Saturday, January 30, 2010

Children's Valentine's Day Party

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit. ~Peter Ustinov

Last week I shared from the 1905 book Bright Ideas for Entertaining by Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott. I wanted to share this week from her ideas for a children's Valentine's Day party. Before I do, I wanted to mention that I have helped plan two classroom parties in past years and helped during many others. Hands down, the favorite activity is making homemade Valentines for parents and/or grandparents. Last year I brought in small paper doilies, plus red, pink and white construction paper. The teacher had crayons and markers we put in the middle of the table. I also had precut hearts I had picked up at the store. The kids LOVED making cards; boys and girls alike. I think sometimes we try to make things more complicated than they need to be, and forget that kids just love to express themselves.

Mrs. Linscott recommends these things:
Cut from pink paper as many hearts as there are to be boys, but no two of these hearts must be the same size; cut from gilt paper the same number of hearts, one for each girl, matching in size those cut from the pink paper.

When the guests arrive, give each boy a pink and each girl a gilt heart. When a boy finds a girl who holds a gilt heart matching in size his pink one, they are partners for the evening. In this search, all the formality will have worn off.

Notes: Gilt paper was a paper that had a very very thin layer of gold on the top of the paper itself. You can find gold metallic paper, but I think it would be much cheaper and easier to use pink and red construction paper for the hearts.

I have to admit I'm not sure what age this would work with. The tiny ones; 3 to maybe 6 or so wouldn't care too much, but after that age it would be "I have to partner up with a BOY?". I still think it's a cute idea though.

Next Mrs. Linscott describes this game:

Cupid's Dart will pass a jolly half hour. Make a large heart of several layers of pink tissue paper, and fill in loosely with bonbons; encase this in a slightly larger heart of open-meshed bobinet; hang on the wall on one side of the room by two loops sewed to the large, upper part of the heart. Provide a toy bow and arrow, and let each child in turn shoot at the heart. The arrows will remain sticking in the lace and paper, and the one whose arrow comes nearest the center receives the first prize-a heart shaped box of candy.

Also provide small heart shaped boxes filled with candies for each child to take home.

Notes: I did some looking, and bobinet is material much like a screen or some type of netting. So open-meshed would mean the holes are bigger, which would allow the arrows to "catch" when they hit the heart. I also noticed she mentioned lace and paper later. I'm thinking maybe it was more like loose doily material?

Lastly, she suggests refreshments and decorations:

Make sandwiches from heart-shaped pieces of bread, cut with a cake cutter; bake the cakes in heart-shaped tins, and have the ices frozen in the same design. As red and pink are the proper colors for decoration on this day, it will be a pretty idea to have the lemonade colored pink with fruit juice.

Pretty favors can be made from crepe tissue-paper. Flowers, bonbon boxes, handkerchief-cases, and many another trifle, will please young folks, more especially if they are the work of their little hostess's own hands.

This last paragraph is an example of why I love learning how they entertained in years past. How many of us have handkerchief-cases laying around or bonbon boxes? But then some things are timeless like tissue paper and tea sandwiches!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Recipes: Chocolate

January 27th was Chocolate Cake Day, and Valentine's Day is right around the corner. So it seems fitting to share some tasty chocolate treats with you on this cold recipe Friday!

Stacked Heart Cookies

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tablespoons evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and chocolates, beating until smooth. Stir in nuts. In a another bowl sift together next four ingredients. Stir dry mixture alternately with milk into creamed mixture, mixing until a soft dough form.

On a lightly floured surface. use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes by using a set of heart cookie cutters in varied sizes or make your own templates out of paper and cut around them with a sharp knife. Transfer cookies to a greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Starting with the largest size stack two of each size cookie together. Tie each stack with a gold ribbon, then wrap in plastic wrap or cellophane. Gather at the top and tie with again with a ribbon and attach a gift tag.

Chocolate Shortbread

1 cup butter
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
Confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Press dough into a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cut out warm shortbread in pan using a 2 inch wide heart shaped cookie cutter. Remove cookies from pan and cool on wire rack. Sprinkle cookies with confectioners sugar and store in airtight container.

Notes: Cookies may be given in decorator tins (Victorian designs would be extra special),or decorator cellophane bags. You can also sew very simple tapestry bags and gather the top with a ribbon after inserting a plastic bag with the cookies inside. Wicker baskets lined with antique doilies can be used as well for a beautiful old fashioned look.

More recipes like this here

Moist Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup hot water
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cocoa with hot water. Set aside to cool. Mix mayonnaise, sugar and egg together. Add cooled cocoa mixture. Add flour, baking soda, and vanilla. Pour batter into two 8 inch layer cake pans that have been lightly buttered or sprayed. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Frost with your favorite icing or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar for a snack cake.

Mississippi Mud Cake

1 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs slightly beaten
1-1/2 cups self rising flour
Mini marshmallows


1 box powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
4 oz. butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Melt butter and cocoa together. Add sugar and eggs, then the flour, mixing well. Pour into a 9x13x2 inch greased pan and bake for 25-35 minutes. For icing: Mix all ingredients until smooth. While cake is still hot, but not directly out of the oven, cover top with marshmallows and allow to melt. Spread icing on top of the marshmallows

More chocolate cake recipes here:

Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake

1 7 ounce package caramels
1/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup chopped pecans, divided
1 9 inch chocolate crumb piecrust
2 3 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups milk
1 package chocolate instant pudding
1/2 cup fudge topping

Place caramels and milk in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat stirring continually, until smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Pour into piecrust.

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and milk in a blender. Process until smooth. Add pudding mix: process for about 30 seconds longer. Pour pudding mixture over caramel layer, covering evenly. Chill, loosely covered, until set, about 15 minutes. Drizzle fudge topping over pudding layer in a decorative pattern. Sprinkle top of cake with remaining pecans. Chill, loosely covered until serving time.

More recipes like this

Read about the history of chocolate here

Cookie Baking, Decorating, Storing & Shipping Tips

Visit our Valentine's Day section

Our friends at Annie's have some Chocolate Cake recipes here

and some tips for baking great cakes

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is it Time to Start Seeds?

The trouble is, you cannot grow just one zucchini. Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables. At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more zucchinis erupt. ~Dave Barry

It's too early to start most vegetable seeds, at least for those of us in Zones 3, 4, 5 and probably 6. The rule of thumb is to start six weeks BEFORE the planting date of most vegetables. Or eight weeks ahead of time for slow growing vegetables like peppers. So, in Zone 5 we can put tomatoes out around the end of May, without protection. I could start tomato seeds the first week in April and that would be about the right time.

There are always exceptions to the rules of course. If you want to start celery, leek, or onions from seeds instead of transplants then you want to start those in February. Or try your hand at growing begonias and petunias from seed. You would then start those in February too. Be aware that you will need a VERY sunny window, sun room or greenhouse to grow these plants. They will need to be turned daily so they don't grow towards the light and "bend". I'm not trying to discourage you, just letting you know to plan for the room and the work involved.

Some vegetables can be planted directly outside. These vegetables can be planted a week to two before the last frost, as long as you can work up the soil, which shouldn't be a problem by then: beets, carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes, Swiss chard and turnips, arugula, mustard, cress and leaf lettuce. When you are sure the weather is warm enough so you won't have frost any longer you can plant these seeds: beans, cucumbers, nasturtiums, basil, dill, corn and squash.

Here are the posts from last year that have details on seed starting:

Starting Herb Seeds Indoors
Growing Lantana from Seed
Pumpkin & Sunflowers from Seed
Tomato Seed Starting Tips
Damping Off (Seedling problems)
Sowing Tiny Seeds

I'm sure I'll think of more seed sowing tips, but if you look these over and have more questions please let me know.


Household Cleaning Tips from the Parlor

Our friendly message board community, known affectionately as The Parlor, has had plenty of conversations about old fashioned and frugal cleaning solutions.  Below are some of the tips shared on our boards. If you would like to add your input, please visit the "old fashioned cleaning tips" thread in the Parlor or feel free to leave a comment here.

I have heard vinegar water and use a crumpled newspaper to wipe the mirror, no streaks. I use the newspaper but I use it with glass cleaner so I don't know how the vinegar works. Reuse jars and cans as vases, pencils holders, put small nails or screws in them etc. Try to use a rag rather than paper towels. I enjoy trying to simplify my life as well, always open for ideas.

White vinegar mixed with water is good for cleaning. I have used paper towels in the past, but am switching to rags this year.

[Linda Lou]
For cleaning glass I use a pint of water, add 1/4 cup non-sudsy ammonia and about the same amount of alcohol in a spray bottle. I don't measure it, just add some of each to the water. Both my daughter and I like it better than Windex from the store. Cheap, too. It cuts grease on the front of my microwave, too, which is part of my range hood, right over my stove. It gets so messy.

I use an old flour sack dish towel for wiping the glass, not linty at all. Old cloth diapers are great, too.

Sometimes I just spray some of it on the kitchen floor, put an old dishcloth on the head of my Swiffer and use it to wipe up spots on the floor instead of getting out the mop and bucket. I am not paying for the wet Swiffer cloths any more.

I Keep A Spray Bottle Of Diluted Bleach (1/2 Bleach 1/2 Water) On My Kitchen Sink. I Use It To Clean My Stove, Counter Tops, Cutting Boards, Etc. When I Am Cooking Poultry Or Any Type Of Meat, I Will Increase The Bleach In The Spray Bottle To Eliminate Cross Contamination In My Kitchen Area.

I Also Put 1 Cup Of Bleach In My Dishwasher About Once A Week Along With The Detergent. And If We Are Sick In Our House, I Always Add Bleach To The Detergent And Wash In Hot Water.

A Small Bleach Spray Bottle Can Be Kept In The Bathrooms For Quick Clean-ups Also.

I use vinegar in my dishwasher about once a week to clean it and unclog soap residue, just like the coffee pot. I use vinegar in the rinse cycle for jeans and DH's work clothes instead of fabric softener...I save that for my towels and sheets.

In the garbage disposal, I put in ice cubes to keep the blades sharp and lemon, or lime peels to freshen it.

[Linda Lou]
I also keep a spray bottle of bleach. It only takes 1 tsp. bleach per cup of water to kill bacteria. I normally use about 2 T. per pint of water, which is still overkill. Your bleach water should be dumped and newly made every 5 days, as the bleach dissipates. (The Clorox site says to dump daily.) At the extension we were taught every 5 days.

I use Dawn dish soap on my fabric stains, especially oily ones before they go into the wash. I don't pay for expensive pretreatments or stain removers. That, or I wet a bar of Fels Naptha soap and rub on the area. I keep a bar in a little metal tub that looks like a wash tub, as part of my laundry room decor.
I also use the cheap fabric softener sprayed on a damp cloth if I want it in my clothes instead of paying for dryer sheets.

I use vinegar for almost everything. White for cleaning and apple cider for personal use. Apple cider vinegar stops the itch of poison ivy, it removed a wart from my elbow, and I use it as a hair rinse after shampoo and conditioner.

But you asked about cleaning. I have always had a problem with ants during warm weather. Since cleaning with white vinegar, ants are much less a problem. It is the best thing for linoleum (manufacturers recommend it) and it is a good degreaser in the kitchen. I could go on and on about vinegar. It is great for small burns you get while you are cooking. The skin won't even blister if you treat the burn right away.

To save from even using diapers or other other kind of cloths that leave lint and then have to be cleaned, try a rubber squeegee on windows and other flat glass areas. I have a small one in the shower for the shower doors as well as a long handled one for windows. I find it to be much faster and easier than using newspapers or cloths.

There have been a few references to baking soda. I use this for so many things, works well to clean my stove, as well as used with a little vinegar to pour down plug holes to clear them, or just keep them smelling nice. We get lots of hair in our bathtub drain and this mixture works a treat. I does fizz up, so be prepared!

lemon juice baking soda and vinegar is a good cleaners also they used lye soap it was more the multipurpose cleaner of the time. They used linseed oil to polish furniture and broom and scrub brush was the mop. I do suggest using a mop and broom if you have hard wood floors you can use a dust mop . There is books to buy as well as other products for the home that was used in the old days. I am including the links they are mail order catalogs and are wonderful to have. one is Cumberland General store and the other Lehmans, this is where the Amish shop.

I have retired all of my cloth napkins to use as rags with a spray bottle of 100% vinegar that has been infused w/ herbs and flower petals in the sunnier windows of our apt. I do not use them in the kitchen for fear of cross-contamination, but they are great through out the rest of the house especially as they are lint free. Seems like everything I clean sparkles and is slower in accumulating dust. Oh, and the infused vinegar smells so good, cleaning almost seems like a cleansing aromatherapy session... not to mention the fact that it minimizes the harmful fumes and chemicals I am exposed to on a daily basis. I was skeptical at first, but now I am convinced... well as long as I can have my bleach every once in a while.

take a old tray or pot,place a piece of alfoil in bottom of it,add boiling water,place silver ware in,place bicarb soda,watch your silver come clean,works even on the most tarnished pieces,take out,buff with a soft cloth and your silver never looked better

I find that using white distilled vinegar along with baking soda will help remove the burn inside of pans. Then I scrub with really hot water and lots of soap. It does a pretty good job of cleaning up.

[Pastors Wife]
I make my own laundry soap, dish washer soap and pine cleaner

Laundry soap
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated
1/2 cup Washing Soda (Not baking soda)
1/2 cup Borax

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened. Remove from the heat and add 1 qt hot water to a large bucket. Add soap mixture and mix well. Fill bucket with 2 gallons of hot water. Let it set for 24 hours. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load

Pine Cleaner
Mix 2 cups water, two teaspoons borax, 10 drops of pine essential oil and 5 drops of cedar essential oil

Dishwasher soap
2 cups borax
2 cups washing soda

Mix the washing soda and the borax together. Store in a covered container.

I put a few drops of Eucalyptus oil in my floor washing bucket... it helps with any insects that want to come in, and smells nice too....

There are tons of household uses for vinegar on the Old Fashioned Living website here

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What About a Measuring Party?

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends. ~Nancie J. Carmody

I was looking through some of my vintage books and found this odd party idea in my copy of Bright Ideas for Entertaining from Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott. The small hardcover was published in 1905. The entry is for a "Measuring Party". She mentions that this is a "pleasing way" of raising money for charity. This verse should be printed on the invitations in addition to the usual where and when information:

A measuring party we give for you,
'Tis something pleasant as well as new.
The invitation carries a sack,
For use in bringing or sending back
Five cents for every foot you're tall,
Measure yourself against the wall.
An extra cent for each inch you'll give,
And thereby show how high you live.
Then with music and song, recitation and pleasure,
We will meet one and all at our party of measure.

The author also suggests that a "tiny bag made of a bit of silk or ribbon" should be sent with each invitation. On the night of the party guests will bring these little bags with their money and place in a bowl or basket by the door. She suggests:

"Care should be taken to carry out the program suggested in the last two lines of the above verse. Much amusement may be created by having some one appointed to take various measurements of the guests attending, such as the length of the nose, size of the head, size of the hand etc. "

This could be a lot of fun, especially if the hostess puts something on the invitations like "A Measuring Party from 1905!". The bags could be little party favor bags which as inexpensive and can be folded into the invitation. The author also suggests there be music, food and drink during the party. Here are some other ideas:

-Change it to anywhere from $1.00 to $10.00 a foot depending on what you are raising money for. This could work for many types of fundraisers, and it would be unique!

-Little sheets could be printed up with spaces for writing in measurements of the nose, head, arm, hand etc. and door prizes could be given randomly by having everyone turn in their sheets with their names on them.

-This would be a very neat party for the entire family. The kids would love it and you could have door prizes for the adults and the kids.

-To keep the cost down, ask for volunteers to bake cookies, punch etc.

What do you think about this party idea?