Monday, February 28, 2011

Special Anniversary - Fort Meade Tea Party

Readers often ask me how I came to know many of their favorite authors.  It started with a tea party ....

... four years ago, I served as the luncheon coordinator for the spouses' club at Fort Meade.  Our February speaker cancelled and I scrambled to replace her.   We had just polished the club's vintage tea set for Fort Meade's 90th anniversary and a friend suggested we host an Old Fashioned Tea Party.  Another friend suggested I recruit members to sponsor individual tables with their own tea sets.   We ran with this idea and themed tables popped up:

- Balt-Tea-More Tea  Party (hosted by Baltimore native Wallis Simpson)
- Boston Tea Party
- Garden Tea Party
- Scotland Forever Tea Party
- Best Damn Scones (sponsored by a Canadian spouse ... and they were the best damn scones)
- Children's Tea Party

I was curious who "invented" tea parties.  A Google search provided the answer - from the Independent,

High tea, it seems, was invented in the early 19th century by the Duchess of Bedford as a way of getting around a mid-afternoon energy dip in an age when lunch was seldom eaten. She established the fashion for tea and sandwiches by asking aristocratic friends to her boudoir at Woburn for a nibble, before extending it in fine weather to include a stroll in the grounds.

I contacted the ancestral home of the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey.  The curator provided more information about the Duchess, the Honorable Anna Maria Russell.

In 1841 she wrote a letter to her brother-in-law from Windsor Castle:

‘I forgot to mention my old friend Prince Esterhazy who drank tea with me the other evening at 5 o’clock or rather was my guest amongst eight ladies in the castle’.

Thus, I made the Duchess of Bedford the honorary hostess for our tea party.

I understood British titles from my extensive reading of historical romance, but would the other spouses attending the luncheon?   I took to Google again and found an informative article by legendary historical romance author Jo Beverley, English Titles in the 18th and 19th Century.  I sent an email to request her permission to reprint her article.  Not only did she give me permission, but she donated two books as door prizes.

Jo's generous offer inspired me to invite local romance authors to the tea party.  20 plus authors from the Washington Romance Authors and the Maryland Romance Writers.  You can imagine that I was in hog heaven!   I encouraged the spouses to dress in vintage clothes, including gloves, hats, and pearls.  We gave away "titles" for the day, including the Duchess of Delft, Marchioness of Murano, the Baronness of Boleslawiec (the corresponding prizes were Delft ceramics, Murano glass, and Polish pottery).  

Rebecca York (left) and Kathryn Falk

The grand dame of the Tea Party was Kathryn Falk, Lady of Barrow and Queen of Romance.  She is the founder and CEO of RT Book Reviews.  Kathryn is also the founder of SOS America Inc. - a military charity which hosts the SOS Military Mixer at the RT Booklovers' Convention each year.  

The Fort Meade Sound Off published a comprehensive article about this event. 

In honor of this special anniversary, I am giving away a Historical Romance Gift Pack, including:

- Jo Beverley's classic Regency, SKYLARK
- English tea
- Tea towel
- Tea Time recipe book

To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment about a special event where you met someone you admire.

2. This giveaway is open only to US residents (sorry, postage!). Comments are open through Saturday, March 5, 10 pm in Hawaii. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 6 during the Weekly Winners announcement post.

3. If you are new to SOS Aloha, please make sure I know how to contact you. If your Blogger profile does not provide your email address, please send it to (I have several unclaimed prizes because I do know how to contact the winner).


Kim in Hawaii

I leave you with images of current books from a sample of authors who attended the Tea Party: