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The high tea hostess

Seabrook neighbor brings tradition to new home

Created date

June 22nd, 2010

Tea Party may now be synonymous with a rising political movement, but to Ruth Eckle, it s an entertaining afternoon spent with friends. [caption id="attachment_12854" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Edith Lovette entertains with soft piano music during the high tea at Seabrook. (Photos by Marie Cook)"][/caption] Eckle has hosted elaborate afternoon teas since June 2008, when she and her husband, Dr. Leonard Eckle, lived in Springfield, N.J. For the first one, she invited her friends and neighbors to a beautifully decorated room at Kean University in Union, N.J. Now she is continuing the tradition after moving to Seabrook in Tinton Falls, N.J., where she hosted her first high tea for new neighbors on May 3, 2010. The invitation reads, Dear Friends: Please plan to arrive at the Atrium [in Seabrook s Town Square Clubhouse] at 12:30 p.m. I am requesting that the ladies wear hats/bonnets to the tea. I have hats for all of you! After selecting our hats, we will proceed to the dining room. I am happy to welcome all of you as my guests and look forward to a very enjoyable afternoon together. An enjoyable afternoon it was, indeed. [caption id="attachment_12851" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Anna Sodano and Sopia Rabinvick show off their decorated bonnets. "][/caption]

Treat for taste buds

From assorted tea sandwiches to scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd to petit fours and miniature chocolate clairs, the high tea was a treat for the taste buds. Tea varieties included Lemon Zinger, English Breakfast, and Earl Grey. I didn t realize it, butSeabrookhas very pretty tea cups and tiered trays for the finger foods, Eckle says. It was like a true English tea. Twenty-six people attended the high tea, including seven men. They sat at two round tables of seven and two of six. Catering staff decorated tables with bright white tablecloths and yellow napkins. Each place setting donned a silver gift bag filled with Jordan almonds and a tiny beaded purse for ladies or a scratch-off lottery ticket for men. We had big hats decorated with flowers, and Edith Lovette played piano, says Pat Hann, a Seabrook neighbor who attended the event. I just love to hear Edith play. [caption id="attachment_12855" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Even men join in the fun. Harold Lenz and Leonard Eckle wear decorated ball and sailor's caps."][/caption] All the women wore bonnets decorated with silk flowers; the men wore decorated baseball caps. They were such sports! Eckle says, delighted. She now stores the hats in hat boxes in her and her husband s one-bedroom Seabrook apartment home.

It takes a Village

Eckle says she didn t put on this elaborate affair alone. Help came from her neighbors. Trudi Lenz decorated all the hats, Eckle explains. She s lived here for eight or nine years and is a talented artist, painting landscapes and flowers with watercolor or acrylic paints, so decorating the hats was right up her alley. She made all the place cards too. Eckle also praises Roman Rubas, fromSeabrook sinformation technology department, who helped her design the invitations, as well as Chef Ira Levine and Catering Manager Beverly Smack. The staff did a wonderful job, and the food, I must say, proclaims Eckle, was outrageous. While thanking Seabrook staff for helping her host the high tea, Eckle gives much credit to her husband, a retired optometrist, for putting up with all these looney tunes, she says. Married for 57 years, the two moved toSeabrookfrom Springfield after selling their house in just one week last September. They brought their cat, Meetsa, and enjoy volunteering, traveling, attending lectures, and other activities atSeabrook.