Downmarket Downton-Victorian entertaining economically
February 8, 2014, 10:15 AM
Filed under: etiquette, Financial tips, Fun on a budget, Holiday Fun

How many of my readers are Downton Abbey fans?  I know I am.  I have found myself swept up in Downton fever.  This public broadcasting station hit is a great escape based in historic setting around real events.  Like many I have enjoyed getting to know the Grantham and the Crawley families.  I tune in each week to check in on friends upstairs and downstairs.  I also have been intrigued by the customs and practices of the era.   I wanted to learn more about societal practices and behaviors.   I researched on-line, read books and  watched documentaries.  The more I learned the more I wanted to know.

” I always thought that people who made a big deal about good manners meant that they were stuck up, or trying to act better than you .   Having good manners is a way to put everyone around you at ease. – (Blast from the Past).   Victorians were big on manners and social graces as well as charity and kindness and hospitality.  I myself love entertaining and making people feel at home when they visit my home.  I believe in todays age of fast-paced, computer age, cell phone addicted, I-pad loving world; we have lost the human touch somewhere along the way.  I think it’s about time we bring it back into style; even if it’s in a small way.

Dining in Victorian times was an event.  People sent invitations thru the mail or even by messenger.   There were expectations of dress, topics of discussion, introductions and decorum.  I will pass along how I created a Victorian Dinner Party on a budget.  First we will start with the invitation.   When planning a formal dinner party, the hostess had to carefully select guests  it was indeed a necessity to have a socially harmonious group of guests.  After selecting a date and creating a guest-list, invitations were written by the hostess and sent two days to two weeks before the party, depending on the occasion. Guests were expected to send a reply, especially if they were unable to attend.   According to Godey’s Lady’s Book, one should specify the number of guests invited in the invitation, so that the invitee might dress to suit the occasion and avoid the embarrassment of improper attire. It was customary for men to wear black pants, a waist-coat, jacket, white tie, shirt and gloves, and for female guests to don formal evening dresses and gloves, which were removed at the table.

sample invitation

Cell phone pics till Feb 14 storm 1084


When guests arrived, they were met in the entry, where they would remove their jackets and hats before being led into the parlor to be greeted by the host and hostess. A knowledgable hostess would be dressed and waiting before the designated time of the party, in order to greet any guests, who, in an attempt to be punctual, had arrived ahead of schedule. To arrive before the hostess was ready was indeed an embarrassment.  Drinks are offered by the hostess at this time.  A good host or hostess will have non alcoholic beverages to offer should there be a guest who does not drink.

I choose two couples of the same age group and status.  I informed my guests by the style of the invitation and noted dress to impress on the invitation.  The cost of the invitation was only the cost of stamps for me as I am an avid craftier and used many of the supplies I already had.  The picture above was found on a search for Victorian Valentines.  I printed it out and then cut the image to fit my greeting card size and then used a combination of stamps and paper to personalize.  I also looked up the proper manner of addressing the invitees as it was quite formal then.  These sites were quite helpful; and also

Cell phone pics till Feb 14 storm 1156

Next I set about finding out what was served at a typical Victorian dinner party.  I found that most were 12 course!  But upon further research I had heard that 8 course dinner could be acceptable.    The guests examined their menus, always written in French while they awaited the first part of the three course meal. They were not expected to eat everything offered, and could pick and choose which foods they wanted as they sat around the ornate table, which usually had a decorative centerpiece, like flowers or a fruit pyramid (“Dinner at Eight”). Some possible food items included soup, venison, poultry, vegetables, and for dessert, and imported fruits (Margetson 79). Oysters were also frequently served (Margetson 86). Here is a sample menu.

I created a menu with 8 courses.  Course 1- is soup.  I choose butternut squash soup I purchased (boxed) and topped with French’s Fried Onions in the center before serving.  Course 2- is called kickshaws- our translation is appetizer.  Usually you would serve 3-4 options so guests can partake or decline.  I served 2 options Caprese bites, and Spinach pastry puffs.  Course 3-Sorbet for cleansing of the palate only.  One small scoop served in a footed dish.  Course 4- Fish, I opted for a small serving using tuna, rather than a full serving of fish as dictated by the custom of the day.  Course 5-Salad with assorted dressings.  Course 6- Main dish.  I chose teraki seasoned pork loin with mashed potatoes and haricot.  Course 7-Fruits, cheeses, pastries dessert.  I served assorted berries, cheeses, and dessert.  My dessert was a layered creamcicle cake.  Course 8- Tea, coffee, assorted chocolates, cookies.  Served in the study ( my case the living room).  If you serve wines with each course choose the glass champagne-dessert, Burgundy, Bordeaux-duck or pheasant or wild game and red meat or fish, and White-served with soup, salad, fish, white poultry meat.  There should be a separate glass for water.

Cell phone pics till Feb 14 storm 1117 Cell phone pics till Feb 14 storm 1116

I asked a friend who is a professional waitress and she became “the help.”  She dressed in style and did a magnificent job serving and timing the dinner.  I would recommend having a Butler, and two maids if you can.  Also be sure to coordinate with the help the timing of dinner and order of courses, about half an hour to 45 minutes should do the trick.  There should be no verbal communication during dinner with the help unless absolutely necessary.  Plates should be cleared between courses.  This is where having two sets of hands makes the flow of much more professional. When setting the table I recommend “The Little Book of Etiquette” by Sheila M. Long.  Silverware is used from the outside in.  The last step in setting the table is to space the settings 16 inches wide.  This gives each guest plenty of room.

Napkin folding adds an extra touch of flare to your table.  This site by Huffington post was very helpful and easy to follow.  I choose the Bishop’s hat but the rosette is even simpler.  When doing the rosette I would recommend a colored napkin.  You may also find several examples on you tube.

When announcing dinner, the hostess will say, “Dinner is served.”  At that time the guests will be escorted into the dining room the hostess escorted by man-of-honor, or other ranking member of the party.  The Host, by lady-of-honor or high-ranking woman in the party.  If having a party of 10 or more, choose a seating partner for each woman ahead of time and use place cards.  If 10 or less in your party you as the hostess should direct the guests to their assigned seats.  The male escort shall seat the female by pulling out her chair.

The atmosphere is of utmost importance.  Think the five senses, Smell-candles or the food prepared, Sight- place setting and table scape, sound-classical music with conversational decibel levels, Touch- feel of fabrics and clothing, and Taste of food.  Above all a good hostess makes her guests feel at ease.  Some tips to making your guests feel at ease;

1) Place your napkin in your lap to signal it is time to do the same and begin.

2) Finger bowls-should be used after serving messy foods or after the fish course, or just before dessert.  The Victorian tradition is to use rose-water which can be quite expensive and found at Whole Foods or other organic stores.  Or make your own.  this YouTube video was helpful;  Another less time-consuming and expensive is lemon water.  You can make this with real lemon pieces or lemon juice and warm water.  Promptly clear these once all guests have finished.

3) As a hostess you should continue eating until the last guest has finished so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable.  As someone who gets very excited about the next thing, I look up and pace myself accordingly to my guests. Its hard at first but you get the picture.

4) Eat something before the party to help maintain your energy throughout the evening.

5) Be cheerful, interested, and no matter what happens, relaxed.  Your mood sets the tone.

6)  Always entertain with in your means.  Guests come to a party to enjoy one another’s company!

Knowing the correct dining etiquette gives you more confidence so you can relax and enjoy social gatherings, no matter how formal.  Entertaining around the dinner table can promote both business and friendship.  Have fun!


How to Save Money on Produce and Meat
June 13, 2012, 8:31 AM
Filed under: couponing, Financial tips, Healthly Living, Holiday Fun, Life style

Summer is the best time for fresh fruit and grilling out on the Bar-b-q and spending time with family and friends.  This year we have watched as prices for these items have soared and it seems that we might have to forgo those extras this year.  But not so fast…I have a few tips that will help you save at the checkout and bring home the tastes of summer you cherish.


1) Tomatoes- rather than buy the cherry tomatoes buy the larger round ones these can be up to a $1 cheaper.  You can also grow your own whether you live in an apartment or condo, rent or own this is a cheap and easy alternative.  Just ask at your local nursery personnel for hints and tips.

2) Corn- unshucked corn is cheaper (it also lets the kids help preparing dinner).  Buy on the day you want to eat it, my husband’s family used to have a farm and he says that corn becomes less sweet the longer it sits around.

3) Mushrooms- instead of Portobello mushrooms, buy Creminis they are smaller versions of the Portobello.  In some stores it may save you as much as $3.

4) Strawberries-Here is a great idea, pick your own usually that saves you half the price.  It is also a fun way to spend time with the family.  Check in your area for some farms and stands where they advertise this feature.  It saves you money and creates lasting memories for your children.  A little hard work never hurt anyone:)

5) Salad greens – Don’t buy the bagged versions, Buy by the head.  To make it last and stay fresh longer up to a full week, wash the leaves and dry throughly.  Then store in a plastic bag that you have punched holes in with a fork.

5) At roadside stands, buy your stone fruit that is slightly bruised.  While you discard the bruised portion you still save about half of what the unblemished cost.  Buy at roadside stands as a rule for all produce this will be like buying direct.  No middle man in this case the store.  Fresh fruits and veggies have the most nutritional value anyway.


1) Buy the “market grind.”  Rather than the national brands it is often a higher quality and is local.  It usually costs about a dollar less per pound.

2)  This one I had never heard.  Buy a 2 lb ham from the refrigerator section.  take it to the Deli counter and have them slice it.  You will get more meat and can use for sandwiches it will also cost about $1 less per pound.  Check with your store not all grocers will do this.

3) stock up on b-b-q  meats and rolls and ice cream around holidays these items are usually 60-70% off and using coupons always helps.

4) Buy a chuck roast it is cut from the same muscle as rib-eye, and tastes similar.  Ask the butcher to cut 2 steaks out of the first 4 inches of the eye of the chuck roast, then have him grind the rest into hamburger.  You could save almost $10.

Other products:

1)  Salsa- Shop the international isle.  Lesser known Latin brands are up to 30% cheaper than our national brands.

2)  Make your own marinades and dressings.

3) Buy hot dog and hamburger rolls at dollar store or discount stores.



Seven Ways to Save

1.  Save money with the library

Normal = Pay for things that the library offers for free

If you can get past the frequently outdated décor, public libraries are home to a wealth of resources. Of course you can borrow books instead of buying them, but they also often have subscriptions to high cost services or publications like Hoovers or Valueline. Our local library has grown a huge collection of popular CDs and DVDs over the last few years. So, it can be a cheap (free) ways to catch a few good movies. If you must be “Normal” and buy used at least.

2. Simplify your wardrobe

Normal = Buying clothes that you like without looking at the wardrobe as a whole

Don’t buy clothes that will only work as one outfit. Look for clothes that you will be able to wear with many other things, creating multiple outfits. Instead of buying that green and purple striped coat that will only go with one or two outfits, you could get a solid color gray that will work most of what you wear. Spend less money on the trendy items that won’t be in style long, and spend more on quality items. You really can do this and still be stylish at the same time. Simplifying your wardrobe is just one way you can save money on clothes.

3.  Make money with your clutter

Normal = Garage sale or throw away clutter

It is easier than you may think. eBay and make the process a breeze. Sign up for an account, take a few digital pictures, post it, and watch the buyers come to you. HINT: The biggest key I have noticed is selling brand name items and taking a few seconds to think, “If I wanted to buy this item, how would I search for it?” If you do this, you will be much more successful.  Of course, some of your junk won’t be worth the effort of selling it online. For that stuff – maybe garage sale, maybe just save yourself the hassle and give it to the thrift store.

4. Maintain stuff

Normal = Buy new, don’t maintain, it breaks, then buy new as cycle repeats again and again.

Even if you buy the best stuff, if you don’t maintain it you will not save you as much money as it could. You’ll then spend less on buying new stuff. When you buy something worth maintaining, take a few minutes to read the maintenance manual, and create a maintenance checklist that you can attach to the item. For important things like your car’s oil changes or tune-ups, put them in your calendar. To make it even easier schedule most of your maintenance all on one day with a Car Day.

5.   Saving energy = Saving money

Normal = wasting energy

Even though, “Being green is so IN right now,” the “normal” thing to do is waste energy. So not only will everyone think you are cool, ;) but you can save money as well. Check out these 10 Energy saving tips.

  • Use compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) instead of traditional bulbs. Kiplinger’s mentions that, “if every U.S. household replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL, the emissions savings would be comparable to taking three million cars off the road for a year.” Supposedly the bulbs pay for themselves (from the energy savings) over the course of a year or so.
  • Add extra insulation to your water heater. If you have a water heater built before 2004, you can wrap it with an insulating jacket and save about $30 a year on your water heating bill.
  • Have your furnace tuned every two years and you will, “save about 1250 lbs of carbon dioxide and 10% on your heating bills.”
  • Lower the temperature on your thermostat. For every degree that you lower your home’s temperature during the cooler months, you can subtract about 5% from your bill.
  • Use cold water to wash your clothes and you can save 50% of the energy that you would use if you used hot water. I honestly don’t know what effect this has on the clothes themselves, so I will have to check with my wife on that one :)
  • Get a programmable thermostat. This wonderful tool allows you to program the temperature of your house on an hour by hour basis. So, it can be cooler when you are gone or asleep and warmer when you are around.
  • Use a weatherstrip around your front and back door and you can save about $30 a year on energy costs.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees (Fahrenheit for the international folks). Even if you don’t have a temperature gauge on your water heater, they suggest turning it down, “until the water feels hot, not scalding.” My husband always says this to me all the time.
  • Adjust your lawnmower to the 3-inch setting. They say that longer grass holds moisture longer, so you will not have to water as much.
  •  Wash your own car.  This saves you gas to the wash and money paying for something you can do yourself.  Unless you live in a place with no outside hose.  In this case take it to a friend’s house or if you must pay someone, this time of year lots of kids hold car washes to raise money for sports or trips.  Plus it makes you feel good and encourages the kids to work for the money and help.

6. Buying used stuff always saves money

Normal = Buy new

This is one of my favorite creative ways to save money. I wish we had this when I was in college, I have discovered that you could get textbooks for free, by buying and selling them at Amazon.  Send out an email to family or friends, or just ask around. You might be surprised. I was about to buy a printer, and then found out my mom just bought a laser printer and didn’t need her old inkjet. and are also good places to look. And of course, you can always check out garage sales and thrift shops.

7.  Go out to dinner for half price

Normal = Go to the same few restaurants all the time and pay full price

I love to try new restaurants, but since it is quite an expensive hobby – it is nice when you can save a few bucks. Enter the Entertainment Book. This wonderful tool costs about $25, but will pay for itself quickly if you use it a couple of times. It is available for most large U.S. cities and has thousands of coupons to participating restaurants – most of which are buy-one-get-one-free. This is one of my favorites ways to find new places to eat and save money in the process. Also consider or and who sells $25 gift certificates (with restrictions) for $10 to thousands of restaurants across the country.  Also check your mailers in the Val-pac and local mailers.  You can find lots of new places you haven’t tried yet!

Job Hunting
May 21, 2012, 9:35 AM
Filed under: Financial tips, Job Search

I have recently had the good fortune to be advised in financial matters by a respected member in this field.  I asked him if he had some suggestions for navigating todays economy.  His answers surprised me at how simple they were.  Most were things I had heard or known about but was unaware how to put them into practice.

1) When you are unemployed, make obtaining a position you full-time job.  Typically you work about 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day.  Take that time to pursue a job.  What I mean is spend your time focusing on your resume, and references.  A trusted friend to look it over and give you some advise.  Go to job fairs and open houses.  Mingle with new people, Facebook and friends can be helpful.  Ask around.  Don’t ask for a job, instead ask “I would really like to get involved in the hospitality industry, and I am anxious to learn all about the industry.  I was wondering if you had a suggestion as to where to start.”  This is less threatening than asking for a job.  It frees  the person from feeling obligated and uncomfortable and makes it more likely they will offer help.  Another way is to socialize.  Go to places where you can meet people in the industry.  Be willing to start at the bottom. Volunteer at your church, synagogue, or charity organization.  It’s a great way to meet people in a non threatening way.

2)  Make small goals.  Your job hunting is a series of small goals.  First the goal of your resume is to get an interview.   The goal of an interview is to get another or perhaps even an offer.  Be authentic and honest.  Canned answers rarely get a second look.  Make a connection with the boss or interviewer.  Find something that intrigues him or her.  This means be attentive and listen to pick up on subtle clues.  Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions.

3)  Most employers are looking for fire.  They want to know that you will have the drive to succeed.  Positive attitude is also very important quality.  Do you have the ability to handle problems in a positive manner and find solutions.  Work ethic is also big.  Do you have a good work ethic; that is are you willing to put in the time and have the dedication to be extraordinary?


If It’s Free It’s For Me
May 10, 2012, 9:20 AM
Filed under: Financial tips, Healthly Living, Life style

This is one of my husband’s favorite sayings.  I tease him about it, however I have started examining it more closely.  Now that’s not to say I am taking it to heart litteraly.  But, it does seem to be true.  These days you can find free stuff all around.  You just have to know where to look.  And that’s where we come in.

You can find free stuff in all kinds of places.  I was reading a magazine and they had a list that got me started on this tangent.  It was about cosmetic freebies.  We all know about the advertised ones like our local cosmetic counters at the mall.  However, these were actually free products no purchase neccessary: Sign up for Olay Professional Pro-x and get  FREE headband.  This special headband works when you take a picture of yourself while wearing it and then upload it to Olay’s site; you can get a personalized skin analysis.  A FREE facial?  Stop by one of their locations fo a 20 minute deep cleansing, brightening, retexturizing, or hydrating facial.  There is a studio in Skippack.  On 4007 Skippack Pike (610) 222-0577 European Wax Center for first time visitors can recieve an eyebrow, bikini, or underarm wax.  There is only one location near us in Horsham.  It is on Welsh rd near the Walmart headed towards Willow Grove. Stop by the brow bar on your birthday and recieve a complimentary brow wax with ID.  The only location near us is Ulta on Knapp Rd near Montgomery Mall  215-616-4601

Multiple use products:

    This is one I havent heard of before.  Organix Rewewing Moroccan Argan Oil Penetrating Oil $8 @Walmart.  Apparently, you can use this product as frizz control and dry dull hair by creating a shinny healthy look.  You can also use on soften rough skin.  A few drops on those rough areas and the hydrating omega-6 fatty acids are not heavy and your skin won’t feel greasy!

Band-Aid makes a blister stick that you can also use on areas of friction.  Like your cute new sandals that rub on the tops of your feet.  Put it on before your shoes to prevent the blister.  Almost any drug store has it.

Baby wipes: Not just good for baby.  If they are flushable you can also use them in the bathroom, you can use them as make-up removers (some also works to soothe skin), they are good as handy wipes after a meal, or keep in your car and clean your hands after checking your oil.  Another thing I have done is kept them with me when I travel.  It is refreshing while on a long flight or train, or bus ride.  It is a nice refresher in close cramped quarters.


Money, Money, Money
May 8, 2012, 7:55 AM
Filed under: Financial tips, Fun on a budget, Healthly Living, Life style

I know we all have heard th principal of saving and there are many ideas on how much you should save and the number of savings accounts you should have and how you should delegate your money.  Debt is so rampant in our culture that there is a whole industry dedicated to helping you rid yourself of it!  I bet we all have from time to time felt overwhelmed by debt or overspending.  Even if you are currently debt free (good for you!), then you know someone who is still struggling with this heavy burden.  Here are a few helpful hints for getting out and staying out of debt.  Some maybe small decisions or solutions and others are long term.

1)  Consult a financial advisor.  This doesn’t mean JP Morgan, or Charles Schwab.  We’re not talking about investing or money markets.  Call up your tax person, more often than not this person is the best to either recommend  someone to help or may even we willing and able to help you themselves.  You’ll want to have someone you trust and someone who has experience and can be impartial.  First gather all your bills and loans including your mortgage/rent/condo fees and have them ready.  Arrange a time where both you and your spouse can sit down with your advisor of choice and look over what you have and come up with a budget and a plan.

2) Track your money.  You may even want to do this first so that you know where your money is going before you see your chosen advisor.  This is something most financial classes  will teach you.  Take a small notebook (one that will fit in your purse, try the dollar store)everywhere you go and log everything you purchase.  Total it up at the end of everyday!  This way you know where your overspending comes from.  No more saying, “where did my money go? ”  Next look at your bank and card statements every month.  Mistakes happen a deposit might not get credited to your account, credit card companies will charge late fees after one day instead of 5, 10, or 15 days as stated in the policy.  If you call them right away you should be able to get them to rescind the fee.

3) Don’t forget to have fun too!  Make a game out of finding the cheapest dates.  Go to Costco/BJs and have dinner hotdogs and soda for $1.50 each and go see a free or discounted movie.  In our area Sellersville has one each month on Mondays at 7:30pm, Lansdale Public Library has them, and East Greenville has a quaint theater on main street that has 1st run movies at discounted rates.  Or better yet my Sister and Brother-in-law host movie nights in the back yard and have a double feature one for kids early and 2nd for the adults after the kids fall asleep.  Invite neighbors and have everyone bring as treat!  Avoid activities with people who always want to eat out all the time.  Talk about events that are free and share ideas if they insist on this limit your time and plan to spend with them.  Once a month for example.

4) Set goals.  Write them down on a piece of paper and post it where you can see it everyday.  This way it will keep you accountable and committed to your goal.    When it looks like you are coming short of your goal take on another job.  It’s a great way to make some extra money.  Do handyman work, babysit, or take a part-time job temporarily.  When I was in school I wanted to go on the trip to Oklahoma and I did extra chores around the house and had a job on campus and took three jobs on summer and school breaks.

5) Save on food.  Clip coupons, shop stores with double coupon days, buy store brands or shop discount stores.  Shop with a list always.  With out one you are likely to buy more.  Plan out your meals ahead of time maybe a week at a time. This create fewer chances to impulse buy.  Always be on the look out for a cheaper alternative.  Instead of using paper towels use a rag.  This also saves trash from the land fill.  Eco -Friendly!


Lansdale Farmers’ Market
May 7, 2012, 3:26 PM
Filed under: Deal of the Week, Financial tips, Fun on a budget, Life style

Hello Readers!  We had a terrific time at Lansdale’s First Friday last week!  We parked for free at the train station and walked around and explored some of the stores and the different business that had booths on each end.  As usual there was no shortage of kids activities.  The music was great and seeing some of the new stores in the area was nice.  We also were awakened to some of the adult activities as well.  There was a free beer tasting from several different breweries.  One of them Prism, is actually located in Lansdale on 810 Dickerson Rd the entrance is in the rear on the alley side.  They have a tasting room and a unique set of flavors in their beer. We talked with the owner and learned that they started bottling the signature beer, Bitto Honey, in the fall of 2011 and will add ParTea Pale Ale and seasonal products this year (2012).  The taproom opened in July of 2011 and you can join us 7 days a week for pints of our beer, PA made wine, and gourmet hot dogs!  The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable.  They always have something coming up so check out the website  Support some local guys and a local business!

While at the 1st night celebration, we also found out some more info on other events that are coming up in our area; the Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival 2012.  Saturday June 23, 2012.  Benefiting the Lansdale Public Library other non-profit organizations. Check out the website at

Lansdale also has a farmers market which takes place every Saturday from May 19th-November 3td at 9am-1pm at Railroad Ave.  There is always fresh produce, herbs and dairy products and baked goods.  Plants and artisan crafts are also available.  Every 3td Saturday of each month there is children’s story time.  www.lansdalefarmersmarket.0rg

Have a wonderful week all!