TableTopics, A Great Way to Start a Conversation | Gracious Living

Now that we know what topics to avoid, (see “Conversation Topics to Avoid“), just what can we talk about in polite society?

Miss Meredith Sweetpea came across a wonderful little invention called “TableTopics: Questions to Start Great Conversations.”

TableTopics is a Fun Way to Start a Conversation


Stuck for conversation ideas?
Try TableTopics

In each little 4″ acrylic box, you’ll find 135 game cards offering suggestions for conversational topics. They ask questions like, “What did you get into trouble for the most when you were young?”, “Is intelligence or common sense more important?”, and “What was your strangest date ever.” The game was created for adults, but is appropriate for anyone age 12 and up.

Currently, there are numerous editions available, including Continue reading


The Halloween Cake | Victorian Holidays

Meredith Sweetpea talked about Victorian Halloween games that foretold the future in her last post, but perhaps one of the most important traditions for Halloween in Victorian times was the Halloween Cake or Ribbon Cake.

The Halloween Cake

It was tradition to cut the first slice at the stroke of nine by one person designated to be “Dame Halloween.”

Silence Around the Table

Everyone was to gather around the table in perfect silence, and the first word spoken after the initial slice was deemed to be prophetic, and Dame Halloween had the power to make it meaningful.

As the slices are cut and delivered, each girl searches for their charm. For those who found no charm, they were to take their cake home and on the next full moon, sleep on it for three successive nights.

This was a cake with a variety of little charms baked into it. The cake was sliced and served, and whatever charms each person received foretold their future.

Meaning of Charms in the Victorian Halloween Cake

  • Penny — Wealth or good fortune
  • Doll — Children
  • Key — Travel
  • Ring — Marriage
  • Thimble — Single life
  • Button — Forlorn sweethearts

Halloween Cake Poem

This little poem describes the tradition:

The ring for marriage within a year;
The penny for wealth, my dear;
The thimble for old maid or bachelor born;
The button for sweethearts all forlorn;
The key for a journey to make all right;
And this you will see next Halloween night.

Old Fashioned Halloween Games | Victorian Holidays

The Halloween holiday in Victorian times centered around romance, love, fate and fortune with a variety of games designed to predict the future.

Perhaps it was because the holiday fell at All Hallows Eve, a harvest festival that began in ancient England and Scotland where people paid homage to their dearly departed. They believed the veil between the supernatural and real worlds became thin and offered ideal opportunity to look into the future.

Meredith Sweetpea loves to play some of the fortune telling games of the past. Here are some for you to enjoy:

Victorian Halloween Games

Apple Grab

Etch the names of all the boys and girls at the party onto apples. Place the boys’ names into one barrel, and all the girls’ names into another. Take turns “grabbing” an apple from the barrel of the opposite sex using anything BUT your hands. The apple you grab will name your true love.

Tossing the Apple Peel

Girls should peel an apple, making sure the peel is kept intact in one long winding strip. She then tosses the peel over her shoulder, and lets it fall to the ground. The peel will fall into a shape that represents the initial of the first name of her true love.

Pou’ the Stocks

This game called “Pou’ the Stocks,” or pulling the stalks is a game where blindfolded participants pull up cabbages in the garden. The stalks and roots gave clues to the future. The more dirt clinging to the stalk means the wealthier the spouse. A closed white stalk means an old and possibly stingy mate, a full, green head means a lover younger and more attractive.

Bowls of Fate

A blindfolded person dips their hand into one of three bowls, each filled with a different colored water. The red water signified good fortune, blue represented a trip across water, and clear water foretold an upcoming honor. You could use clear or cloudy water to signify a happy or unhappy marriage, or marriage and spinsterhood/bachelorhood.

How Many Years to Marriage

In another game a blindfolded maiden could attempt to blow out candles. The number of candles she blows out signifies the number of years until she will marry.

Do you have any old fashioned games you’d like to share?

Forfeits | Old Fashioned Games

"Forfeits" oil painting by George Bernard O'Neill

When Meredith Sweetpea was in Ireland this spring she met a gentleman who told how he and his friends would play a game of “forfeits.” Forfeits is an old game, played for centuries. In it, a person is challenged to do something silly or outrageous when he fails at a task or, in this case, wants to retrieve an item. It can be played with any number of people and is lots of old-fashioned fun.

How to Play Forfeits

All players should sit in a ring, and each player puts a piece of clothing, jewelry or something personal into a pile or a closed box.  These are the “forfeits.” Try to put each item in in secrecy, it adds to the fun.

One person is chosen to be the judge, and another holds up any item from the pile over or behind the judge’s head. The judge cannot and should not see what the item is.

The person holding the items then says to the judge:”

“Heavy, heavy hangs over thy head.
What shall the owner do to redeem the forfeit?”

The judge then commands the owner of the item to do an act or stunt in order to get back their property.

Of course, the judge and the person who is holding up the forfeit also have articles in the pile, and they must act out a command in order to get them back, too!

Here are 20 forfeit ideas to get you started:

  1. Stand on your head.
  2. Have each person in the group ask a question to which you have to answer “yes.”
  3. Sing a song.
  4. Tell a ghost story.
  5. Tell a joke.
  6. Make at least 3 people laugh.
  7. Dance a jig.
  8. Travel across the room on your knees.
  9. Act like a cat: meow and rub up against someone while on all fours.
  10. Give a one-minute talk about elephants.
  11. Say five times fast: “Three big blobs of a black bug’s blood.”
  12. Yawn until you can make someone else yawn.
  13. Say five times fast: “Truly rural.”
  14. Holding on foot in one hand, hop around the room.
  15. Crawl under the table on all fours and bark like a dog.
  16. Recite a limerick.
  17. Mimic how to make a pie without talking.
  18. Eat popcorn out of a bowl without using your hands.
  19. Kiss the wall backwards. Stand 20 inches from wall and lean backwards until your lips touch the wall. (no lipstick please)
  20. Place three strong straight-backed chairs side by side. Life with your head on the first chair and your feet on the third, with folded arms and a stiff body. Have someone remove the middle chair and hold your post for 10 seconds.

Forfeits” by George Bernard O’Neill (17 July 1828 – 23 September 1917), a prolific Anglo-Irish genre painter. Game excerpted from

The Game of Life by Milton Bradley | Old Fashioned Games

Did you know that the Game of Life was invented in Victorian times?

The History of “Life”

Invented in 1860 by Mr. Milton Bradley, the original goal of the game was to “reach a Happy Old Age” by earning points for admirable qualities like honor and perseverance. In the modern version, the goal is to win the most money.

Milton Bradley ran a Massachusetts lithography business and when his presses were slow, he decided to create game. Since board games were associated with gambling, he chose to create a game based on morals and named it “The Checkered Game of Life.” It penalized a player for gambling, and used a spinner instead of dice as to avoid the reference to gambling dice inferred. It sold over 40,000 copies.

Updates to the game occurred between 1866 and 1911, but the popularity of morals faded, so in the 1950s a new version was created to celebrate the game’s 100th anniversary in 1960. Changes included a 3-D game board, new rules, a new name (The Game of Life), and a promotional deal with favorite television personality Art Linkletter. This version rewarded players for gambling.

The game was changed again in the 1990s with the addition of tiles promoting family activities, community service, and environmentalism.

2010 celebrated the 150th anniversary of The Game of Life, which is now available not only as a board game, but as a computer game and downloadable app. Today’s game does not mention gambling.


Watch a Vintage TV Commercial
See a 1960s vintage TV commercial for The Game of Life  here.

Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley trained as a draftsman and opened his lithography business in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1860. His best selling lithograph was of a young presidential candidate–Abraham Lincoln–until Lincoln grew a beard.

His idea for a game involved using a converted checkerboard with labels on the squares. Landing on titles like “gambling” that led the player to “ruin,” and “intemperance” that led to “poverty.” It was perfect for the moralistic Victorian era.

The next year the Civil War began and soldiers were bored much of the time. This turned out to good fortune for Bradley when charitable organizations purchased and distributed his game kits to the soldiers. They were sold to the organizations for a dollar apiece and included “The Checkered Game of Life,” backgammon, checkers, chess, and dominoes.

But Bradley didn’t rest here. He took on the ideas of German Friedrich Frobel, who was then advocating the kindergarten movement for young children, in which toys were used to spark childrens’ imaginations. Bradley began supplying educational toys to kindergartens. Even though this division of his company lost money, Bradley stayed behind the cause and continued to provide educational toys. Unfortunately, he died just before the idea of creative play became popular and did not see the company’s success in this area.

Meredith Sweetpea loves old-fashioned games and has played The Game of Life many, many times.  Have you?

See other vintage games from the 1960s here.

Twenty Questions | Old Fashioned Games

During the Victorian Age, children and adults enjoyed playing Twenty Questions, and Meredith Sweetpea has been known to enjoy this game as well.

One person thinks of a person, place or thing/object, but keeps that thought a secret from the other players.

The other players then have the opportunity to ask the thinker questions to guess what that thing might be.

The only answer the designated person can give though is “yes” or “no.”

The game continues until the answer is guessed or a total of 20 questions have been asked—whichever comes first.


Designated person:  Thinks of a car.

Sample Questions:

  1. Is it a person?  “No.”
  2. Is it an object?  “Yes.”
  3. Is it bigger than a breadbox?  “Yes.”
  4. Does it have a motor?  “Yes.”
  5. Is it used around the house?  “No.”
  6. Is it something people can pick up? “No.”
  7. etcetera
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