Well, after a bit of an absence I am back! It was a crazy weekend; I flew to Christchurch on Thursday morning and basically baked non-stop (with a couple of breaks to serve food and occasionally eat some myself!) until last night. After the post-mortem and clean up last night I flew back to Wellington this morning, came home and made myself presentable then straight off to work. May I have a weekend now, please? ;-)
It was all worth it, though; both the library (above) and the dining room (which sadly I don't have photos of) looked wonderful with nicely set tables. Grandma loved being able to show her childhood home to many new people, and tell all her stories - and we all enjoyed seeing so many people enjoying the house and the food!
We used Grandma's two special tea sets; the Royal Albert English Rose in the library, and her special fern set in the dining room. Her father at one time had the largest collection of ferns in the Southern Hemisphere (a fact you will likely have heard if you attended!) and "Mrs Cake's Mother" as she calls herself in the comments is really named Fern - so there is a strong family significance in that set - and the "pink and gold" as we all call it is very pretty too.
There was a lot of manic baking; we made dainty club sandwiches; chicken and basil sandwich rolls; feta and cherry tomato tartlets; parmesan sesame seed crackers; scones; cupcakes; lemon yoghurt tea cakes; ginger kisses; macarons (passionfruit and raspberry); and chocolate eclairs.
There were a few failures; most notable were the macarons. Though I had made them twice before a different kitchen brings different tools and tricks! My mother's food processor did not deal to the almonds as well as my little blitzer and the first batch were lumpy and could not be piped. We enjoyed eating the mess off the tray but alas, macarons they were not! The second batch (after a desperate text to a friend and a dash around to her place to borrow her food processor) suffered from a poorly tuned oven; it was not hot enough (an element was broken) and the length of time they took to cook meant they were completely dried out by the time they were baked through. Third time lucky!
We also had minor hiccups with the first batch of buttercream, one batch of choux pastry, and the last batch of lemon yoghurt cakes (still can't figure that out - they would not come out of the tins intact! I've used that tin and that recipe dozens of times - can't figure out what was different this time!). So anyway, we were far from perfect! But we did managed to pull together our treats sufficiently to serve high tea to 69 people.
The baking was definitely the stressful part; serving (once we figured out our strategies) was pretty straightforward and as Grandma, Mum and Uncle Sam gave tours to our guests while we beavered away in the kitchen we didn't have to worry about attending to our guests until they were seated.
My sister Cathie (right) and I plating up goodies
We very nearly ran out of a couple of things; when I worked out the quantities at the beginning of last week we only had 52 RSVPs, so I allowed for some extras but wasn't expecting an extra 17! And the last few additions were over the weekend - the latest being only about an hour before the last sitting - so we didn't have time to go back and bake more. Fortunately we had just enough of most things - and I do mean just enough!
We were also lucky to have lovely weather - so though it was cold, we had a few heaters cranking inside which made it toasty and warm and in fact the sun streamed into the library for most of the afternoon.
All in all it was a great success, and we're very happy with how it went. We raised just over $1000 for the house, which will be used shortly to repair a large segment of wall on the veranda which has rotted and is in desperate need of replacement. We are also hoping to be able to renovate the main bathroom and install a new second toilet and shower at some point in the next year or so, so that groups staying in the house can do so in more comfort.
Thank you so much if you came along - we hope you enjoyed your afternoon and went home with full bellies and having heard some interesting stories! We will likely do it all again sometime - but first I am looking forward to a good, long sleep! ;-)