The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve dinner recipes, turnips, winter-squash, and plum pudding.

image from Grandma's Graphics.
If anyone wants recipes for the smoked tongue or cold-slaw[sic] that were mentioned in the menu from Godey's, please let me know and I'll research them. They were nowhere to be found in my antique recipe books! Here are the other vegetable side dishes:

"Turnips should be pared; put into boiling water, with a little salt; boiled till tender; then squeeze them thoroughly from the water, mash them smooth, add a piece of butter and a little pepper and salt."

"Squash is a rich vegetable, particularly the yellow winter squash. This requires more boiling than the summer kind. Pare it, cut it in pieces, take out the seeds and boil it in a very little water till it is quite soft. Then press out all the water, mash it and add a little butter, pepper and salt."

And plum pudding is not just for Christmas!

"Plum Pudding.-- Chop half a pound of suet very fine; stone half a pound of raisins; half a pound of currants nicely washed and picked; four ounces of bread crumbs; four ounces of flour; four eggs well beaten; a little grated nutmeg; mace and cinnamon pounded very fine; a spoonful of salt; four ounces of sugar; one ounce candied lemon; same of citron.
Beat the eggs and the spices well together: mix the milk with them by degrees, then the rest of the ingredients; dip a fine, close linen cloth into boiling water, and place it in a hair sieve; flour it a little, then pour in the batter and tie it up, allowing a little room to swell; put it into a pot containing six quarts of boiling water; keep a tea-kettle of boiling water and fill up your pot as it wastes; be sure to keep it boiling at least six hours -- seven would not injure it. This pudding should be mixed an hour or two before it is put on to boil; it makes it taste richer."

More New Year's dinner recipes from 1860, boiled turkey and oyster sauce.

Also from Mrs. Hale, ca. 1841:
"To boil a Turkey.-- Clean it as to roast, make a stuffing of bread, green parsley, one lemon peel, a few oysters or an onion -- season it with salt, pepper, a little nutmeg, and mix one egg and a small bit of butter; put this into the crop, fasten up the skin, put the turkey on in cold water enough to cover it, let it boil slowly, and take off all the scum; when this is done, it should only simmer closely covered until it is done. It will take about two hours for a small turkey, longer if large. A little salt may be put in the water, and the turkey dredged with flour before it is boiled. The neck and liver are boiled, chopped and put in the gravy."

"Oyster Sauce.-- Beard and scald the oysters, strain the liquor, and thicken it with a little flour and butter, squeeze in a little lemon juice, and add three-tablespoonfuls of cream. Heat it well, but do not let it boil."

New Year's dinner ca. January 1860, plus roast goose and apple sauce

"NEW YEAR’S DINNER.—A roast goose with apple-sauce, a boiled turkey with oyster-sauce, smoked tongue, turnips, cold-slaw [sic], winter-squash; plum pudding."

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, during the 19th century, seemed to be the favored days for social gatherings, as opposed to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which were generally kept for private family and religious gatherings. Having a New Year's dinner party sounds like a good idea, though! My family usually doesn't do anything special, but it would be really fun to have people over and serve the menu above, from Godey's Lady's Book. Here are a few antique recipes -- from Sarah Josepha Hale, ca. 1841 -- that can help if you decide to serve your friends a real Victorian holiday dinner:

"To Roast a Goose.-- Geese seem to bear the same relation to poultry that pork does to the flesh of other domestic quadrupeds; that is, the flesh of the goose is not suitable for, or agreeable to, the very delicate in constitution. One reason doubtless is, that it is the fashion to bring it to table very rare done; a detestable mode! Take a young goose, pick, singe, and clean well. Make the stuffing with two ounces of onions, (about four common sized,) and one ounce of green sage chopped very fine; then add a large coffee cup of stale bread crumbs and the same of mashed potatoes; a little pepper and salt, a bit of butter as big as a walnut, the yolk of an egg or two; mix these well together, and stuff the goose; do not fill it entirely -- the stuffing requires room to swell. Spit it; tie the spit at both ends, to prevent its swinging round, and to keep the stuffing from coming out. The fire must be brisk. Baste it with salt and water at first -- then with its own dripping. It will take two hours or more to roast it thoroughly."

"Apple Sauce.-- In the country it is thought almost as indispensable to provide the stock of apple sauce for winter use as the pork; and there is no doubt of the healthiness as well as the pleasantness of fruit taken in this way as food. To eat with meat, it is best made of sour apples, not too mellow, but pleasant flavored. Boil down new sweet cider till it is nearly as thick, when cold, as molasses; strain it through a sieve; wash the kettle, (it must be brass, or iron tinned;) put in the syrup, and as soon as it boils, put in the apples, which must have been previously pared, quartered, and cored. Stew over a slow fire of coals till very tender."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Another poem.

image from Grandma's Graphics.
My Gift.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am;
If I were a shepherd,
I would give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
But what can I give Him?
I will give my heart.
-- Christina Rossetti

Merry Christmas!

image from

An Old Christmas Greeting. [ an old nursery rhyme]

Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day,
Twine mistletoe and holly,
For friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let's all be jolly.

Christmas Hearth Rhyme. [an old nursery rhyme]
Sing we all merrily,
Christmas is here,
The day we love best
Of all days in the year.

Bring forth the holly,
The box and the bay,
Deck out our cottage
For glad Christmas day.

Sing we all merrily,
Draw near the fire,
Sister and brother,
Grandson and sire.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gluten-free scone recipe!

My aunt and cousin are allergic to wheat, among other things, and they're not really enjoying their new (they were just diagnosed) wheat-free diet. They're going to be visiting us for Christmas, and I know they would be thrilled to be able to have scones with their tea! Here is a recipe posted to the Afternoon Tea Across America list (on Yahoo! groups) that I will probably try to make for them,if I can get to the health food store and gather the ingredients:

Mocha Teff Scones [gluten free recipe]
2 1/2 cups of teff flour
1/2 cup of coffee
1 tbsp. of arrowroot
1 tbsp. of baking powder
1 tbsp. of vanilla
1/3 cup of canola oil
1/3 cup of maple syrup
3/4 cup of dried fruit such as unsulphured apricots
(cut up into small pieces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Shape the dough into round patties, about 1/2" thick. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 1 dozen scones. *Variation: use jam, instead of using dried fruit. Gently press your thumb into the center of the scone before baking them. Fill each with 1/2 tsp. of jam.
-- adapted from recipe posted to SoFlaVegans list.

I think my relatives can have all of the ingredients! They also can't have dairy or cane sugar, so I'll have to find something other than clotted cream and jam for them to put on the scones, but it's a start!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How the Christmas Wreaths look in California, ca. 1861

image from

"Notes and Queries: How the Christmas Wreaths look in California.— ‘We are in the midst of the holidays,’ writes one of the best California correspondents, ‘the groceries, the markets, the streets are green with the boughs of evergreens; redwood and cedar, pines and myrtles give forth their fragrance. The churches are redolent of an odor that I never whiffed in the Atlantic states – it issues from a shrub which looks very much like your bayberry or candleberry. The peculiar aroma at first is that of the bayberry, but close behind it comes a faint smell of cinnamon – making together a most delicious perfume. With this shrub the pillars of the churches, the gas-pipes and burners, the galleries and pulpits are hung, while roses, geraniums and fuchsias [sic], all grown in the open air, fill up the spaces between the branches, and give a Juny appearance to the room." from Godey's Lady's Book, January 1861, page 90.

Monday, December 15, 2008

San Francisco Ballet presents The Nutcracker on PBS this week

For those in California (I don't know if the program will be aired elsewhere):

The Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet
Wednesday, December 17, at 9 p.m. Pacific Time
Broadcast on PBS (check your local listings)

This production is set in San Francisco in 1915, with references to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and the San Francisco area. It has been very highly rated -- including the historical accuracy of the costumes -- by some acquaintences of mine who have seen it. I haven't seen it yet but I'm planning to catch it on television this week!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another vintage recipe for tea on a winter's day!

"Apples a la Caramel.
Partially pare (in alternate rounds) tart, juicy apples. Remove cores and insert a caramel in the center. Sprinkle sugar over the outside and put in a deep pan to bake. Baste with slightly sweetened water to which a tablespoon of lemon juice has been added. When apples are tender, remove to the serving dish and return pan to the oven to allow the juice to become thick and brown as caramel syrup. Pour over the apples. Serve with or without whipped cream." from "Reliable" Cooking, a ca. 1910 recipe booklet advertising the Reliable Gas Stoves and Ranges.

Like with many vintage and antique recipes, the oven temperature and cooking time is not specified. I would probably set the oven to 350 degrees F, let the apples bake for half an hour, and keep an eye on it the whole time.

This is a simple recipe; it only has three basic ingredients! I happen to have some caramels left over from Halloween, some apples and some lemons from the trees in the backyard. Sugar is in the cupboard. I have the last half of this week off from work, so I may be making these baked apples in the near future ... They sound so good, and especially with a nice hot cup of black tea, no milk or sugar. Well, maybe milk, but the apple and caramel would be so sweet that I wouldn't want sugar in my tea!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Make your own Victorian Christmas Tree ornaments! (part 2)

Image from Grandma's graphics.
Over the years, the homemade ornaments became more elaborate, especially including edible items like small cakes, cookies, bags of sweetmeats, and garlands of dried or candied fruit, nuts, and popped corn (which resembled snow). Gilded walnut shells and apples were tied on with ribbon, and probably were the inspiration for later ball-shaped ornaments. Paper chains, tinsel garlands, paper cornucopias, and candles also made an appearance. Store-bought, more permanent decorations including glass balls, lead or other metal crosses and stars, and wax angels, were introduced beginning in 1870 and were largely made in Germany.

Aside from providing simple decoration to the tree and the room, the ornaments were often intended as Christmas gifts for the various members of the family and friends, especially children. Small non-edible gifts such as handkerchiefs, bracelets, brooches, neckties, and other lightweight items could be wrapped in plain paper, or left unwrapped, marked with a name, and tied among the other ornaments with a piece of ribbon, to be opened with the other gifts.

To make your own ornaments for your very own Victorian Christmas tree, you need look no farther than your local craft store, if nothing in your desk drawers and closets inspires you. Tie a ribbon to some old costume jewelry – small brooches and earrings work well – and just hang it from a branch. Cut snowflakes, trees, stars or hearts from white or colored paper, or aluminum foil. Tie twigs or pieces of straw into star or asterisk shapes. Draw, color and cut out small angels, doves or dolls out of paper and hang them from ribbons; use stencils or scrapbooking supplies to form shapes if you don’t draw well. Get small wooden beads or balls from the craft store and cover them with glued-on craft moss, ribbon, glitter, or strips of colorful paper torn from magazines or wrapping paper. Then make tiny loops from baby ribbon, attach them to the ornaments and hang them up!

For more information, search on the Internet or in your local library's reference section, or take a look at these web pages: "A Victorian Christmas" or "The Victorian Christmas Tree", by Joanne Haug,

Make your own Victorian Christmas decorations! (Part 1)

Image from Godey's Lady's Book, 1860,
During the Victorian era, Christmas and New Year’s traditions began to become more standardized across Western Europe, Canada, and the United States of America, influenced by the popularity of Queen Victoria and the economic, political, and social power of English practices. Christmas was generally celebrated with family, and other social entertainments were often saved for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Many traditions originated in Germany and would likely have remained popular only among those of German ancestry, without the influence of the Queen in deference to her German relatives and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

One such tradition was the use of the Christmas tree. The German Christmas tree has origins that reach back to the 15th century, at least: the German theologian and reformer, Martin Luther, is said to have enjoyed a solitary walk in the woods one snowy night, brought home an evergreen tree, and decorated it with tinsel stars and lighted candles, to give the effect of stars and moonlight shining through the forest, for the entertainment of his family. Pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic cultures also venerated certain trees as symbols of fertility and life. From the mid-18th century, with England’s kings being raised in Germany, certain German traditions – like Christmas trees -- had already entered the country, but did not become popular outside the nobility.

When re-introduced to English society, in 1841, by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, the tradition still reflected that simple memory. Engravings of the royal family around their tree, from the 1860s, show a relatively small tree, perhaps 4 feet tall, standing on a round table, its branches rather sparse by modern standards, the spaces being filled in by homemade ornaments and small lighted candles. These engravings, however, were published in the newly-popular magazines and newspapers of the day, and were largely responsible for making the tradition widely-known both inside and outside England.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in California

Queen Victoria with Mr. Fezziwig at at Fezziwig's Warehouse.
After spending a few weeks doing research and a couple of days frantically sewing, trying to "update"/improve my costume, I attended the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild meeting at the Dickens Fair yesterday. There were a lot of people in costume, which is always fun to see; I saw a few shows including some Middle Eastern dancing, Morris dancing, traditional Celtic dancing, and Victorian ballroom dancing, and had tea at Cuthbert's Tea Shoppe with several other ladies from the Guild. Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and some of their court also appeared at Fezziwig's Warehouse and led the ballroom through several dances, which was fun. I also caught the very beginning of the costume contest (then had to hurry off to keep my appointment with the ladies for tea) and there were some really neat costumes, including some really sweet little tiny girls. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get very many clear pictures from the day, so you'll only see a few posted here.

They say that the venue, The Cow Palace in Daly City, CA, is going to be sold and the land developed for housing or something soon. The Dickens Fair would have to find another venue in order to continue to open each year, which is a difficult thing to do for such a large event. I was glad to be there this year since it might be the last year of the Dickens Fair! The website is for more information. The Fair will run two more weekends in 2008, if anyone can visit. It is a really fun experience!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas-time is approaching!

image from Grandma's graphics.

I don't know about you, but I always feel like baking good things to eat when the weather turns colder. Gingerbread is one of my favorite things to bake (and eat!), especially the soft gingerbread that is almost like a cake. I like to have lemon sauce and whipped cream with it! It's especially good with a nice hot cup of black tea. Here is a Victorian recipe for gingerbread, that contains oatmeal and candied citrus peel, which is an interesting combination. I may have to make some this year!

Ormskirk Gingerbread
[Peterson's Magazine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; February, 1859]
Two pounds flour, one pound butter, one-half pound sifted oatmeal, three-quarters of a pound of moist sugar, one ounce ginger, the same of citrus and candied orange peel, all mixed together; then add one pound of treacle. The whole should be mixed the day before it is intended to be baked.
-- from The Olden Times – Free Vintage Recipes

On another note, I have been working on a gingerbread-type spice cookie recipe for about a year. Basically, taking an American/German/English gingerbread recipe and making it Italian; or conversely, taking an Italian pannetone or spice cake with dried fruit and orange peel, and making it into a rolled cookie. And then cutting it into a donkey shape and decorating it to look like an Italian donkey with a red and yellow saddle and blue ribbon on one ear! I'm about ready to start putting a usable recipe together and testing it (I have almost all the ingredients that I want), and finding a donkey cookie cutter, so maybe I'll have it done by the end of the year ...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jane Austen on Masterpiece Theatre again!

Late last night I caught the new version of Austen's _Northanger Abbey_ on Masterpiece Classics, and the announcer said that_Mansfield Park_ would be playing next in the series. So, if you missed the Jane Austen series when it debuted last spring, or you'd like a chance to record it or see it again, check your TV listings for next Sunday night, around 11 p.m. I don't know how long they've been re-broadcasting the series this time around, because I've often been watching television late at night on Sundays during the last few weeks and I haven't seen anything until last night.

Here is the PBS website for the series:

Friday, November 28, 2008

How did the Victorians use up leftover turkey? They made turkey hash!

"Turkey Hashed.
Time, one hour for the gravy.
Cold roast turkey; pepper; salt; half a pint of gravy; a piece of butter the size of a walnut; a little flour; a spoonful of ketchup; peel of half a lemon.
Cut the breast of a cold turkey, or any of the white meat, into thin slices. Cut off the legs, score them, dredge them with pepper and salt, and broil them over a clear fire a nice brown. Put half a pint of gravy into a stewpan with a little piece of butter rolled in flour, a spoonful of ketchup, some pepper and salt, and the peel of half a lemon shred very fine. Put in the white meat, and shake it over a clear fire til it is thoroughly hot, place it in a dish with the broiled legs on the top, and sippets of fried bread round it."
-- From Warne’s Model Cookery, edited by Mary Jewry, ca. 1891.

Emily Dickinson Thanksgiving poem

In a previous post, we read how Sarah J. Hale, the editor of the now-unpublished Godey's Lady's Book, encouraged all Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving every year, and to honor the holiday with literary works. Several Americans did so, including a few famous poets who are still known today. One poem that I always forget to associate with Thanksgiving is the one by Lydia Maria Child known as "Over the River and Through the Woods," although its official title is "A New England Child's Thanksgiving Day," or perhaps just "Thanksgiving Day." As in, "Over the river and through the wood/to Grandmother's house we go;/The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh/through the white and drifted snow."

A more famous poet after her death than she ever was during her life, Emily Dickinson, whom the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild remembered with a tea and poetry reading in her honor this past May, also left us with a Thanksgiving poem:

One Day is there of the Series
One Day is there of the Series
Termed Thanksgiving Day.
Celebrated part at Table
Part in Memory.
Neither Patriarch nor Pussy
I dissect the Play
Seems it to my Hooded thinking
Reflex Holiday.
Had there been no sharp Subtraction
From the early Sum–
Not an Acre or a Caption
Where was once a Room–
Not a Mention, whose small Pebble
Wrinkled any Sea,
Unto Such, were such Assembly
‘Twere Thanksgiving Day.
-- by Emily Dickinson

I find her work interesting, even if I don't always know quite what she's talking about!

On another note, regarding the mincemeat cookie recipe I posted a little while ago, you may need to read the ingredient listing on your mincemeat if you plan to make this recipe and have dietary issues. For those who don't know, mincemeat is a spicy, sweet, tangy mixture of dried fruits, citrus peel, sugar, vinegar, spices and (traditionally), alcohol and small bits of cooked meat. It is most popularly used to make pies and tarts. Some brands of store-bought mincemeat contain actual meat, and others don't; also, some mincemeat contains alcohol (rum or brandy) and some doesn't. If this is an issue for you, it may be safer to look up a recipe for mincemeat that fits your dietary requirements (or can be adjusted to do so) and make your own. The presence of meat or alcohol is not a necessary part of mincemeat, although it is traditional.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another addition to the tea table: Mincemeat Cookies

I felt the urge to bake yesterday when it was cloudy and raining, and I chose this recipe to use up the rest of the mincemeat in the jar (leftover from having made mincemeat custard tarts a few weeks ago). These are soft, fruity cookies, with plenty of flavor from the mincemeat. When making this recipe, I only had about 1/3 cup of shortening, so I used that, plus about 2/3 cup of butter, and the cookies are very soft and tender. I also used granulated white sugar, but brown sugar would be really delicious, as well. These cookies are really good with a nice cup of hot tea (and they're disappearing fast!).

Borden's None Such Mincemeat Cookies (from the label on the mincemeat jar)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortning
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup mincemeat

Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl. In a large bowl, cream the shortening, add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs to the sugar mixture, and beat until smooth. Stir in mincemeat. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in the large bowl, mixing well. Drop the batter by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 12 minutes. Loosen from baking pan while warm and cool on wire racks. Makes about 48 cookies.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A nice holiday recipe: Pumpkin-Apple Pie

"Very Nice Tart.-- Boil apple as you would for puffs; and boil, also, an equal quantity of pumpkin, and mash them well together. Add a few currants, and sugar and nutmeg to taste. Bake with a light crust top and bottom. The pumpkin must be strained as dry as possible." from Godey's Lady's Book, January 1860.

I'm sure you could use prepared apple sauce and canned pumpkin puree and avoid having to boil and mash the apples and pumpkin yourself.

And for the "light crust" or pie pastry:
"A Light Puff Paste – American: One pound of sifted flour; one pound of fresh butter; two teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar; one teaspoonful of soda; a little water.
Work one-fourth of the butter into the flour until it is like sand; measure the cream of tartar and the soda, rub it though a sieve, put it to the flour, add enough cold water to bind it, and work it smooth; dredge flour over the pasteslab [sic] or board, rub a little flour over the rolling pin, and roll the paste to about half an inch thickness; spread over the whole surface one-third of the remaining butter, the fold it up; dredge flour over the pasteslab [sic] and rolling pin, and roll it out again; then put another portion of the butter, and fold and roll again, and spread on the remaining butter, and fold and roll for the last time." from Warne's Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book, ca. 1891.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Godey's Lady's Book Thanksgiving article (part 2)

Image from
"God has given to man authority, to woman influence; she inspires and persuades, he convinces and compels. For the last twelve years, the editress of the Lady’s Book has been endeavoring to bring about this agreement in popular feeling. We have used our influence, always, we trust, in a womanly way, and now we would render deep gratitude to God who has blessed our humble prayers and efforts, and express thus publicly our thanks to those generous men who have encouraged and accomplished our plans. We now leave the perpetuation of this good work, by the enactment of a statute in each State, to the good and patriotic men everywhere to be found, who love the Constitution and the Union.

Everything that contributes to bind us in one vast empire together, to quicken the sympathy that makes us feel from the icy North to the sunny South that we are one family, each a member of a great and free Nation, not merely the unit of a remote locality, is worthy of being cherished. We have sought to reawaken and increase this sympathy, believing that the fine filaments of the affections are stronger than laws to keep the Union of our States sacred in the hearts of our people.

Is it not fitting that from the heart of the Keystone State, this city of Independence Hall, the impulse of the new National Holiday should go forth? "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." This American festival adds the third strand to the cord that binds American hearts in nationality. The twenty-second of February, the Fourth of July, the last Thursday in November – these three DAYS observed, will make and keep us American citizens. Well did that patriot divine, Rev. Charles Wadsworth, exclaim, in his last Thanksgiving sermon – "Thanks be unto God for this American Pentecost! Never were the bonds of our beloved brotherhood so revealed in their strength! Never before did so many sister States keep lovingly together this feast of harvest. It is the gathering of the one great household with offerings of praise to the one common temple – the central Salem of peace – the God of love."

We believe our Thanksgiving Day, if fixed and perpetuated, will be a great and sanctifying promoter of this national spirit. Our whole people will then look forward to it – make preparations to honor and enjoy it. Literature will take her part and send her tribute of gratitude. We have received and read a number of excellent articles lately, and, what gave us particular pleasure, "A Thanksgiving Story," ... setting forth the sterling virtues and the happiness derived from family reunions, and the cultivation of fireside enjoyments. Let Thanksgiving, our American Holiday, give us American books – song, story, and sermon – written expressly to awaken in American hearts the love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren. We do earnestly hope and pray that the last Thursday in November may be established as the American Thanksgiving Day. Then, on that Day, our citizens, whether in their own pleasant homes, or in the distant regions of Oriental despotism, would observe it – on board every ship where our flag floats there would be a day of gladness – wherever our missionaries preach the Gospel of "good-will to men," the day would exemplify the joy of Christians; and in our Great Republic, from the St. John’s to the Rio Grande, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, all our people, as one Brotherhood, will rejoice together, and give thanks to God for our National, State, and Family blessings."

Thanksgiving article (part 1) from Godey's Lady's Book, February 1860.

"Editor’s Table.
We may now consider Thanksgiving a National Holiday. It will no longer be a partial and vacillating commemoration of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, observed in one section or State, while other portions of our common country do not sympathize in the gratitude and gladness. It is to be a regularly occurring Festival, appointed by the concert of the State Governments to be observed on the last Thursday in November – thus made, for all future time, THE AMERICAN THANKSGIVING DAY.

Such is the happy inference we draw from the patriotic unanimity of the Governors in their last appointments of Thanksgiving. On the last Thursday of last November, the people of the following states held and consecrated this New National Holday: --
*New York.
*New Hampshire.
*New Jersey.
*North Carolina.
*South Carolina.
*Rhode Island.
Indiana. Mississippi.
Nebraska Territory.
Kansas Territory.
District of Columbia.
*The old states of the "Confederacy" that framed the Constitution and decreed the perpetual Brotherhood of citizens of "The United States of North America." Virginia, as a state, did not, we regret to say, participate in Thanksgiving; because Governor Wise had doubts concerning his official authority to appoint such an observance. But the Presbytarian Synod of the State, and the cities of Fredericksburg, Norfolk, and Alexandria joined in the Festival, which was thus sanctioned by a large portion of the people of old and honored Virginia. Next November, we hope, that State will have its Union Thanksgiving.

It will be seen from this list that the concert of public opinion is nearly unanimous. Indeed, we may assume that all the States approve this idea of a National Thanksgiving, because those that did not join last November have done so in years past. The late omission, therefore, was caused, no doubt, by forgetfulness. This leads us to suggest the necessity that the time of holding this New Holiday should be fixed by each State, making it the duty of the governor to issue his proclamation yearly for the last Thursday in November."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Victorian hair jewelry

This antique hairwork watch chain is from the Morning Glory Antiques website and it is the kind of simple item that my hairwork braid might become when it is finished. There is also a series of ads for commercially available hair jewelry, from a jewelry-making company, that Morning Glory Antiques has scanned and published on their website. It is really interesting to see all the different styles of bracelets, earrings, brooches, necklaces, watch chains, rings, cuff links and stick pins that could be made from or decorated with hairwork. I encourage everyone to look them up and see for yourself!

The hair extensions that I bought produce a braid that is about 5 inches long, not quite enough to go around my wrist; however, this watch chain is probably made of two hairwork braids or twisted cords, joined by the gold cylinder that is visible in the center. If I can find a similar fitting, I could probably make a similar hairwork watch chain! I found the toggle-type clasp easily enough at the craft store, so it will just be a matter of getting the hair to lie smoothly in the braid, and attaching it securely to the clasp, and I will have a nice chain for a vintage style pocket watch! In making my braid, I used both gel and hairspray on the unbraided length of hair to try and make it lie smoothly and keep the shorter hairs from sticking out from the braid. It sort of worked, but there are still little ends that won't stay in place and I still have to find out some way to fix them. I have seen hair art instructions in Victorian magazines, that call for boiling the finished hairwork in a solution of something, so I'll have to research it and see if I can re-create that. I also found some nice vintage-style lockets by Blue Moon Beads, that I will try to fill with a hairwork coil or something decorative and small.

Apart from the different varieties of braiding hair, there were the knotting and weaving techniques used to make lanyards, embroidery floss "friendship bracelets," and Japanese Himo (I think that's what it's called) braiding. All of these can be used with embroidery floss, ribbons, satin cord, or even strips of suede, to make interesting ties, necklaces, etc. The Japanese technique is especially interesting to me because it involves a simplified version of a Victorian hairwork table; instead of a large piece of specialized furniture, the Japanese braiding technique uses a flat circle or hexagon of plastic or cardboard, with numbered slits cut around the edges and a medium-sized hole cut in the center. It looks like you could even follow some of the instructions for Victorian table-work hair art, since the hairwork table seems to have only been a similar wooden circle with hole in the middle, attached to a floor stand. Something to think about.

Victorian Hairwork Tea and Workshop

Well, due to an emergency in the family of one of the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild members, the Victorian Hairwork Tea and Workshop has been postponed to another time, probably sometime in 2009. In preparing for the workshop, I did a lot of research on the topics of thread "friendship bracelets," cord-making, braiding and other similar handicrafts. I was able to start a "friendship bracelet" out of brown and tan-colored embroidery thread, and a simple braid -- eventually for a hairwork bracelet with a gold clasp -- out of brown hair (human hair extensions). I will post pictures when I finish these projects, but they have been interesting ones to work on!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Armistice Day Tea in honor of American veterans!

In 2006 I gave an Armistice Day Tea for the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild, and we had a wonderful time remembering and telling stories about the fathers, husbands, grandfathers and, in some cases, mothers and grandmothers, who had joined the war effort during World Wars 1 and 2, and the sacrifices made by those at home in support of that work. Armistice Day, November 11th, was a holiday established for the purpose of honoring the veterans of World War 1. Now called Veterans' Day, the holiday has been extended to cover all those who have served in the United States armed forces, during any war, but especially the wars since World War 1.

Digging through my grandmother's vintage cookbooks, and the others in my collection, was a really interesting walk through another time that is becoming increasingly relevant to our own. With our current economy going through a recession, and the nation at war -- although a smaller, if more drawn-out, one than World War 2 -- many habits of thriftiness and conservation that were widely-known and practiced during the 1930s and 1940s will be useful to us at the end of 2008. Having a "Victory Garden" is not so far off from the current fashion for organic gardening and the locally-grown-food movement, and finding new ways of using leftover food from previous meals is a useful addition to the habits of recycling that are urged upon us all. Our menu featured Cold Chicken Sandwiches and a simple bowl of winter apples, oranges and pears, as well as Cinnamon Bread from my grandmother's cookbook, and a few sweets like Hershey's chocolates (like those sent to "our boys" during World Wars 1 and 2) and old-fashioned ribbon candy. Here is the recipe for Cinnamon Bread that appeared on our Armistice Day Tea table:

Cinnamon Bread:
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Bake in shallow pan 30 minutes or in small muffin pans.
-- Olive U. Martin. (from Burnt Toast Recipes, ca. 1942.)

An easy, one-bowl recipe that makes a nice loaf of sweet bread, ready for slicing, toasting and serving with homemade jam or butter.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy November!

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween (if you celebrated it!). I didn't dress up or go out or anything, but there are a lot of kids in our neighborhood and we always give out candy, so I did do that. While baking some chocolate applesauce cupcakes. The original recipe was from the November 2006 issue of _Better Homes and Gardens_ magazine, and it was called Chocolate Harvest Cake. It became chocolate applesauce cupcakes when I discovered that I had no cooking oil in the cupboard and substituted some cinnamon applesauce for the oil, and didn't want to dig out my regular cake pans from the back of the cupboard.

They came out moist and "springy", with a good texture, but I'm not sure I like the applesauce flavor with the chocolate. I think I need to eat another one, in order to decide ;) I decorated some of them with caramel apple candy corn, to see if they would be a good addition to the November tea party. I think I need some frosting, instead of the powdered sugar glaze that I had, and then they will work.

Now to decorate the rest of the cupcakes (I have some buttercream frosting in the freezer) with sprinkles or red hots or more candy corn, and try them out with a cup of Assam. It has been raining all day, and while it's not been cold and miserable, I always feel like baking and having a cup of tea when the weather's like this. And the plus side is, the garden is getting watered!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Costume movie on PBS tonight!

Check your T.V. listings for tonight, everyone! PBS/KTEH has been re-broadcasting the _Cranford_ series every Wednesday at 8 p.m. for the past two weeks. I think the last installment is supposed to be tonight, so if you can, stay home to watch it, or record it for later.

If you love period costume and classic literature like I do, I am sure you'll like the BBC serial _Cranford Chronicles_, better known as _Cranford_, made from three of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels. Set in a small town in England in 1842, the story is a charming and personal look through a window into the past, at the effect of the Industrial Revolution on Englishmen and women of all classes, especially women. Some really funny scenes are included as well, such as Mrs. Forrester gushing about her favorite cow, whom she loves "almost as a daughter," who then gets out of her pasture in the middle of the night, wanders into a lime pit, gets all her hair burned off by the lime before she can be rescued, and has to wear a suit of grey flannel long-johns until her hair grows back, to the great amusement of everyone.

Starring a TON of fantastic BBC actresses and actors, both established and new, including Dame Judi Dench and Dame Eileen Atkins. The casting and acting have been so well done -- just perfect for the "feel" of the time period, even for those who haven't read the books (and I haven't, yet, but I will!). The costumes have also been so well done, not only historically accurate, but appropriate for the setting, the social class of each character, and the character of the town itself as described in the novel (independend-minded, genteel, but not fashion-forward). I currently have at least one of the dresses in mind for one of my own costume projects, and I will be looking for this series on DVD at the library very soon.

I encourage you all to check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple Butter Tarts

Here is another recipe I am thinking about using for our November tea: No-Bake Apple Butter Tarts. The original idea came from Tea Time Magazine's January/February 2007 issue.

No-Bake Apple Butter Tarts:

1/2 cup apple butter
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp.
1 package mini tart shells, prebaked
toasted chopped pecans (optional)
cinnamon graham crackers or ginger snaps, crushed (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, blend the softened cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the apple butter until the mixture is smooth. Fill the baked tart shells with the mixture and top each mini tart with 1 teaspoon of the plain apple butter. Sprinkle with toasted pecans, if desired, or cinnamon graham cracker or ginger snap crumbs. Refrigerate until serving. Makes 24 mini tarts.

It sounds easy and tasty!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Turkey and Stuffing Tea Sandwiches

The idea for this recipe came from the book _Special Teas_ by M. Dalton King, which is a great book with lots of beautiful photos. The original recipe had you simply using regular Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing to fill sandwiches, but I do it slightly differently. I will probably have these at our next Guild meeting which, by the way, will be on November 15th *instead of* November 8 as I mistakenly wrote in yesterday's post.

Turkey and Stuffing Tea Sandwiches

sliced whole wheat or a firm white bread or herbed bread
thinly sliced turkey (deli turkey, and dark or white meat as you prefer)
jellied cranberry sauce (few or no whole cranberries -- they tend to fall out of the sandwich)
your favorite cooked stuffing, chopped finely and moistened with a bit of broth
butter (salted or unsalted)
fresh or dried sage, onion and thyme, minced

Soften the butter and stir in the minced herbs. Season with pepper, and a pinch of salt if you used unsalted butter. Spread thinly on one side of half of the slices of bread. Spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce on one side of the other slices of bread. Top the cranberry-spread slices with one or two thin slices of turkey, over this spread about a tablespoon of stuffing, and top with the herb butter-spread bread slices. Press each sandwich flatter with the palm of the hand to keep it together, trim the crusts off and cut into quarters, triangles, "soldiers" or use a decorative cookie cutter.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Some plans for the Victorian Hairwork Tea

Well, after having had a cup of assam (Trader Joe's, I think) and another cup of lemon ginger tisane (Twining's), I am still awake ... even though it's past my bedtime. Time to make myself useful until I fall asleep! Right now, that's going to mean: work on the plans for the next meeting of The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild (which will be on November 8th. Ahem.).
The title and theme for this meeting will be "Victorian Hairwork", as in, the sentimental and sometimes morbid, but always elaborate and amazing form of art and ornament made from -- or using -- human hair. According to my research, more than half of the stuff was sentimental in nature, and was not made on the occasion of someone's death; it was popular as a gift between lovers (Jane Austen has Edward Ferrars wear a ring with a lock of Lucy Steele's hair in it, in "Sense and Sensibility"), parents and children (especially when sending a son off to war or a daughter off to marriage), spouses, intimate friends (Queen Victoria is said to have been given a bracelet by Empress Elisabeth of Austria, made from her hair), and other people joined by bonds of affection. A common form of hair art was the wreath, tree, or horseshoe shape, composed of flowers and leaves made from the hair of different members of the same family, meant to be framed and hung on the wall in the way we would display a family group portrait nowadays.
Simpler designs, like braids and coils enclosed in glass-fronted brooches, could be formed easily at home, but the more ornate creations were often done by professional hair artists who advertised their services in ladies' magazines. Elaborate items of jewelry could be made at home, however, using directions and drawings printed in ladies' magazines, and some specialized tools. These tools are difficult, if not almost impossible, to find these days, but there is a Victorian Hairwork Society that helps to keep the art form going. A few artists practice this art, and there is also, apparently, a town in Sweden where hair art is said to have originated, that has never given it up. I'll have to get back to you on the exact name of the town ...
Anyway, why are we going to be looking at this for our next meeting? Well, it's unusual, it's so very Victorian, and I think some remnants of this "women's work" folk art have been adapted and are still with us in America, today. I am thinking of those embroidery floss friendship bracelets that everyone was making when I was in grade school and high school, and that are still being made today, as evidenced by the stack of them on the wrist of a teenage friend. I have a book in my bookcase called _American Children's Folklore_, and it contains a chapter on those very friendship bracelets, although the author doesn't speculate where the idea originated, just records their existence and meaning from a sociological viewpoint, from reasearch done in the 1970s and 1980s, judging from the accompanying photos. What if those bracelets are the descendants of Victorian hairwork, created because the sentimental idea was worth keeping, but embroidery floss and safety pins are much easier to use than human hair, weighted bobbins, hairwork tables and the other tools? Just a thought.

Keeping a Gentle Hand on the Past ...

Welcome to the newest part of The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild: a blog! I intend to post weekly (approximately!) about guild events I'm planning, recipes I'm testing for our teas, and other related things. Feel free to join the fun!
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)