Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Mad Tea Party in Idle Wonderland

Once upon a time there was a dear small kitten called Nico, whose amber eyes and sweet smile won her many friends. She lived with her human mother Emalina, in a big old country cottage on a high hill overlooking a valley surrounded by greenery and roses.

One day, as Emalina sat in the garden picking wild strawberries, she heard a strange sound in the air. A lovely voice resounded through the valley, a soft and lilting song in deep dulcet tones she knew well.
"Quick!" cried Emalina, rushing indoors where Nico was snoozing languorously on the rocking chair, "Nico, it's time to go! Our friend Vanessa Valencia calls to us! The time has finally come, the time to visit her Mad Tea Party!" 

Nico smiled her sweet smile, for she had been looking forward to a tea party all year long (or at least since lunchtime). Together they packed up what they would need. Nico found her sun hat, and her pretty pinny for serving tea.
She sat very still as Emalina dressed her in her favourite red collar, the one with bells that tinkled like a stream as she walked. Last but not least were her coloured ribbons for country dancing, which Nico thoughtfully nudged into Emalina's pink straw basket as they closed the cottage door and set out to find Wonderland.

Nico and Emalina set off on their journey. After a while they came to a field full of buttercups. Nico sniffed the clean fresh air, and the gentle breeze dancing in the trees wiggled her long white whiskers, for it was a beautiful day.

Soon they came to a clearing where there stood a wooden cabin. At first Nico was too scared to step in, but Emalina reassurred her that it was the cabin into Wonderland and all were welcome there. As they entered the cabin they gulped in the gorgeous smell of lamb roasting in the wood oven. Nico's belly rumbled.

"Look, dear Nico" said Emalina, "there it is, the looking glass that will take us into Wonderland."
On the cabin wall hung a gilt gold mirror, carved and twisted, that reflected a dazzling light into their eyes.

"It's time to be brave, my darling" said Emalina, "for we must step into this mirror and into the unknown to reach our destination".

Now Nico was used to being brave to catch mice and shrew (and once a baby rabbit too), but she shook her head at her human mother.
 "I can only be brave if I know there'll be food for my belly in the unknown" she said.

 "Why then be not afeared little Nico, for beyond this mirror there will be cakes and sweets and who knows what delights", responded Emalina in a reassuring tone. "I will make sure that you don't go hungry".

And so little Nico and big Emalina stepped into the Wonderland mirror, and out the other side into a bright new world. As she opened her eyes, Nico was surprised to find she was rolling in roses, petals pink and purple, yellow, white and red covering them with their fragrant scent.

She looked around to see Emalina shaking the petals off her skirts with a grin.
 "We're here Nico!" she exclaimed. "Isn't it wonderful?"

Nico was inclined to reserve judgement until she had something in her belly,but she followed Emalina down the yellowing path of an old orchard. They turned the bend to find a most remarkable sight. The White Queen of Wonderland had spread out a picnic beneath the trees and was raising her tea cup to them in eager anticipation.

"How nice to meet you, Your Highness", Emalina gasped, "we beg your pardon at trespassing onto your land".

"Why this feast is for you dear Nico and Emalina, for Alice and I have been waiting to take tea with you. Vanessa Valencia, who has her own party to attend, sends her fanciful regards" said the White Queen graciously.

"Oooh cupcakes!" squealed Nico, "My favourite kind of cake!".

The White Queen spread her arms out in welcome, "These are no ordinary cupcakes little Nico", she said, "for hand painted onto each cupcake here is a different portrait of all the lords and ladies of Wonderland kingdom.
I will let you eat as many as you wish, kitty", she continued, with a wink to Emalina " for I can hear your stomach is rumbling." 

As Nico got to work eating her fill, Emalina looked around at the wonderful feast spread out before them. Meringues and rose petals, a white rabbit cake, marshmallows and cupcakes, tea ready to be poured, she had never seen such abundant delights.

"We have laid out some fruit and some fans" said the White Queen, "for those of us who need to keep our pale complexions".
"How thoughtful of you, your Highness" Emalina replied, "at home we only eat Whiskas for Nico, and green beans for me. That is why we're so thin you see."

"Then you must fatten yourselves up with some liquorice and marshmallows, Emalina, we are here to eat and be convivial. I can recommend the tayberry lemonade, made by our gardener from the berries this morning. It goes perfectly with a lavender meringue."

Nico, meanwhile, had finished her cupcake and was wandering about the picnic with her tail held high. "Would you mind awfully if I had this cup of tea?" she asked "I do so fancy a hot drink."
The White Queen nodded her approval, and Nico took her first lap of tea.

"What is this?" she exclaimed, "I have never tasted such a drink!"
"It is my Chocolate Mint tea" answered the Queen "I only bring it out for special occasions, infused as it is with magical powers."

"Yes, have you tried it?", spoke up Alice the doll suddenly, looking straight at Nico, "isn't it divine?"

"But you're a doll, Alice, how can you speak?" asked Nico, startled.
 "Fear not my dear, you have drunk my magic Chocolate Mint tea, that is why you can hear Alice speak" answered the White Queen.

"I speak all the time, thank you very much" countered Alice, "but it's only those with ears tuned to the right frequency who can hear me. Go on, have another sip of tea and a slice of cake, we're all friends here little cat." 

As Nico popped her head into the berries, Emalina took a peek at the book of fairy tales lying open beside her. "These are delightful illustrations Your Highness" she said "look at those birds in the picture Nico!"

"My wish is to surround myself with everything I love" said the Queen, laughing softly, "for it brings me such pleasure. There you see an illustration by Edmund Dulac from the story of Bluebeard."

"And come look at my boudoir", she beckoned to Emalina, "here you can find a portrait of my late grandmother, she was a great beauty. Many princes travelled from all over the land for a chance to woo her. 
Many fought battles in her name and wrote poems for her love, before she chose my late grandfather, the man who painted this."

"The dress" she went on to say, "is another family heirloom. It is belonged to my great grandmother on the other side of the family."

"But what are those strange green sparkly things?" piped up Nico.

"Let me tell you a secret", said the White Queen as she drew them close to her. "These green sparkly things are real beetle wings sewn onto gauze. My couturier tells me this dress was made in India more than a hundred years ago. It is a piece of history and so delicate that I have only worn it a handful of times, only ever to stand in. The beetle wings are sharp and they cut into me if I sit down."

"Gosh" said Emalina, "we are lucky to be taking tea with the Queen, aren't we Nico?"

"We are", agreed Nico, "and have you met Alice yet, Mummy? She's just over here. She talks you know, like I do."

At that moment the air grew thick with sound. Wood nymphs appeared from behind each tree in the orchard singing their praises to the White Queen. 

As the nymphs sang their hypnotic chant, Nico noticed the strangest things start to happen. All around her, objects began to move, to dance to the nymphs' song.

The dresses and paintings at the White Queen's boudoir swayed in time to the music, as if possessed!

The white rabbits on the Queen's cake began to hop, and play, amongst the white chocolate roses! 

The faces on the cupcakes began to move, too, and they smudged themselves as they did so.

Even the cupids on the White Queen's books began to prance and dance.

Before long the whole of Wonderland was swaying and dancing to the wood nymphs' song. Only the White Queen sat still in her chair, with a smile as she watched the revellery.

Nico felt the voices of the nymphs stroke her body with their tune, they were playing with her whiskers and caressing her tail. Finally, she could contain herself no longer, and let out a mad little jumping dance, as Emalina twirled her long skirts around her.

The music stopped as abruptly as it had started, and all of Wonderland stood still again. Nico, so exhausted by her dancing, found a shady spot under the White Queen's skirts to catch her breath, whilst Emalina took to a nearby hammock to recover.

"This really is the life!" exclaimed Emalina, as she reached for another meringue.

"It is, it is Mummy!" cried Nico, from beneath the Queen's shady skirts.
But being a fidgety little kitten, she couldn't stay still for long and she soon started to hunt for something else to eat.

Something like the liquorice...

"Don't eat too much of that," warned the White Queen, "it is time for us to cut the White Rabbit cake! You shall wish to leave some room to taste the cake!"

"Nico and I love cake, Your Highness", said Emalina, "what flavour is it may I ask?"

"Rose and lemon to taste, my dear girl, in different colours and different parts; for beneath the hand made white chocolate rabbits and roses, and the sky blue buttercream, there lies a moist soft marble cake of such magnificence that we must all eat at least one slice."

The Queen was right, it was a magnificent cake, and within no time at all they had had two slices each.

Finally, the White Queen brought out a strange looking case...

"Open it, dear Nico and Emalina", and they did as they were told.

Inside were all manner of things, pretty pictures and hand written notes hidden amongst the flowers and cupcakes.

"Here is my Case of Inspiration" said the Queen. "Look through it as you please".

No sooner had Emalina started to look in the case than a note appeared addressed to her.

Opening it, Emalina and Nico saw a fantastic message. "Man is condemned to be free?" asked Nico, "what does this Sartre fellow mean by such a thing?"

"Ah Nico, it is simple my darling. Sartre reminds us that we always have a choice in how we respond to situations in our lives. Even when we deliberately try not to choose, the act of not choosing is in itself a choice. With choice comes freedom, and with freedom comes responsibility, and a life lived in awareness and self reflection".

Nico was still thinking about what her human mother had said when Emalina spied another note, this one addressed to her.

"This is less of a riddle," exclaimed Nico, "oh I know how to do this, Mummy! I'm moving forward right this minute, towards that delicious cake!

As Nico ate some more, Emalina reflected on their notes from the case. What did Kierkegaard mean when he wrote that life must be lived forwards? Perhaps that by facing the everyday difficulties and contradictions of living - as opposed to trying ignore or dismiss them -  we could move forward in our lives, and grow as cats and as people?

She was still pondering this notion when she heard a rustle and the tap tap tap of some sharp high heels on the yellowing path.

There stood the Red Queen, with her hand on her hip.

"Oh has she come to join the party?" asked Nico, hopefully.

"WHO DARES TO EAT THE CAKES OF MY WONDERLAND?" roared the Red Queen. "Quick, guards, off with their heads!"

"We must run for our lives, Nico!" screamed Emalina, and threw Nico onto her shoulder before hotfooting it out of Wonderland, the Red Queen and her guards the nettles chasing behind them waving their stinging spears. 

Thankfully they escaped the gates of Wonderland unharmed, and found a small sailing boat in the mist, sent by the White Queen to take them home.

By the time they had reached their country cottage on the top of the hill, Nico was sleeping like a baby in her human mother's arms.

"What a day it has been" whispered Emalina, as she placed Nico on her fur cushions. "Sleep well sweet darling".

The Red Queen closed the gates of Wonderland for another year, and Nico slept curled up on her cushions, chasing white chocolate rabbits in her dreams.


P.S. Animal lovers will be pleased to read that Nico the kitten was not
 actually allowed to eat any cake or sweets during the shooting of this post.

P.P.S. All recipes for the above idle bakes will be blogged in forthcoming posts.

This special blog post was idly hatched as I listened to the music of Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook


  1. The loveliest Mad picnic party! Your cat is a darling and those vintage dresses... are like a dream! I'm happy to return the visit, happy mad tea party!

  2. Such a beautiful party, so much to love but that dress, oh I'll be having dreams about that dress it is so wonderful.

    The cakes all were sooooo yummy, I'll be looking out for the recipes. :-)

  3. Wonderful tea party! Those cupcakes are so lovely...and they must be yummy too.
    Besos from Argentina, Silvina

  4. What a wonderful adventure for you and Nico to go on, such fun !!
    thank you for visiting my party earlier too :)

  5. what a pretty tea party, and i adore your cat

  6. I love a lot of things in this post! The cabin, the vintage dresses, NICO, the cakes and all the messages inside that vintage luggage! Thanks for sharing!

  7. What a fabulous Mad Tea Party! I love those cupcakes...and thank you for the Nico disclaimer! :) I am happy to have visited. Hope you will come see me, too!
    Sincerely, Theresa :)
    Happy Mad Tea Party Day!

  8. What a cute story! Great photos!! Your cupcakes are sooo adorable!

    Happy Mad Tea Party!


  9. A lovely tale you and Nico have woven. Thank you for including us. Party On!

  10. So wonderful! I love your outdoor picnic tea party. I love parties like this, so enchanting, it makes me want to sip tea outside on a blanket all day long... iced tea for me, thought, its almost 100 degrees here.

  11. Thanks for popping by, lovelies! I so enjoyed creating this tea party, and am beyond excited to be visiting all of yours! Such lovely parties :) x

  12. Thank you for stopping by my tea party and leaving such sweet comments! I thoroughly enjoyed your lovely tea party and sharing with Nico was a most pleasurable experience! I hope to visit again next year!
    Beth P (Mossberry Cottage)

  13. oh wow, what a beautiful party you've had! So full of delicious treats and what a sweet little kitty :)

  14. Oh, Nico is just the sweetest!! What a beautiful party (and those dresses are amazing!) Thank you so much for inviting me :) ~Lauren

  15. What a wonderful adventure! Thanks for inviting me to enjoy it with you!

  16. I love your party! Nico is adorable and your rabbit cake is making me salivate! Most of all I love your beautiful dress with the beetle wings. Just wonderful!
    Thank you for such an inspired post. Your quotes resonate with me hugely, thank you again!

  17. I loved your kitty Nico, and your treats look sublime! Beautiful photography.
    hope you can visit my parties!

  18. I had a great time at your party. You had so many treats that I couldn't make up my mind....they were so very good. Thank you for having me. I enjoyed meeting new friends and drinking tea.

    Please visit me:

  19. Kisses to vintage dolly.

    Give me a visit some time ~

  20. OH MY! ..that was lovely! Thank you for sharing.

  21. What gorgeous things you shared with us today! I loved the adventure and the sweets were delicious! Thank you so very much!
    I hope you will stop in and visit my mad tea party!

  22. Oh I love Nico, what a treasure. and we approve heartily of hand painted cakes! xx

  23. This was a truly wonderful adventure. And oh, I got a scare when the Red Queen came yelling! Thank, you, thank you for laying out such a magnificent spread, the cake was specially good, with rabbits and roses (two of my favourite things). Speaking of rabbits, if a rather confused black Dutch rabbit in a yellow dress turns up, could you please let me know? Thank you.

  24. Thanks for stopping by my party! I was completely fascinated by your adventure! And those cupcakes are amazing! :)

  25. Lovely party! Visit mine?

  26. oh how much I loved going to your wonderland - such beautiful dresses you posses! Love your treats, illustrations and of course Nico.. so lovely!

    Do stop by and enjoy my party and enjoy photos, art, dolls and a giveaway too!♥-2012/

  27. Oh, what a wonderful adventure Emalina and Nico had! Loved the pretty dresses and the masks, as well as the tea and cakes.

  28. What a wonderful adventure! I just loved those cupcakes! So creative! The dress is so beautiful and Nico is just adorable. Lovely lovely LOVELY! Thanks for stopping by my party earlier too! xoxo


  29. This is the first time I've ever eaten cake while rabbits were dancing among the white chocolate roses. Wow! Thank you for the enchanting experience!

  30. Bravooooooo!! Oh, that was wonderful wonderful, clapping!!!

    That cake was something else, I tell ya, magnifique!!!

    What an incredible post, so clever and wonderful! Thank you sooo much for sharing the magic!!

    Happy Mad Tea Partying!

    ♥ Vanessa {a fanciful twist}

  31. Just Lovely as can be! I enjoyed the fact that you incorporated life lessons too! All the dresses were just BEAUTIFUL! Ohh and I want to roll onto rose petals and eat some of those delicious treats. I will be checking in on your recipes that are to follow in time! Also, I wanted to say I love the dress and bonnet on your sweet doll. Nico is purfectly charming as well!
    Thank you for a wonderful tea Party!

  32. What an adventure! I escaped by the skin of my teeth...but not to worry...I grabbed a few of those special cupcakes for Nico. Here kitty kitty :) Thank you for having me.

  33. Such a very fun and beautiful story! And so many pictures and heirlooms to look at and such beautiful treats, especially the amazingly beautiful cake! Thank you so much for visiting my party at The Tearoom and your lovely comments!

    Wishing you a most happy Mad Tea Party Weekend!


  34. Oh my gracious, such a fun and fanciful tea party. Wouldn't my grand children love all your delightful tea sets and tea goodies. Not to mention our cute kitty cats. Thank you for such a wonderful visit to Wonderland!

  35. I thoroughly enjoyed lounging with Nice and the Queen at your tea party; however, I must admit the Red Queen scared me.


  36. Whimsical story and wonderful photos. I very much enjoyed the lemonade and meringues. Yum! What a handsome kitty Nico is...a worthy companion. Happy Tea time. Thx for stopping by for tea!

  37. Such a charming adventure, I am so glad that you let me share it with you and your adorable Nico. The cakes were delightful. I agree with Nico, cupcakes are my favorite. And the setting and gowns so beautiful.
    Huggs ~Iantha~

  38. Emalina, that was an enchanting tale and LOVELY party! I am woozy from all the wondrous treats and teas!
    Thank you so much for having me!
    Thank you also for visiting with my mom, 2 girls and I.
    Love n light,

  39. Those dresses, how I love your dresses and your sweet little kittens mittens!

    Please do visit my tea party!!

    Lots of sugar and spice and everything nice.
    Queen Creative

  40. It was an absolute delight to read your post!
    Now, can I have some of these chocolate mint teas? hhmmm? Pleaaaaaaaaaaase? I wonna hear dolls talk!

    Thank you for having shared this beautiful moment and send all our love to sweet Nico.

  41. Gosh, that is the most beautiful dress ever!! I am quite jealous. The blue and bunny cake is also a treat for the eyes. Great pictures and looks like a fun time was had.

    I seem to be running awfully late for all these tea parties so must dash....
    but do pop by

  42. Your cakes look scrumptious, Emalina! I find in Wonderland I don't have Celiac's so I can partake of all the goodies! : ) I loved your story. Those dresses are stunning and I wish my own frock had been as lovely. Thank you so much for sharing your tea party and visiting mine!

  43. A feast for the eyes, stomach and the mind as well!

  44. A delightful adventure and a Wonderfully Delicious Tea Party. All the sweets were simply beautiful. Nico was a friendly furry friend to hang out with and I love the White Queens boudoir. Amazing dresses.

    Thank you for inviting me. Oh please do drop in for a Spoonful of Mad Tea over on the Other Side of Wonderland
    Wishes and Whimsy
    Wendy from Wonderland

  45. Nico is too cute! All your treats were almost too pretty to eat! And the dress! Gorgeous!!
    Thank you for having me

  46. WOW...i love all your wonderful treats and cupcakes...this was a great Party, thanks for sharinh and have a nice day

  47. Gosh I am delighted and overwhelmed by all these lovely comments! So glad you guys enjoyed my tea party! It was my very first, and now I'm itching to hold some more :)

    A big thank you to dear Vanessa of whose incredible parties inspired me to have a go; and thanks to Natasha of for showing me on her blog that I could paint on cupcakes! It was my first try and turned out so well!

    Happy Mad Tea Partying everyone, so pleased you came to take tea with me. Be sure to visit again next year if not before x

  48. I had sooo much fun at your party, your story was amazing! I fell in love with your kitty too, such a sweet furry baby! :)

  49. A completely magical tea party! Thank you for inviting me! I loved the cupcakes and Chocolate Mint Tea!

  50. Love the cakes - very pretty - and a very pretty kitty also!

  51. Tayberry lemonade and lavender meringue sound just perfect for me today. LOVED your dreamy party and your creative writing and imagery. Sigh...too bad we must wait a whole other year for the next party. Trying to follow but google friend connect is not working today. Hope to stop by again soon.
    Wondrous wishes!

  52. Thank you so much for inviting me to your party!! You had my favorite licorice on hand and everything was just beautiful! I am so glad I could stop be.

  53. Nico, I so enjoyed your tea party. sleep well

  54. Hi! fantastic post! great! cute kitty!


  55. Hi! what a cute Made Tea party post!

    love it!

    Cute cat!

  56. What a wonderfully mad tea party! So many scrumptious treats to choose from. I love your vintage dresses and the book of fairy tales. Thanks for sharing! ~Michelle

  57. Now THIS was magic! Thank-you, thank-you! WOW! Blessings, Amy

  58. The story was amazing and I like how you incorporated the philosophers. My daughter is obsessed with the logic and philosophy in "Alice" for example, am I the same person as I was yesterday.

    I love the faces on the cupcakes very Matisse. I also love the rabbits and roses on the lemon cake.

    And the dress with the beetle wings is absolutely gorgeous.

    Thanks for visiting mine.

  59. wow!!!!Amazing party!!!i love your cat and your red dress!!!!

  60. I loved your beautiful Party! So sorry I'm late for such an important date!

  61. What a fashionable party! Nico was a very sweet protagonist. I loved the decorated cupcakes too. Just lovely! Thanks for inviting me.

  62. I am so late!! What a gorgeous post and lovely story - and Nico is so sweet! Thank you for saving some treats for me - the cake was divine! I must dash to the next party...Blessings!

  63. Far too late but nevertheless stunned by that wonderful story and the pictures. You're so creative. I think it took a long time to prepare everything for that gorgeous wonderland teaparty but I hope it was a lot of fun for you too. This magic fairytale made my day.

  64. Thank you so much everyone! I really enjoyed creating the tea party, it did take time and effort but it was more than worth it. The first of many I hope! Miss Maple - you're welcome to join us for the next virtual Mad Tea Party. The date and link up is hosted by Vanessa Valencia of - she tends to host them every July and we each create our own Mad Tea Party post for eachother to visit. You should check out her own tea party post, each year they get better and better.


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