Eclectic entertaining is her cup of tea


By Olga Bayer

When Paula McCaffrey decided to host a shower for daughter Michelle Otto, who’s expecting a baby girl in October, she tapped into a familiar and favorite theme from her past – an old-fashioned, sit-down tea party reminiscent of the antebellum tea party she’d thrown for friends ten years earlier.
In 2002, McCaffrey’s guests wore big hats and long dresses. The recent tea party for family and friends was sans period dress – save for a few gloves – however, the exquisite table settings, garden arrangements, tasty delicacies and party favors rivaled a tea party set for a queen – or in this case, a lady in
With a flair for Southern hospitality and a knack – move over Martha Stewart – for party planning, crafting and cooking, McCaffrey treated 35 guests to a memorable experience. It was a true family affair with eldest daughter Catherine Keiter co-hosting and sons Christopher and Michael assisting as servers.
To dress the tables, McCaffrey mixed and matched from her collection of assorted vintage china, silver and linen – family heirlooms that held special memories, and handed down through generations.
Decorative vignettes included her children’s homemade teapots, her sister’s original art, and treasures amassed from living and traveling the world. Fresh flowers and greenery from her backyard added colorful embellishments.
“This is what a tea party is all about, “McCaffrey said. “It’s about using what you already have from inside your house and outside in the garden, incorporating it into your home.”
As a whimsical nod to gardens, finger sandwiches were cut into shapes of flowers and butterflies. The menu included elderflower champagne spritzers, chicken salad, Biltmore House scones with lemon curds and a variety of teas.
McCaffrey has lived with husband Brian in the San Marco area for more than 30 years. Her many and successful parties have been a labor of love. Friend Barbara Jansen agrees, calling her a “natural hostess” and someone who’s “in her element” when entertaining.
With three grandsons, McCaffrey does plenty of doting. Still, eagerly anticipating the arrival of her first granddaughter, she was inspired to celebrate with those near and dear.
“It puts a smile on my face to bring friends together,” said McCaffrey. “I just want everyone to have a good time. This was my second tea party. Who knows what I’m going to do for my third.”
No doubt it will be a big hit because as guest Bernice Parker said, “Whenever Paula has a party, you know you’re going to have a good time!”

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