of the Lazy Literatus

My 40th Un-Birthday Mad Hatter Tea Party

Back in June, my friend Aaron asked me, “Why haven’t you ever thrown a tea party?”

To which I responded with, “Huh . . . why haven’t I thrown a tea party?!”

Then the ol’ mental gears started a-turnin’. In a few short months, my 40th birthday was coming up. I didn’t drink alcohol anymore, and other forms of mid-life debauchery bored me. The decision hit me like an Assam-fueled caffeine jolt.

Mad Hatter Tea Party!

Mad Hatter Tea Party

I posed the idea to my mother. And by posed, I mean I said, “Momma, I wanna tea party!” Like a petulant eight-year-old girl.

Of course, mentioning anything about “birthdays” and/or “tea parties”, and my Earl Grey-swigging mother was automatically game. Shortly after that, she started planning the thing. She asked me where I wanted to have said mid-life tea crisis. There was only ever one answer.


Chariteas exterior

It was easily my all-time favorite tearoom located adjacent to Portland. Granted, it was a helluva long way outside of Portland, but it was worth it every time. If only for the chicken salad sandwiches.

Next on the agenda was . . . who to invite? We only had a collective budget for fifteen people. Half of those would be family, which meant I had to narrow down friend-related invites. People with children were right out. I didn’t have many tea-centric friends in Portland, so that was easy. In less than a week, I gave my mother a shortlist.

Invites went out . . . with one simple instruction: “Wear a silly hat.”

Among the invitees, my friend Lauren wanted to do something crafty for the occasion. She operated her own Etsy shop that catered to that very purpose —Lavender Butterfly. At first, I didn’t have any suggestions for her. But then it occurred to me that . . . I didn’t have a “mad hat” for the occasion, yet. With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Lauren went about rectifying that.

She asked me, “Do you want a regular hat, or a tiny top hat?”

Tiny top hat!!!” I exclaimed.

Nothing screamed, “WHIMSY!“, like tiny top hats.


She, then, sent me a picture . . . and said, “Choose one.”


RED ONE!” I exclaimed again, equally as calmly.

Shortly after that, during one of our weekly gaming sessions, she’d constructed the perfect-est Mad Hatter hat.


In true Portlandian fashion, she even put a bird on it.

Mum had set the 24th of September for the tea party proper, four days before my actual birthday. Meaning, it was literally going to be my “un-birthday” party. As the weeks and months went by, I grew more impatient for the festivities. In that time, there were some shuffles in the invites list. Two family members had to bow out, one friend got smuggled in; all very “musical chairs”-ish.

Then came the day of. I woke up anxious and cranky. Mum was originally going to carpool us . . . but her tires were nearly flat. So, I had to do the driving. On top of that, we were running slightly late. Compounded to that, there was rush hour traffic on just about every road we turned off. When we stopped for gas, the attendant didn’t know how to operate the lever, so we had to pump it ourselves. Further on down the road, my stepdad got lost halfway there, and we had to find him somewhere on the back roads.

In short, by the time we finally got to Chariteas (all the way in Sandy, Oregon), we were quite certifiably insane.

Mad as a Hatter

Mum and I were gigglng all the way through the door. Owner Charity Chalmers and her staff greeted us as we shuffled in. We weren’t the only slightly-tardy stragglers. But, eventually, everyone showed up.

Mum, sis, brother, sis-in-law, niece, stepdad, stepdad’s tea party wingman, Lauren (the true Mad Hatter), Lauren’s husband Jason (decked out in jackelope ears), Robb (in a Mexican wrestler mask), Aaron (the originator of the tea party idea), Delights of the Heart‘s Marilyn and her husband Jim, and—last but not least—one of my original schlock posse mates, Jeremy.

Photo by Robert Norman

Photo by Robert Norman

First up, Chariteas’ staff served up our individual teas. Most went for blacks or oolongs, whereas I settled on a new-ish item—an aged white tea from Fujian.


Next came the food. Oh my gorsh . . . the food!


We were treated to the aforementioned chicken salad sandwiches (a Chariteas original recipe), cucumber sandwiches, lemon-berry scones, fudge cakes, and lemon tarts. In short, perfect eats for perfect insanity. I ate (and drank) more than my fill.

After almost two hours, two pots of tea, and who-knows-how-many lemon tarts, we all rolled out of the shop. The entire, hour-long drive home I had a facial expression that was somewhere between Zen and gluttonous bliss.

In closing: Thanks to my mother for organizing the whole thing. Thank you to all my friends and family for showing up, and for making the long trek out to help usher in my old-manliness. Thanks to Charity and her staff for catering to our tea-drunken whims, and thanks to Lauren for the best batshit crazy Mad Hatter hat a manchild could ask for.


At present, said hat is perched upon an Ash Vs. Evil Dead standee . . .

Ash, the mad hatter?

Maybe I’ll break it out again for Halloween.



A Tiny Bit of Canadian Oolong in a Tiny Gaiwan


Tea and Bullshit with Rajah Banerjee


  1. It was a funnest unbirthday yet! And yes, to Charities chicken salad sandwiches. Yummm!

  2. Cwyn

    This looks just breathtaking! Wow! Enjoyed this post very much.

  3. There’s no party like a Mad Tea Party! That hat is amazing and I dream about Chariteas’ chicken salad sandwiches.

  4. I’m afraid there is no excuse for getting to 40 and not having already had sat least a dozen birthday tea parties. I’m going to have to deduct points for that.

  5. A Mad Hatter Tea Party? Who played the March Hare?

  6. Margo Hutchinson

    A wonderful time was had by all!

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