If ever there was a fictional character who was my kindred spirit, it would be none other than L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley. Armed with a sharp wit and kind heart, Anne of Green Gables fame always had big dreams and the ability to land herself in trouble with her impulsive streak and stubbornness.
Truth: Anne Shirley and I would be bosom buddies if we both didn’t need a Diana Barry to balance us out and keep us grounded.
Some of my favorite memories of reading “Anne of Green Gables”, and the rest of the series, was her way of viewing the world. The girl had a way with words. Every time I opened one of the books, I could be transported into Anne’s school with chalkboard slate chards flying or to a good cry in a gabled bedroom during one of life’s epochs.
Lately, I’ve found myself wishing I could be present for one of Anne’s tea parties. Like me, Anne is a hostess with high expectations that tend to go awry. Try as we may, we can’t quite seem to shake it.
With that thought on my mind, I decided one could never be too old or outgrow the desire for a tea party. I invited my own Diana over for a summer evening and threw us a tea party our Anne-girl could love. With a grown-up twist, of course. Here’s a rundown of what our party included and my tips for emulating it at home. Please borrow, or adjust, any of these to hold your own grown-up Anne of Green Gables-inspired tea party.
Take It Outside
Why go to the expense of fancy decor when you can borrow from nature? Anne was nothing if not effusive with her enthusiasm for the great outdoors. Settle in the shade of a tree or near a flower garden for best results. I set up my own bistro table and chairs by our largest rose bush. This instantly gave out party the desired ambiance.
Though I committed anachronistic faux-pas with my choices, I set the table with a needlepoint table cloth made by my Grandma Huneke in the 1950s. I also used some of the Depression Glass pieces she and Grandpa received as wedding gifts in 1938. So, no, I was not accurate with the time period strictly speaking. That said, using old pieces inherited from someone I loved, with so many happy associations, added to the party’s tone.
I completed the table setting with mason jars, red gingham napkins and flowers. On that note . . .
Pull Flowers from the Story
Anne was particularly fond of flowers and mentions them frequently in the stories. Whether going with fresh or faux (we went with the latter on account of the season), make your pick from some of Anne’s favorites. In addition to roses, she frequently mentions mayflowers, starflowers, orange blossoms, violets and more.
Use Anne’s Words
Along with the napkins and flowers, I printed place cards with a few quotes straight from the source of our party’s inspiration. I designed a set of eight, which you can download here. This was an easy, but sweet, way to personalize the table and pay homage to the books. Plus, the flowers and notecards become inexpensive and easy souvenirs for your guests.
Keep the Menu Simple (Yet Classy)
Having just made Ruby Tea Biscuits, these were the first dish I placed on the table. The pop of color from the strawberry jam instantly made the table pretty, particularly when placed on a Depression Ware platter. You can supplement with other foods mentioned in the books, such as a vanilla cake, plum pudding, or raspberry tarts, depending on your time and energy levels. I suggest having at least one dish that you can cite from the book.
I also whipped up some easy egg salad finger sandwiches. It’s easy. Combine hard boiled eggs (on for each guest) with mayonnaise and mustard, then spread on piece of sandwich bread along with a lettuce or green. (I used arugula.) Slice off the crusts, and cut into squares or wedges. I also filled two small serving jars with nuts and gumdrops, because they looked nice and felt right. Basically, you can’t go wrong by asking “Would Anne Shirley serve this?” when placing something on the table.
Make a Signature Cocktail
Yes, this is a tea party, but we’re also grown-ups here. Bring out the booze! (But, you know, in an Anne approved way.) I initially imagined making a one-off of a Long Island Iced Tea to be called a Prince Edward Island Iced Tea. I ultimately went another direction. I don’t know about you, but one of my all-time favorite literary moments came when Anne accidentally served Diana some of Marilla’s currant wine instead of raspberry cordial. It’s the exact kind of mistake I would make! With that in mind, I created a cocktail combining traits from both. I give you . . .
Diana’s Cordial Cocktail
1 portion of raspberry cordial (see directions below)
1 cup of rosé (or another blush wine)
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup club soda
The day before your party, mash 1 pint of raspberries in a bowl. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water and juice from one lime. Refrigerate overnight.
The day of your party, strain the raspberry mixture with cheese cloth. If you don’t have cheese cloth, you can use a coffee filter and sieve as a substitute. Mix liquid with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of honey.
In a serving container, combine cordial with wine, vodka, and soda. Serve chilled.
When In Doubt, Use Your Imagination
Though Anne Shirley held her tea party to feel grown-up, this is our chance to embrace whimsy and feel young again. Do whatever it takes to make that happen for yourself. Don a hat and gloves. Bust out your old china tea set from back in the day. Read overly dramatic poetry while sending a friend floating downstream pretending to be dead. Whatever. It. Takes.
My Diana and I’s grown-up tea party was a much-needed break from the norm. We had so much fun, we even kept it going until we had to break out the leftover wine and turn on the patio lights! Get creative and have fun playing with your bosom buddies.