I apologize for dropping the ball on blogging the past few weeks. We've been very busy. That is the same excuse that most people have who disappear from the blogging world for weeks at a time, but it will have to suffice for now. I could tell you that we went on vacation to Italy for three weeks, but I have nothing to prove it ;)

I have some sewing plans for autumn, so do stay tuned to see more dresses! I have two beautiful pieces of yardage that I plan to make up into cool-weather clothing. One is wine-colored with darker red/burgundy swirls on it, and the other is one of my favorite colors - a deep, dark teal-tinted blue with  sprigs of the same color in different shades. I think I will turn at least one of them into a long sleeved dress, but I may sew the other into a jumper.

I have an autumn tea-party coming up on the 23rd of this month as well as some family events, so we'll see how often I post through this busy season. Hopefully I can get some pictures and planning of the tea on the blog. 

My mother and I worked recently on sorting our fabric stashes into a new craft space (I can't spoil the craft space for you - you'll have to keep tabs on my mother's blog to hear about it!!)

Aren't her fabric bolts the cutest?

I also have been doing some un-picking of my sewing projects that didn't quite turn out or were laid aside for some reason. I now have some nice pieces of skirt yardage that I can use in other dresses, as well as lots of opportunities for quilt squares :) Fabric is expensive - and I have a lot of dress pieces I can re-purpose to keep my creative juices flowing!

Thank you so much for reading my blog. Again, I apologize for being gone for so long. After I get back from camping, traveling, staying, cooking, baking, decorating, serving, planning, schooling, sending family members on their travels and traveling again, maybe we will have a return to normalcy. Who knows.
Until the world slows down,

to God be the glory,
Miss Humphrey

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Teal, Purple and Pink

 Hello all,

Thanks for stopping by the blog again! I have another dress for you that was made during my time at The Manse. 

This dress features a pieced skirt with triangles inserted into each third of the skirt. Here's another dress I made with a pieced skirt.

My grandmother offered to hem the skirt. It is luxurious to have someone else finish a flared skirt for you!

I tried something a little different on the sleeves this time: making a pleat at the bottom of the sleeve instead of gathering it with elastic to make it a puffed sleeve. I think the pleats worked out pretty well.

There is a yoke in the back which I quite like.

Are y'all staying cool this summer? We've been watching the weather and smoke reports and having apprehensive feelings about the next few days since our house is void of air-conditioning. Oh, well. At least we don't live in Arizona right now.

to God be the glory,

Miss Humphrey

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Summer Turquoise

Hello all,

During our extended stay at The Manse, I've made a few dresses. Here's the first!

I wore this one to watch a fiddle contest along with a cowboy hat and boots. Yes, you can be western and wear a dress!

My grandmother added the ruffle to the bottom of the skirt. I really like the result!

The skirt is shaped rather than gathered or pleated, so it attaches smoothly to the bodice. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

to God be the glory, 

Miss Humphrey

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Results of our Shopping Spree

 Hello all,

I'm back again with some of the dresses that you saw in the last post. These are the two we brought home. I altered one of them to make it modest. The other dress was already modest when we found it - a rare thing in a modern clothing store!

~The beautiful sleeve~

I inserted some lace into the V-neck of this dress to make it modest. It is now lightweight, becoming, and perfect for summer. Can you see a similarity in the eyelet lace pattern and the fabric paisley print? The lace was picked out to go with the dress by total coincidence!

This is the other dress I brought home. It was perfect the way it was - so feminine and charming! It is the perfect dress to wear in a field of Queen Anne's Lace in the country.

Hopefully you have enjoyed the last two posts on choosing storebought dresses. The first post was written by a guest author, Mrs. Humphrey from The Pleasant Times. If you didn't see it, please go check it out and leave her a nice comment!

To God be the glory,
Miss Humphrey

Friday, July 28, 2023

Guest Post: What If I Don't Sew??

By Elizabeth Humphrey

"I would like to dress more femininely, but I don't sew."

"You can't find modest things in the stores to wear, and unless you sew you just have to take what is out there."

"Hopefully the pretty styles will come back someday. But for now, I'm wearing what is current. Wish I could sew like you."

Do you relate to any of the above? Well, you needn't fall into any of those mindsets. I knew that if Miss Humphrey and I went shopping, we could find SOMETHING for the lady that doesn't sew. You just have to develop your discerning style so that you know what to look for when you are in the shops!

 What We Would Buy

We recently popped into to Ross and Marshalls (on our way to another store) to look around. In keeping with the standards of this blog, we only looked at examples that were modest, feminine and of course pretty. This was a quick look in the shops --we weren't there to spend the afternoon!-- so we went to the clearance racks first, and then moved on to the "in season" sections. We tend to spot gorgeous sleeves, then check for length. Upon pulling the dress off the rack, the bodice determines whether it is a "go" or not. This method lets us sift through a lot of dresses quickly.

All of these selections are at least mid-calf length (it was difficult to get a proper photo in some of those spaces, so they are a bit out of proportion) and have feminine features. Most of them feature elements that we do not sew at home: smocking, lace insertion, or special fabrics. All of them would be "classics," meaning that they would be part of a permanent wardrobe (when you wear "classics" you don't have to overhaul your closet every time the latest style changes or the wind blows).

This selection of "what we would buy" from only two stores could serve seasons from spring to autumn, and be suitable for many occasions including homewear. If we were without a sewing machine or time to sew, we think we could survive quite elegantly. Bonus: none of these items were over $40.00!

 Everyday Feminine Dresses for Home

Classic Shirt Dress


First we have this pretty shirt dress, which at $14 would have come home with us had the size been right. Done in a blue-and-white striped sturdy but lightweight cotton, this dress is a classic. Feminine elements include the puffed sleeves and deep ruffled hem. Tailored elements include a yoke with pleated back and sleeve cuffs with buttons. The loose structure with the matching belt equals comfort and fit. This dress needed no adjusting, no additions, no alterations. At mid-calf length and with appropriate buttons for the proper neckline, it is already modest and useful. I know Miss Lillian would have accessorized with cowboy hat and boots, but it would be equally suitable to wear a hat of soft white straw and sandals. Paired with an apron, this dress can go from DIY projects to cooking to hanging the laundry on the line. It belongs to the girl who is a busy bee at home!  


 The Sea Breeze


 Next we have a dress in (if I recall correctly,) rayon with a soft drape, lovely trim details and slightly ruffled tiers in the long skirt. The mandarin collar also features a ruffle. The small, calico-style print of white flowers keeps the deep teal color from being overpowering. This can be a day-at-home dress but works very well for going out on errands or to visit. A perfect picnic dress.This style is a classic retro style ('70s), and can be worn no matter the trends.


Coral Dreams


Another clearance aisle find, this lovely pink dress is made in a soft polished cotton so it had a bit of a sheen. Its first attraction are the beautiful puffed sleeves. Smocked waist, yoked skirt and tasseled ties are feminine elements of this dress. This photo was a bit hard to get, as I was squished in the aisle and people were trying to get through, but the skirt is at least mid-calf length. This dress would require a chemisette to wear under the bodice (see below). It is the perfect dress for a day in the country, but dressy enough to wear to an event. 


Church and Event Dresses

Prairie Sage

Prairie breezes blow through the sagebrush and you look a picture in this dress as you gaze at the setting western sun. Smocked cuffs on the elbow-length puffed sleeves and a deep ruffled hem give this dress a pretty prairie look. The sage-green fabric is a thin, textured overlay and the dress is fully lined. As with the previous dress you will need a chemisette (see below). This is a great dress for going to daytime events!

 Porcelain Paisley

Another fully-lined, flowing chiffon overlay dress perfect for a stroll on the beach. This tea-length dress has many Edwardian details, such as a tiered skirt with lace insertion between the tiers. There is also lace insertion at the shoulders and in the lightly puffed sleeves.  Worn with a chemisette this dress becomes ready to go to wear to church, teas, and summer outdoor events. This one was found on the clearance rack.

Wildflower Day

 I regret that I became distracted and forgot to go and fetch a blouse to display with this dress. Just remember, that every "sundress" that you see can be a jumper just as well. As a matter of fact there is less chance of sunburn if you use them that way. With a ruffly sleeved blouse from the $10 top section, this turns into an outfit reminiscent of a 1930s formal for teas and other occasions. With a simple t-shirt you turn it into a very wearable but elegant every day dress to wear about town. 

More Formal Dresses

The Hibiscus

Fully lined chiffon again, but this color makes it seem better for more formal occasions such as a wedding. Features a gently gathered bodice, pleated sleeves and a tiered skirt done in an elegant magenta print. The construction is a "peasant blouse" style with elastic at the shoulders, which does not always work with every figure, so this dress would require a try-on to see if it fit correctly and modestly. However, don't discount this style of dress immediately, because it looks lower on the hanger than it is on a person. This was in the current section of the store, but was still quite affordable. 

(Please note the chambray garment on the right in the above photo. Although many would think that it is a "dress," it is better off defined as a tunic to wear over pants. It is a practical idea for camping, boating and hiking when you want to be more modest but have to wear pants.)

The Sound of Music


This is a classic 1930's style and strongly reminds me of the movie of this title. This dress definitely needs a full blouse under it, with a pretty, ruffly neckline (look in the $10 blouse section of the store) or a scoop-neck t-shirt of very nice material, and then it is "good to go." The finely pleated skirt is almost tea-length and shirred at the waistline. The sleeves are fluttery and the entire dress is perfect for many of your fine and formal occasions. I think this would be the perfect dress for the musical girl who will be needing something formal for afternoon recitals.

The Graduate


Looking like a time-traveler from early last century, this cotton eyelet dress was definitely squealed over when we spotted it. Although it feels less formal than the others, it reminded me of the tradition of wearing white to your graduation and would make a beautiful graduation or birthday party dress. The skirt has four tiers, gently ruffled. The bodice has a rarely-seen shawl collar that is very flattering. Although the garment looked low-necked on the hanger, it was actually just below the collar-bone and we considered it modest. A "ready to wear" bargain at $17 on the clearance rack.

 Daisy Fields
Keeping with the white theme, this dress would definitely make a regency-style impression when worn with a chemisette (see below). Made in a more casual shirred cotton, it certainly looked comfortable yet special, and was another bargain at $14 on the clearance rack. I class white dresses for special occasions because I know white tends to collect stains, however if I this was my dress I would consider someday dying it and demoting it to an every-day dress, worn with a tank top.

 What is a Chemisette?


In the blouse section of these sorts of stores, you will find all kinds of odd little garments somewhat reminiscent of a shirt. Those that are ignorant of historical garments might think that pieces like the above were something to try and wear as-is. Hundreds of girls are making this mistake. What this is, girls, is a chemisette.


 Observe these samples of Chemisettes that are around 200 years old. Made of very lightweight material, they are very useful: you can comfortably fill in garments with lower necklines, protecting the fabric of the dress from your skin, and change the "look" of dresses.


They certainly lend more elegance than a t-shirt, don't they? 


This one seems so modern, it would be perfect under any of the dresses in this article! Perhaps we should all ask Miss Humphrey to figure out how to make this and do a tutorial on it for her readers!

[block][block][block]File:Chemisette MET CI55.51.8 B.jpg

Now to come full circle, as our store example had sleeves, here is an example with sleeves. You certainly cannot imagine the girl of 200 years ago wearing this as-is, with 8 inches of belly exposed to the public? Now you know what a Chemisette is and what those half-shirts in the store really are (or should be)!


Above you see an example of wearing one of the store's sleeveless half-shirts (chemisette) with one of the dresses. As imperfectly as this was thrown together in a moment in the store, you can still see that a little adjustment makes the dress acceptable to wear in public and does not look at all bad or even odd.

A few disclaimers: it appeared to me that some doggy-clothes may have been mixed up in the chemisette section. Be discerning. If the neckline and shoulders of the chemisette does not cover the gap and back of the garment you are trying to wear, you may have picked up a doggy shirt by accident. Match it up carefully with the dress if you are going to purchase one of these items. Also remember that just a plain slightly scooped neck t-shirt will work just as well, protect your dress, and be useful elsewhere in your wardrobe. Don't forget the blouse section! Sometimes there is a beautiful blouse just waiting to be rescued from the rack and paired with a dress, and they are especially beautiful with jumpers (aka "sundresses").

Now, if you had at least hand-sewing skills, you could very easily adjust any of these dresses with a bit of eyelet fabric tacked in to low fronts or backs for a permanent and one-layer solution. I have even seen ladies use crocheted doilies to this purpose, and it looks great (and would be perfect for a "cottage core" look). So you see that even though you don't "sew," it is still a very useful skill to have for store-bought clothing.

 And of course, if you learn to sew you will have the more comfortable clothing that is customized for you, so become a regular reader of this blog for sewing inspiration!


I hope you have enjoyed our quick shopping excursion! It took me much more time to write up this blog post than it did to find these dresses, so I hope this post encourages anyone who thinks they cannot find pretty things to wear at the shops. Find your style, fix your principles, and train your eye and it will get easier.

 Come back soon to see which of these dresses we brought home!

Tea Report

 Hello all, I cannot very well leave my readers without a report of the Autumn Tea. I just know you have been holding onto the edge of your ...