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BEHIND THE SCENES / Orange County

Suited to a Tea

March 26, 1998

Sure, a well-known "lifestyle" author was giving a big talk--slide projector and dining-room tableau in place. And, yep, the event was held in a classy Newport Beach ballroom. But many of the 380 supporters of Concordia University were most impressed by the small stuff at a recent fund-raiser tea.

Little things, such as the event starting on time, having room to move, and place cards accompanied by a handmade greeting card that could be reused.

"The tables were gorgeous," says Julie Walker of Irvine, who attended with a friend. "The centerpieces were porcelain teapots with flowers brimming over the top. Underneath the pots were pieces of floral fabric that matched the flowers in the pot."

The highest bidder at each table took home the centerpiece after the 3 1/2-hour afternoon tea at the Sutton Place Hotel.

Everyone ended up with something, thanks to the volunteers who made and sold handmade items to benefit the Irvine university's scholarship program.

"They were selling a cookbook for $5 that was well-done," says Walker, who collects cookbooks. "People from the university donated the recipes, and they're real recipes for real people."

"Real" was the theme of Alexandra Stoddard's speech. The author of 18 lifestyle books showed slides of rooms she had designed and encouraged listeners to experiment.

"The message I took home was 'You can't do anything wrong as long as your home reflects you,' " recalls Walker. "You don't have to be Martha Stewart or have a staff of 20 to make the centerpiece."

Call (714) 854-8002 for upcoming Concordia University events.

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