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April 23, 2005: Tea on the train

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One thing on my list that I did not get done yesterday was to zip off to the store and buy all the parts to make trifle. And the reason I needed to make trifle is that today was the annual ladies' tea and I agreed to make trifle, even though I have never made it before in my life.

The good thing is that trifle is easy - or at least the recipe we were all given was easy. The organizer collected a huge mound of glass bowls and distributed them to all of us volunteers last Sunday, so this morning I lined my three bowls up on the counter and then layered in thin slices of pound cake, freshly washed and cut strawberries tossed with just enough sugar to convince them to start oozing juice, and a mixture of vanilla pudding and sour cream. Then I topped them all with whipped cream spirals and stuck them in the fridge until it was time for the tea. This left me with about half an hour to spare, which naturally meant that I had plenty of time to cast on for yet another pair of socks. Have I mentioned lately how very much I adore knitting socks? They are the perfect portable project.

The theme for the tea this year was 'Tea on the Orient Express', and as usual, the room was packed to the gills. I parked next to a group of women who were just getting out of their car to head in so I convinced a few of them (begging politely is usually effective) to help me carry in the three bowls of trifle, since I had my hands full of other stuff - like the old antique iron train engine I was bringing as a centerpiece for my mom's table. The engine immediately attracted the attention of one of the docents from the Sacramento Railroad Museum, who were there to give a talk on the history of the railroad in California, and he seemed actually pretty excited by it. Richard has three of these cars - an engine, a coal car and a caboose and they belonged to his grandfather but may be even older than that. They are made of cast iron and they are extremely sturdy and if you happen to be walking around in bare feet and stub your toe on one they are also extremely painful.

The lunch was a little sparse, but one doesn't go to these teas for the food. The presentation by the Railroad Museum docents was funny and delightful, and best of all, informative, and intermixed in the talk of the trains and laying of railroad tracks and the design of passenger cars was a link to the movie 'Murder on the Orient Express' on which the whole premise of the tea theme had been formed. My dad was Hercule Poirot, complete with waxed black mustache and bowler hat (we told him, however, that he had to keep his hat on, because without it he looked too scarily like some kind of Italian mafia). One of my coworkers was the Countess and she did rag curls in her hair and transformed herself so completely we almost did not recognize her. They did a little questionnaire throughout the presentations, where those who'd watched the movie were asked to remember important details about the various characters. I read the story years and years ago, but have never seen the movie. So I plucked my sock out of my purse and commenced to knit throughout the entire thing. Because I decided I needed something a little more exciting than plain old socks, this pair has a lace inset running down each side, and a lot of the little old ladies got a kick out of the fact that I, and my knitting friend (who was sitting next to me at the table) were making socks.

There were door prizes, as there are every year, and as I have each time I've attended this tea, I brought one along with the trifle and the iron train. This year I decided to try lace knitting for the first time so I made this, just to see if I could do it. Except that I am not so much a scarf wearer so it seemed like the perfect thing to donate as a door prize. And to sweeten the deal, my knitting friend whipped up a little drawstring bag for it, so it was a joint project. As it turned out, my dad ended up giving my knitting friend his ticket, which was then promptly called as a winner for a door prize, and because my mom had said she really wanted the scarf, my friend zipped up to the table, grabbed the prize she and I had brought, and gave it to my mom, amid much laughter by all of us.

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