Yesterday the girls and I hosted our inaugural Advent tea. We opened our home – and our hearts – to some of our good homeschooling friends, including one who traveled over an hour to be with us.
I could not have asked for a more perfect day. We ended up having 13 ladies join us, and there was nary a spill or shriek or anything chaotic in the least.
I didn’t get around to making the cheddar muffins I mentioned in my planning menu (posted at QT # 4 here) but with the ready help of Madeline, we made everything else. The spinach balls and chocolate pound cake courtesy of the Cake Doctor were the biggest hits. I included the spinach ball recipe at the end of the post since it’s a family recipe.
Speaking of Madeline, not only was she a lovely hostess, but she woke up extra early all on her own the day of the tea and voluntarily vacuumed the entire house as well as wiped down all of our seats and the table. Rachel was a big help as well.
And Mary Elizabeth did not try to kill herself – not even once! (In the past week, I’ve caught her running with a knife, stuffing a ball from a magic trick kit into her mouth that was the perfect size for blocking her airway, and dancing along a narrow strip of wood that runs parallel to a flight of stairs down to our basement. I never thought the twos were so terrible until now. She’s full of spunk and deliciously cute, but she’s also terribly dangerous and defiant at times.)
Since we celebrated our tea on the Eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas, we read The Baker’s Dozen. The girls and I also made St. Nick cookies to share with our guests. I just used the Pillsbury peppermint sugar cookie dough (yum!), and I let the girls decorate the cookies all by themselves after showing them a photo of an embellished cooking on the St. Nicholas Center website.
While all our guests were sipping hot cocoa (this recipe was easy to triple and was deliciously creamy!) or tea and nibbling on the treats that ranged from cucumber sandwiches to cream cheese peppermints, we went around the table and each girl shared a favorite Advent tradition. Several families make sacrifices and then add a piece of hay to Jesus’ bed to make it extra soft for the holy child. One family visits a live Nativity scene every year. We shared how we hide the baby Jesus from our Fontanini Nativity set until Christmas Day so that we are searching for Jesus all Advent. We also talked about how we like to nosh on Mexican food in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th).
After tea time the girls did a simple craft. They made Baby Jesus ornaments using craft kits from Oriental Trading. I was fortunate to have several older girls (and my rocking babysitter) on hand to help the littles.
We even had live music!
Madeline, who has just recently started piano lessons, played a riveting rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Then my friend’s 13-year-old asked if she could practice a piece for an upcoming recital. Wow-oh-wow! We were in awe of her fingers gracefully (and quickly!) dancing across the piano as she played the piece by memory. It was wonderful for Madeline to see the fruit of hard work and practice. She looks up to these older girls so much.
Later some of them helped Madeline with her crocheting. She’s working on a blanket to give baby brother Thomas for Christmas.
When the last guest left, I was pooped out; yet, I was also brimming with joy and gratitude.
Christ is the cornerstone of the Advent season. Our tea proved that He is also the cornerstone of our friendships. We gathered together to celebrate, to open our hearts to the anticipation of waiting for our King, to feast, to drink, to create music, crafts, and good memories, and to be a light to one another.
Sure, my daughters practiced how to set a table. They brushed up on skills of hospitality.
Yet, at the heart of our Advent tea and all of our celebrations during this beautiful liturgical season is the understanding that like God, who sent His only Son to save us, we are called to an authentic, unconditional kind of love and to offer our gifts of time, talent, and treasure for others.
It is this love that doesn’t keep score or count the cost that really enlivens the joy of the season.
It’s our Redeemer, His giving and our own, that makes us run and not grow weary.
And there’s nothing quite like a smiling baby that recollects an image of the Christ-Child to bring us happiness.
*Many thanks to Madeline and my friend for documenting the day with their cameras while I was busy playing hostess.
Spinach Balls From GG’s (Great Grandmother) “I Remember” Cookbook
1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach
1 cup of seasoned stuffing (not the kind in cubes)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, beaten (egg substitute lightens the rich recipe a bit)
6 tablespoons softened butter
salt and pepper to taste
Cook spinach and drain well. Combine spinach with all other ingredients and mix well. Roll into walnut-sized balls. Place on cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Then remove and store in plastic bag in freezer. To serve, bake in frozen state for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.