Heart-Shaped Shortbread Cookies | Recipe | Meredith Sweetpea


Heart-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate

Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a delightful shortbread cookie. Try this recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 to 7 ounces good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
  • Dump dough onto a flour-dusted surface and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • After 30 minutes, roll the dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • If you would like to dip your shortbread cookies in chocolate, place the cooled cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on HIGH for 30 secoonds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 10- to15-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Stir in the remaining chocolate until it is completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smoothed and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
  • Dip 1/2 of cookie in just enough chocolate to coat it.

–Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cooking show; Improptu Dinner episode.

 

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Victorian Rules for an Unmarried Woman | Meredith Sweetpea


victorian-womanIn the Victorian years there were strict standards for how men and women were to behave. Those who did not follow these rules were ostracized or shunned in polite society. These expectations were set in stone, and especially held dear to the unmarried women in a community.

Rules for the Single Victorian Woman

  • Never go out alone. Always be accompanied by a female companion or a male family member.
  • Do not ride in a closed carriage with a man who is not a relative.
  • Do not receive gentleman callers when alone at the house.
  • When receiving a gentleman caller, another family member must be present in the room.
  • Never visit an unmarried gentleman at his residence.
  • Never speak about impure topics among other single women.
  • Do not touch a gentleman when walking together; only accept his hand of assistance if needed to navigate.
  • Never address someone unless introduced to them.

In addition, a single woman was to uphold her innocence at all costs. She was not to show her intelligence, but rather, to submit to the gentlemen in the room. Political talk was always scorned upon.

Love and Courtship of the Unmarried Victorian Woman

Victorian-courtship

Victorian love and courtship

When it came to love and courtship, an unmarried Victorian woman was encourage to marry up and never down. She often brought a dowry to the marriage, especially if she was from an upper class family, and he must prove that he was of equal or better standing than she by disclosing his financial situation.

She sometimes used her dowry to lure the man of her desires, although most marriages were arranged more like business deals than for love. Ancestral lines, bank accounts and connections were taken into consideration prior to engagement. If the couple was lucky, they grew to become fond of each other, and perhaps in fell in love throughout their marriage.

Once engaged, the engagement was treated like a contract, and if the engagement was broken off for any reason, great embarrassment and possible legal action were the results. Damages may even need to be paid.

If a Victorian woman was unmarried by the age of 21, she became in posession of her own property, and could inherit in her own right. If she married, however, her possessions became the property of her husband and left her control altogether.

Watch “Victoria” on PBS Masterpiece

PBS-Victoria

PBS Masterpiece production of “Victoria”

Viewers can get some sense of what it was like for Victorian women by watching the PBS Masterpiece Series, “Victoria.” Its examples are true to what it was really like during that period.

 

Phones at a Meal–A Big No-No


phone-at-restaurant-table

Put the phone away when eating out.

When Miss Meredith Sweetpea goes to lunch or dinner with a friend, she expects to be the sole focus of that friend for the duration of the meal. And vice versa. After all, you’ve set aside the time, energy and effort to spend time with this chosen person–not to sit and watch them interact with faceless others.

What is thoroughly annoying–and in bad manners–is when the other person places his or her phone on the table in front of them in order to continually check its oh-so-important messages. Throughout the meal, the conversation is continually interrupted by the ding of a new message, or the urgency to text back to someone. This makes the person you are with feel much less important and frustrated.

The only time it is acceptable to bring your phone out during a meal is if you expecting a very important phone call, and it is important to let the other person know in advance that you may be interrupted by this call. Otherwise, turn off the ringer and stash the phone out of sight and out of mind to concentrate on your dinner partner. Believe me, you’ll survive.

cell-phones-in-restaurant

Sadly, is this you?

Put the Phone Away and Make Human Connections

Think of the other person at the table as your invited guest–no matter who did the inviting. It is your job to be both a good host and a good guest throughout the meal. That means engaging both your conversational and listening skills.

Your life will not stop if you put away the phone for an hour or so. In fact, it will be enhanced by the interesting conversation and relationship building you will be engaging in. This world is all about human connections; not electronic ones.

Statistics show that people are lonelier now than ever, with a big part of that loneliness being attributed to social media. We’re not making real connections or building friendships that can last a lifetime.

on-phone-on-date

How would you like to be this girl?

When you’re eating out in a restaurant, or with a group at your own table, note how many people are staring at their phones instead of interacting with those around them. It’s sad. It also makes it more difficult for the service staff to attend to you.

What’s even sadder is when you’re on a date and your partner is more interested in his or her phone than in you. Nothing is less impressive than a lack of concentration on what your date is saying.

True Friends are With You, Not on Social Media

When you think about all the people who are important in your life, think about how you built those connections in the first place. You probably had something in common that you shared. Perhaps you are family or co-workers, or perhaps you built a friendship based around a mutual interest through a club or project. These are the people who are going to be there when you need a true friend in your life. Not the thousands of “followers” and “friends” on your social media accounts.

Who is going to bring you food when you’re sick, or come over when you’ve been fired to comfort you. Who is going to hug you tight as you go through a miserable divorce or your dog dies?

True friends are also there to celebrate with you when things are going good! Online friends don’t throw you a surprise birthday party or wave goodbye as you depart for your honeymoon. True friends bring you flowers–and cake!

Pay attention to the humans in your life by giving them the gift of your undivided attention when you’re together. They deserve it. And so do you.

Book: Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On!


Suck-Your-Stomach-In-book

Order the Book!

Miss Meredith Sweetpea came across a cute book recently called Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On: What Southern Mamas Tell Their Daughters That the Rest of Y’all Should Know Too, by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, host of All Things Southern.

According to the book jacket, “Here’s everything you need to know from coping with the unexpected, competing in the Mr. Right Game Show, and raising children–to how to keep that marriage knot tied tight over time.” It is “Chock-full of Southern wit and wisdom, woven with quotes from real Southern Mamas, and sprinkled with recipes and other Southern secrets.”

Ever since the days of Scarlett O’Hara and beyond, Southern manners have showcased a woman’s “class” in Southern society. Without proper manners, a woman just “wouldn’t be accepted” into polite company.

I love all the little quotes from real Southern mothers, like:

  • “Never date anyone you wouldn’t consider marrying. You never know when you’ll fall in love.” –Lissa Spears, Natchez, Mississippi
  • “Southern ladies speak softly.”  –Monda Leggett, Denham Springs, Louisiana
  • “Just because it fits doesn’t mean you oughta wear it.”  –Tracy Nicholson, Thomasville, North Carolina
  • “Simple courtesy and gentleness help to grease the wheels of social interaction.”  –Betty Martin, Natchitoches, Louisiana
  • “Mama always told us at breakfast time not to ‘gouge the jelly!’ She would never let us dip jelly with a knife.” –Diane Collins, Tallulah, Louisiana
  • “If you don’t remember your manners, everyone else will!”  –Lisa Hilbers, Alba, Texas

The book also offers a wide range of Southern recipes including:

  • Mama’s Smothered Chicken
  • Sweet and Spicy Pecans
  • Fried Dill Pickles
  • Simple Shrimp Creole
  • Cheddar Muffins
  • Clean the Pantry Swamp Soup
  • Cornbread Fritters, and
  • Shellie’s Plum Peachy Pie

Knowing good manners is one thing, but reading about the Southern traditions with this tongue-in-cheek author doubles the fun. And although the writing is clever, it is also true. These are the manners that every woman–Southern or not–should know.

Order Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On!

 

Love Quotes: Love is Something You Do


love-hearts-Meredith-SweetpeaTo honor Valentine’s Day, Miss Meredith Sweetpea likes to remind everyone of a powerful quote by the spiritual leader David Wilkerson that says:

Love is not something you feel, it is something you do.

Wow. Are you spending your life waiting for love to find you, or are you out there giving love and acting in a loving manner? Remember, when you give love freely, it comes back to you threefold.

Love is Something You Do For Others

Think of an example when you didn’t feel very loving toward someone, yet acted in a kind and loving manner. Perhaps you met someone at church or in a social setting who was sad. Did you take a moment to feel their sadness and respond accordingly, or did you act impatient and look for an escape? Sometimes just taking a moment to listen completely and offer a gentle, kind and appropriate response can make all the difference in a person’s day. As a bonus, it also makes you feel good.

Do you look for ways to help others? On this Valentine’s Day, not everyone has a sweetheart with whom to share the day. Perhaps they are newly single or widowed. Maybe they are new in town. Look for singles and invite them to join you–either on the holiday or some day this week. Let them know that they are special and loved even if it’s not Valentine’s Day.

Love is Something You Do for Your Family

Don’t forget your family members. I’m sure there are people in your own family who need your loving care right now. We often forget those who are closest to us as we look to make a difference in the world. Be sure to treat your family members in a loving way, even if you don’t really feel loving at the moment. Did you tell everyone in your own family today that you love them? Or show it in some way? If not, do it now.

Love is Something You Do for Yourself

Even if there is nobody who gives you love today, you can still love yourself. Treat yourself as the important, kind and loving person you are. There is no shame in treating yourself to some kindness. Think of ways you can pamper or indulge yourself, be it a good book, a dinner out, or a candlelit bath.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea wishes everyone a sweet and happy Valentine’s Day. And remember, love is an active choice; not a waiting game.

Be Careful What You Post on the Internet


girls-drinking-Meredith-SweetpeaSocial media is fun. It’s a blast to post everything you’re doing and to get “likes” from your friends and followers. Social media can also be a problem, however, depending on what you post.

The National League of Cotillions* states that, “While it is tempting to create a wild or crazy video of yourself, you need to consider the bigger picture. What if, a few years from now, you send your resume to a large corporation and they do an Internet search as part of their due diligence and up comes an offensive video with you as the star? Well, there goes your job!”

But I Deleted That Picture/Video!

“You may say, ‘Well, I had that deleted.’ Good luck! Continue reading

How to Be a Good Conversationalist


good-conversationist-between-womenMiss Meredith Sweetpea has noticed a dearth of good conversation lately. It seems people are mostly interested in themselves or have no idea what to talk about–which doesn’t make the best conversation or the best conversational partner. It is becoming increasingly difficult to enjoy social situations when people just don’t know how to have a good conversation any more.

In social groups, put away the cell phones and actually take the time to speak with–and take interest in–others in the room.

Want to be a better conversationalist?
Use these conversation tips:

Continue reading

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