How I Threw A Champagne Afternoon Tea Party For Two At Home For My Birthday

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Although most cafes and restaurants are now open in London, I am still not confident enough to go out there and socialise. I believe that the virus is still very much with us and I don't want to take the risk. J and I have been very good in the last four months (only going out for essentials), so I know we can do more no matter how long it will take- even it means sacrificing my birthday traditions and doing things differently. 

This year, instead of travelling or having an afternoon tea with my friend somewhere in London, I decided to throw my own Champagne Afternoon Tea Party at home with J. It turned out to be one of the best afternoon teas I have ever had since I fell in love with the British tradition sometime in 2006.

It took me at least two weeks to formulate my menu. I am not a baker, so it was quite challenging to decide which pastries and cakes to bake. I escaped savouries as I am not very keen on them. Besides, I don't really know how to make them. So in the end, I came up with a very simple Afternoon Tea menu. 

Homemade Cupcakes
- I played safe with the cupcakes and baked what I thought would be easy. It was my first time to bake lemon cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes, but thanks to Mary Berry for her easy to follow recipes. I think I did well considering I don't really bake (except banana bread). One thing that I really need to work on though, is my frosting. I am still quite impatient but I know I'll get there one day. :)

Homemade Plain and Fruit Scones
- I learned how to bake scones back in 2016 when I was living in New Zealand and trying to learn new skills. So, apart from banana bread, scone is the only other thing that I can bake confidently. I have always used Mary Berry's recipe for my scones. On this occasion, I moulded the plain scones first, then added raisins in the remaining dough. The scones were served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Selection of Homemade Sandwiches
- I am not normally a fan of sandwiches, but I always enjoy them at afternoon teas. For my afternoon tea party, I chose to make three of my favourite sandwiches - tuna, egg and coronation chicken. J made the tuna sandwich and I used my own recipe for the egg sandwich. For the coronation chicken, I used the recipe I found on BBC Good Food. I used both white and brown bread for the sandwiches. 

Selection of Teas
- As this was an afternoon tea, I thought I'd present the teas that I have available at home.  I am a fan of Jasmine Green tea, so I have Queen Jasmine Tea from TWG, Blossom Tea  from a shop in Chinatown and Jasmin Zhejiang from Thé & Co (Strasbourg). I also have Fortnum and Mason's English Mint Tea, Rose Pouchong, Apricot Honey and Lavender and Camomile and Bee Pollen Infusion Teas. J had the choice between Harrods Afternoon Ceylon No 16 Tea and PG tips. Of course, he opted for the PG Tips (his favourite). :) I chose the Jasmin Zhejiang only because I haven't had it in a while. 

My Birthday Cake
- Who would have thought that I would be baking my own birthday cake this year? My original plan was to bake my favourite ube cake but I have failed twice already, so I didn't want to risk it on my birthday. Somehow I find the whole process of baking an ube cake tedious! Anyway, the only other cake I could think of was pistachio cake. And so I baked it- for the first time ever and voila!

The Champagne
- Our choice of Champagne that day was Moët. Nothing much to say really. :)

So, that's how I successfully threw a Champagne Afternoon Tea Party at home. I haven't had an afternoon tea with J before, so this was a good opportunity for us to experience it together in the comfort of our home. Although the whole preparation was not that easy, I really enjoyed it. In fact, I can now invite my friends for an afternoon tea at home. Perhaps when the virus is totally gone. 

The older I get, the more I prefer simple birthday celebrations. For the last few years, I have been celebrating my birthday with only a handful of friends - before or after my birthday, and separately. Then J and I would do our own thing in the evening of my birthday. I realised through the years, and most especially during the lockdown, that doing the simplest of things make me genuinely happy. That I certainly don't need fancy things to complete my birthday. So yeah, I now find more pleasure in doing simple things at home like throwing my own Afternoon Tea Party. :)


44 and Grateful

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Today, I celebrated my 44th birthday in an unusual but very special way. Whilst we originally planned to celebrate my birthday outside London, the pandemic unfortunately prevented us from doing so. Some yearly traditions also had to be put on hold. For the last few years, my friend Pearl and I have been visiting flower fields as part of our birthday celebrations. I also have this tradition of dating myself the day before my birthday. This year is completely different. Although I didn't get to meet up with any of my friends or do any of the things that I would normally do on my birthday, I had the pleasure to celebrate it privately at home with my constant, J. 

This morning, I woke up exceptionally grateful. Despite everything that has been going on in the world right now, I am very blessed in so many ways. My life in the last year has been a roller coaster ride. It was as if life was constantly playing games with me. Every time when I thought that the universe was finally making up for everything that I went through the year before, a new challenge comes along. But I have been a firm believer that things happen for a reason, so here I am, still very grateful despite of it all. 

This year though, I am most grateful for the following:

1. The health and safety of my family and friends
- Last year, I had the fair share of health concerns personally and with some of the people I love. It was very emotionally challenging especially when my mother had the Covid-19 scare. So this year, I wish nothing but for my family and friends to continue to be healthy and safe. That is all what matters to me now.

2. My Life Partner
- I'm sure the pandemic has been one of the most challenging for us all. One thing that I am very grateful during this time of Corona Virus is having a life partner in J. I am very blessed to have been in lockdown with the best lockdown partner ever. Never did we once bickered at each other for the whole three months that we were in isolation. J made it easy for me not to miss the outside world. Most importantly, he made sure that we were both looked after.

3. Provision of Basic Needs
- The pandemic taught me that all I needed to survive in this world is food, shelter and clothing (okay, in addition- a phone and wifi so I can stay connected with my family and friends). I am beyond blessed to be living in a beautiful flat in Central London, to have more than enough food in our pantry and to have more than enough clothes to wear. For three months, I didn't have any reason to dress up. I didn't have any reason to wear my shoes and my bags. It was then I realised that I don't really need any more than what I already have. And knowing that a lot of people struggled to buy food during the pandemic, I made a promise to myself to spend my money wiser, and to help those in need a little bit more.

4. Closing Doors
- In December, I was made redundant. It was one thing that I thought I would never have to go through. I felt different kinds of emotions. For a normally positive person like me, I struggled to look for the silver lining. I thought I was a good manager and I was doing a great job. However, I ended up losing it all. I lost an exceptional team. My team. The team that I built. The people who believed in me despite knowing that I didn't have any managerial experience behind me. The people who respected me as a person and as a manager. The people who made it easy for me to succeed as a new manager. The people who treated each other like their own family. My people. I was so heartbroken, I cried most nights. Add to that heartbreaking separation from my people, the most stressful and unhappiest ending in my entire nursing career. I did things that I never thought I would ever do as a nurse, and as a manager. But I guess all the hardships and sacrifices were worth it, as what happened validated my purpose in life. And for that, I remain grateful.

5. New Beginnings
- I started my new job in the time of Corona Virus. Everything was and still is strange. It is quite difficult to explain how I exactly feel about this new job and the people I work with. But there is one thing that I am sure of- there is a reason why the universe brought me there. For now, I am grateful that I still have a job during this unusual time when a lot of people all over the world have lost their jobs and/or struggling to find a job. I hope and pray that things will be better soon, so everyone can go back to work and truly enjoy the (new) normal life again. 

And that's it. I am 44.

I wish not only for my family and friends' health and safety, but for love, compassion, kindness and peace in this time of hate, indifference and inhumanities. May we all eventually live as one, and may God bless us all.

Please stay safe.


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