A Garden Party – The Queen’s Jubilee

I went to a garden party….in honor of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee on Jun 4.  Canada is a commonwealth country, so I grew up singing God Save the Queen in grade school, along with our national anthem, Oh Canada.  One of my very first memories is of the Queen’s visit to my city in 1959, although as a wee tyke of three I wouldn’t have had any idea of who she was, but I do vaguely remember standing on the riverbank near the church watching the Royal Yacht glide by.  All I knew was an important person was onboard, so we had to wait…and wave.

The Guest of Honour

So when I read that the city was throwing a garden party in honour of the queen’s 70th anniversary on the throne, I went straight to the website to sign-up…..but the registration was already full, as the event was limited to only two hundred people.  So I spoke to a very nice lady at city hall who put us on the waiting list, whereby I happened to mention that my mother at 96 was the exact same age as the Queen.  (I’m not without my devious ways.)  A few days later an invitation arrived via email – Hear Ye, Hear Ye – you have been added to the Queen’s guest list.  Attendees were encouraged to dress up and wear a hat, including vintage 50’s styles from the era of the Queen’s visit.

Attendance was limited at this exclusive event as they wanted to model it after the Queen’s own garden parties. She holds three every year on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and one in Scotland – a tradition dating back to the time of Queen Victoria in the 1860’s.  The parties are by invitation only and fancy dress is required.  Tea, scones and cake are served to about 10,000 people.  It’s a way for the Queen to recognize and reward public service, and a chance for her to mingle.  This year due to mobility issues, other members of the royal party filled in. Here’s a link to more information about the Queen’s annual Garden Party.  

The day of the party dawned warm and sunny, with a delightful breeze – one of those perfect June days you so seldom see anymore.  The venue was a public park with beautiful gardens (I posted about Plein Air Painting here in Sept. 2019 when the flowers were at their peak) and we walked through the arbour strung with hanging baskets to the registration desk.  

Pink is my favorite color for flowers

Chairs were set up under the large shade trees for the required speeches, with every stripe of politician represented – federal, provincial, municipal.  A pipe band opened the ceremonies.

And then to the food tent – we snagged a table in the shade.  The food was wonderful…..the traditional tea party fare.

The sandwiches – salmon, tuna, egg, cucumber – were all excellent.  I tried my first cucumber sandwich – where else can you find a cucumber sandwich but at a tea party!  And scones of course, and all kinds of dessert squares, and cookies, including these special Union Jack ones.

These individually wrapped souvenirs were sugar cookies with royal icing – almost too pretty to eat, but I managed.

There were macrons in red, white and blue.  I’m always disappointed by macrons, as they look better than they taste, and aren’t they French?

There was tons of food left-over, as witnessed by the trays of sandwiches behind the tables, so I hope the food bank benefited. 

There was no cost for the tickets as the event was paid for by a heritage grant, but I wonder if some of the people who RSVP’d forgot to show up, or changed their minds, although there did seem to be a good crowd there, including a few people who were walking through the park and asked if they could join in.   

The table décor was lovely, and a few lucky souls got to take the centrepieces home.

I really liked these royal blue satin tablecloths.

There were flags,

and tents.  Nothing says fancy summer party like a white tent.

Ladies Who Lunch in Hats

It was fun to check out people’s outfits, and their hats.

Vintage Laura Ashley (British Designer)

I wore a floral yellow dress from the 80’s, and got several comments on it, but sensibly wore flat sandals, although I did see a few people tottering around on impossibly high heels, sinking into the grass.  I’m too old for that and too afraid I’ll fall over and break something. I needed the sweater because it was cool enough in the shade, and also to cover my arms, as I don’t do sleeveless anymore. It felt strange to wear a dress again, for the first time in five years. I wasn’t too happy with my hat, an old straw relic also from the 80’s, but didn’t have time to look for anything else. Plus, I think those fascinators are silly things on most people.

A vintage clutch purse which closes with a satisfying click, like all 50’s style purses do, including the Queen’s. She has over 200 of her iconic brand, in many colors. It’s rumored that she sends secret signals to her staff with her purse, shifting it’s location to indicate that she wishes to be rescued from a conversation or wants a dinner to wrap up.

My mother’s pearls

And pearls of course, there were lots of pearls in evidence.

After lunch, there was an enactment of the Queen’s life put on by a local theatre group, with various members representing the queen at different stages in her career.  No matter what people might think of the monarchy, there’s no denying the Queen has lived a long life of dignified service, not to mention surviving all those family scandals. She must be a woman of fortitude, strength and resilience.

Afterwards, we wandered through the garden pathways admiring the baskets, although the flower beds themselves were just newly planted. 

All in all, it was a beautiful day and a wonderful party.  Long live the Queen!

A Victorian Tea

Every May 24th weekend one of our local museums hosts their annual Victorian Tea, complete with freshly baked scones, white tablecloths and fine china.   

 The May 24th holiday weekend in Canada is called the Victoria Day weekend, because May 24 was Queen Victoria’s birthday.   Older people may remember the schoolyard rhyme children chanted years ago – “the twenty-fourth of May / Is the Queen’s birthday; / If they don’t give us a holiday / We’ll all run away!”    Now many people don’t even know who Queen Victoria was, unless you watch the PBS TV show Victoria, but she was Britain’s longest reining monarch, although Queen Elizabeth surpassed her in 2015.   She became Queen at age 18 and reined over the British Empire for 63 years, from 1937 until her death in 1901, a period known as the Victorian era.   She married her cousin Albert, had nine children and survived 20 different governments and 11 prime ministers.   After her death, her birthday was made a federal holiday, which was eventually was moved to the Monday preceding May 24 because of the weekend.   Queen Victoria most likely would have approved as weekends were an invention of the Victoria era.   This May 24th marks the 200th anniversary of her birth in 1819. 

Victorian Tea CottageNote: the Union Jack (Canada did not get it’s own Maple Leaf flag until 1965) and the old fashioned lilac bush (see Lilac Time)

The Victorian cottage is one of many buildings on the museum site, whose mandate is to display our past customs and heritage.   Many have been moved to the site, including a one room schoolhouse, a small church and a log cabin from the days of the early settlers, but the cottage was part of the original grounds.   It is a small one floor dwelling, built in 1893,  which was used by a Detroit woman as a summer home until her death, when it was donated to the museum.    She was known as the cookie lady, for her kindness in treating the neighborhood children to sugar cookies on the veranda when they were passing by. 

Victoria Tea Cottage

 It consists of a good sized dining room, living room and  kitchen and two very small bedrooms.   

Victorian Tea

Victorian Tea Cottage

The inside still looks as it did during the time she lived there, floral wallpaper, quilts and all.  

China cabinet Victorian Tea

The problem with the Victoria Day weekend is that the weather is usually guaranteed to be cold, rainy and miserable, which does not deter the campers, as it is considered the unofficial start to summer.   It seldom fails, whereas the following weekend, the US Memorial Day is often quite nice.  Still, not one to let a bit of rain (or even forty days of it like this spring), get in the way of a good tea spread, I decided to attend.   The last time I was there,  it was miraculously a warm and sunny day, with a pleasant breeze coming off the river, and we were able to take our tea outside on the veranda, as opposed to inside huddled beside the stove.     It was such a fine day we lingered over a second cup.  

Victorian Tea cottage

Although the day started out warm and sunny, the forecast was rain by 3pm, (I’m quite serious about the forty days of rain), so we set out early and decided to tour the buildings first (my friend had never been there), as we could always sit inside later if it started to pour.   On our walk about, I noticed a big patch of rhubarb growing beside the log cabin and took some pictures which I could have used in last week’s Rhubarb Lunar Cake blog.  (It’s never too late to edit!)  

Rhubarb

There’s something so civilized about a tea party and the clink of china tea cups, shades of Downton Abbey.    Each small table was laid with white tablecloths, cream and sugar sets, crystal butter dishes, jars of strawberry jam and a colorful mixture of china cups and plates. 

Victorian Teat

 The servers, young and old, were dressed in the costume of servants of the day, complete with frilly caps and white aprons.   The wind was so strong, their aprons were billowing in the breeze and the tablecloths were threatening to blow away, so we decided to sit inside. 

Victorian Tea

The only occupant of the veranda was a bird nesting high up in the rafters, most likely anticipating left over crumbs.   

Bird nesting

 Even inside, with the veranda doors open, it was so windy that our vase of flowers blew over soaking the tablecloth, which they removed and replaced with one even more exquisitely embroidered.   Our server, a charming young girl of about ten, inquired as to our choice of tea and scones – raisin, rhubarb, orange or apple cinnamon.   

Victorian Tea China

 Such a difficult decision, but my choice is always the rhubarb – it was divine, light and fluffy, and I am still trying to get the recipe, a carefully guarded secret.    Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it before it was consumed!   Victorian Tea Cottage

They make up to 400 scones for the day, using the cottage’s own wood-fired stove.  (Note the mirror at the top – I guess that was to check your appearance after slaving over a hot stove all day?)    The cost of the tea was $7.50 with donations to the museum fund, ordinary admission being $5, a bargain for the price.    

Exactly at 3 pm as predicted, the skies opened up and rained on our lovely tea party.   Oh well, there’s always next year…I’m sure I’ll be back.  

Postscript:   Easy rhubarb scones, only for truly lazy cooks or those whose kitchens are about to be torn apart.   Mix this, Rhubarbwith this, Rhubarb scones

bake as directed,  Rhubarb sconesand you get this.  Rhubarb scones

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea in a china cup!