Sunday, August 23, 2015

Felicity's Chocolate Set: History & Recipe for Colonial Hot Chocolate

Hi Followers!!

     Recently during my Ebay searches, I came across Felicity's Table and Chairs for $130. But the thing that interested me so much is that it came with her Chocolate Set. Some of you may know how valuable her Chocolate Set is and in complete good condition it can cost $130 by itself. So I snatched it up quick!
     Chocolate was mentioned in the colonies newspapers as early as 1705 when it was advertised for sale in a Boston paper. There were nearly 70 commercial chocolate producers in the colonies around that time, 69 more than in England which made chocolate more available and more affordable in the colonies. Especially when the tea tax was in place, hot chocolate became the go to drink of choice for patriots. When England snatched Jamaica from the Spanish, they then had an island of their own full of cocao plantations, which made chocolate more available to the British but with the high cost of importation, the prices were still extremely high for them. Chocolate was typically sold ground up into bricks or "cakes" wrapped in paper. In England, the cakes of chocolate were sold in small sizes, about 2-4 ounces. However, in the colonies where chocolate was more affordable, they were sold in 1 pound bricks. To give colonists another big advantage, in 1737 a Massachusetts man invented an engine that could cheaply grind 100 pounds of cocao in six hours. In pre-Revolutionary Williamsburg, unsweetened chocolate cost on average about two shillings sixpence per pound, which was affordable to the middle and upper class people. Prices fell, however, and before the nineteenth century, it had become cheap enough to be given to slaves.
     Chocolate cakes were usually premixed with sugar so you could mix it into boiling water and add whatever other extra ingredients you prefer. There were other ways chocolate was sold as well. They were sold as "nuts", "shells", and also as pure cocao seeds. People who bought the pure seeds had to roast and ground the seeds themselves. It was a long tedious process. The chocolate researcher for Colonial Williamsburg, Jim Gay explains.

The chocolate production process [he] follows involves “roasting cocoa beans, shelling them, crushing them in a large mixing bowl and transferring them to a heated grinding stone. Using an iron rolling pin, the cocoa beans are ground into a liquid and sugar and spices are added.”  Gay explained that 18th-century chocolate “isn’t something you’re used to.” Its less sweet than modern chocolate and grittier because its impossible to grind the particles that finely using hand-made processes. Gay also said that “each month [the chocolate] has a slightly different texture and flavor; the flavor profiles always [change].”

    The people that bought the chocolate shells would seep them into hot water. It is said that Martha Washington enjoyed this method because it was easier on the stomach than an oily chocolate.
    Fun fact... It was highly discouraged for quite a while for woman to consume chocolate in any form because it was believed to be an aphrodisiac.  The Virginia Almanac of 1770 cautioned women against it, warning “the fair sex to be in a particular manner careful how they meddle with romances, chocolate, novels, and the like,” especially in the spring, as those were all “inflamers” and “very dangerous.” Even though there were warnings, women were the top consumers of chocolate.
    So that is a quick history of hot chocolate in the colonies. Now lets make some! Here is what you will need! 

*A Bar of Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
     * 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
*1/8 tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
*1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
*2 cups water
*2 cups whole milk
*1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
*Large saucepan
*2 small Saucepans
*food processor, blender, or hand grater

Makes about 4 cups!

This is the chocolate I used.
My tips to make this easier... because everything is going to be high speed!...Make sure everything is measured out and ready to be added. Also read through the steps before you start so you know what to expect. 

~So first, put the large saucepan on the stove empty at a medium heat or a bit lower. Put 2 cups of water into a small saucepan or kettle and put it on the stove on high to boil, Also put two cups of whole milk into the other small saucepan and put it on the stove to boil too. 
~While they are heating up, take half of the chocolate bar (or the whole bar if you love chocolate!) and put it in the food processor (or blender or hand grater) and grind the bar into fine granules. 
~When that is done, dump the granules into the warmed large saucepan and start whisking around while the chocolate melts. Add the spices into the pan with the chocolate, also add some sugar to taste, start with about 4 tbsp, you can always add more later. 
~By this time, your water is probably boiling. Pour it into the large saucepan and whisk it around until the water and chocolate are meshed nicely. 
~Then add your boiling milk and a splash of Vanilla extract.
~Drop the heat very low and whisk and whisk and whisk some more until everything is blended nicely and somewhat frothy. 
~Take a spoon and have a taste. If it isn't sweet enough, add some sugar. If the chocolate taste is too strong, add some more milk. 
There you are! Enjoy! Add some whipped cream or marshmallows if you like!


Alright, so you got the history, you got the recipe, let me tell you about Felicity's Chocolate Set. The set includes a silver plated chocolate pot, 2 cups, 2 plates, 2 sets of forks and spoons, 2 napkins. 
     My chocolate pot is a bad example because I noticed after buying it that it is in TLC condition. It is missing the top and chain so I used a picture off of google to show the comparison of the Pleasant Company chocolate pot and an actual chocolate pot from the 18th century.

Pleasant Company on the left. 18th Century pot on the right.
     The plate is made of porcelain I believe. The plates are hand painted and have a beautiful gold trim. The back of the plates are stamped Pleasant Company.  

     There are two versions of the cups in this set. My set is the early version so the cups are made of resin. Also hand painted with gold trim and a unique twisted handle. But this is not how a common chocolate cup in the 18th century would look. Most chocolate cups had two handles, one on each side, Sort of like a child's sippy cup.

   Fork, spoon, and napkin

       So that's it! I hope you enjoyed the history and the hot chocolate! :) 

     This week I will be heading to the release of the newest historical MaryEllen Larkin from the year 1954. I am beyond excited! I plan on taking pictures of my visit to American Girl Place Mall of America and sharing with you! Felicity will be joining me! 

    And be sure to follow me on Instagram!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

BeForever Historical Accuracy: Rebecca's Holiday Dress

Hey Followers!

     I am starting a new segment in my blog today. I was inspired by this particular outfit after hearing so many people put down the BeForever line for "not being historically accurate." Well hang on to your hats folks because I am about to blow some minds.
     So I recently got Rebecca for a birthday gift from my family (YAY!) and WOW! is she beautiful! I mean she is definitely at the top in the beauty ranking! But anyways... naturally I bought some things for her and one of my favorite dresses of hers is her new BeForever Holiday Dress.
     Okay so the year is 1914.... did girls wear dresses like this in 1914? Well the first time I seen this dress, I thought immediately about a particular dress I seen on a movie.

This dress....

    Do you recognize it? 

    Well if you said it is from the movie Titanic then you are right! This dress was worn by Kate Winslet on the movie Titanic. The Titanic sank in 1912, only two years before Rebecca's stories. The waistline on the dress is very similar to Rebecca's dress. Also both dresses are rich in embroidery. Now I know that Titanic is a movie, but every movie hires a professional to produce costumes that are historically correct.   

      Of course I am not going to leave it at that though! In 1914, the skirt lengths started getting a little higher. It started to be more common for women to show their ankles with the newly raised hemlines. Along with the raised skirt lengths, it was becoming popular to have layers skirts, uneven and unique layers.  


  These photos are all drawings dated between 1912 and 1914. Theses are all beautiful examples of the tiered skirts I was referring to. The shape of the first dress looks so much like Rebecca's dress. Also the shape of the skirt to the right of that one is very close! Not to mention she is wearing a similar headband as well.

    Okay! Lets talk shoes now! Rebecca's shoes are "leather" with double straps across the top of the foot. I happen to come across a very similar pair in a Sears catalog page from 1914 which I have highlighted in red. And with Rebecca's father being a shoemaker, you know she had access to the "freshest styles," Ha!  

     In my opinion.... Could a girl from 1914 have owned an outfit like this...absolutely!!

I hope you enjoyed this new segment of my blog! I sure had fun with it! 1914 is such a fun time in fashion and looking through the styles of the time was awesome. Such beautiful and unique dresses, I really hope American Girl will release many more new Rebecca styles in the future. 

There are many more BeForever fashions that need "debunking" and I plan to write more soon!

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Felicity's Rescue Kit and the History of Apprenticeships

Hey Followers!
      So sorry it has been so long! My schedule has gotten busier now that it is summer time! Also have been having computer issues! But I am ready once again to write!
     A few weeks back I was on Facebook and noticed a woman was posting a lot of Felicity items in an AG Buy/Sell/Trade group at REALLY good prices. So I asked the woman if she had anything else that she hadn't posted yet and she replied, "Yes, I have her Rescue Kit." My heart skipped a beat and I asked her how much she was going to sell it for because I was very interested. She explained that she didn't know the value but a friend had told her it was worth between $50-$80....At this point I am squealing like a school girl because the last auction I had watched with this set went over $120. So I threw out the price of $65 shipped and she said.... that was fine! So I am now the proud owner of her Rescue Kit... in complete and perfect condition.
     So I thought for a while what I could write about with this set... This set is based on the book Felicity Saves the Day. Ben runs away to try to join the Militia to fight against the British, therefore breaching his apprenticeship contract with Mr. Merriman. A ad is put in the newspaper reporting a runaway apprentice and bounty hunters are out looking for him. It makes you wonder, Why is Ben being treated so severely?
     Well first, let me explain the guidelines of a typical apprenticeship. An apprenticeship was a legally binding contract between a young boy (even a few girls have been recorded) and a master craftsman. In Ben's case, it was a contract between Mr. Merriman and himself. The contract entails that the boy is to be in the care of the craftsman and learn his trade for the set amount of years. Many contracts were from when the boy was 14 years old until he turns 21 years old. During this time, in most cases the apprentice lives with the craftsman in his home and works without pay. The part that is important to understanding Ben's case is that the apprentice is not allowed to go anywhere or break his contract without the tradesman's permission. Here is a sample of an actual contract taken from the Colonial Williamsburg Website...
   Witnesseth that the said John Stevens with the advice and consent of his Mother Anne Stevens doth put himself an Apprentice to the said George Charleton to learn the Trade, art, and Mistery of a Taylor and with him after the manner of an Apprentice to serve till he arrives to the Age of Twenty-one Years to be fully compleat & ended During which time the said Apprentice his said Master faithfully shall serve, his secrets keep his Lawfull Commands Obey He Shall not contract Matrimoney within the said Term he shall not haunt Ordinary's nor Absent himself from his Masters Service Day or Night unlawfully but in all things as a Faithfull Apprentice he shall behave himself towards his said Master and Family during the said Term AND the said George Charleton Best means he can shall Teach and Instruct or cause to be taught and instructed AND doth hereby Promise and oblige himself to find for his said Apprentice Good and Sufficient Meat Drink Washing Lodging & Cloathing during the Said Term and to Teach him to Read & Write and at the expiration of his term of servitude the said George Charleton obligeth himself to pay unto his apprentice what the law allows in such cases & agrements . . . At a Court of Hustings for the City of Williamsburg held the 5th Day of September 1748.
       So after reading this, you can see that apprentices in the 18th century didn't have much freedom. And this being a legal document, a person under these guidelines can land themselves in legal trouble if they do not follow the rules in the contract.   
     In this contract it mentions the boys mother, A lot of apprentices were actually orphans. Instead of putting these children into an orphanage of some sort, the colonies would find an apprenticeship for them as per the Orphan Act of 1705, sometimes starting a lot younger than 14 years old. Could Ben in Felicity's books be an orphan? Perhaps! 
Young Ben Franklin
      There are many examples of well known colonial apprentices and tradesman. Benjamin Franklin became an apprentice in 1718 at the age of 12, learning from his older brother the trade of printing. I found a cute story while looking more into this... At 15, Ben Franklin arranged that his food portion of the room and board be paid to him in cash instead of having the meals be made. Benjamin then became a vegetarian after learning that is was cheaper to buy fruits and veggies than it is to buy meat. He used his saved money to buy books! 
Silver with Paul Revere maker mark
      A well known tradesman and apprentice example is Paul Revere, Although he is mostly know for his famous ride, warning the patriots of the British invasion. Paul Revere was actually a very skilled Silversmith. He was an apprentice to his father and first learned to be a silversmith. Paul then in turn had many apprentices, including his two sons. His handy work can still be appreciated today as there are about 500 pieces of his silver still known to exist today including silverware, trays, and christening bowls. Also the most exciting discovery was found in a time capsule made by Samuel Addams, A plaque of inscribed silver made by Paul Revere himself.
Silver plaque found in Boston's time capsule
     Another example I can think of is from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. The character William Turner, played by Orlando Bloom was an apprentice to a blacksmith. And of course, we can't forget the Star Wars movies, were Jedi masters had apprentices....but that is an entirely different time frame. :) 
    Today, apprenticeships still exist but are not as common. They have been replaced with paid on the job training and of course, college courses have replaced a lot too. 

    So now that you know a bit about apprenticeships, let me tell you about Felicity's Rescue Kit. The kit includes a basket filled with lavender and witch hazel. A leather pocket book, a letter from Elizabeth, a newspaper clipping, a map, and a mortar and pestle. 

    Mortars and pestles were used to crush up things such as herbs into a powder, mostly used for medicinal purposes but were also used when preparing food or even dehulling or husking grains. In the set, the mortar is heavy and silver plated, The pestle is made of wood.

 Witch hazel is commonly used to put on cuts, scrapes, and bruises. It works as an astringent.Lavender is used for many things such a sleep aid, a treatment for bug bites, and also great aromatherapy

The newspaper clipping warning of Ben's disappearance.  

Sorry so blurry! Letter from Elizabeth to Felicity

     I really hope you learned something new and enjoyed this post! Any feedback is welcomed! I will have some more posts coming soon! And since I am getting so close to completing my Felicity collection (YAY!) I am starting to collect more stuff from Samantha, Kit, Addy, and Rebecca's world so I am exciting to write more about these girls VERY soon!
    I am also excited to say that I will be adding Mary-Ellen Larkin to my collection upon her release this month. So get ready to learn new things about 1954!  

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