The Etiquette of Calling Cards

Victorian-era etiquette required that anyone paying a social call provide a calling card. Upon arriving at the house of an acquaintance, the caller would hand their card, containing their name, to the servant answering the door. The card would then be placed on a silver tray and brought to the master or mistress of the house, so the visitor could be received. If the man or lady were not home, the card would be left for their reference.

Folding down one of the corners held special meaning:

  • Top left corner – visitor had paid a call in person.
  • Bottom left corner – goodbye or will be traveling.
  • Top right corner – congratulations.
  • Bottom right corner – condolences.

Popular designs included hearts, birds, scrolls, hands, and bouquets of flowers.


The Legend of the Hearth Cricket


With ancient roots in China, the cricket has long been considered to be a sign of eminent good fortune. The Chinese have traditionally kept the small black chirper as a pet within tiny cages. Over the years, Merry Old England came to adopt the thinking that a cricket in the home would ensure prosperity and health. On the other hand, a deceased cricket might be a foreboding sign of what’s to come. It was unthinkable for one to stomp on the insect…to do such a thing would be to flirt with disaster!

Inspired by this belief, the beloved 19th century English writer, Charles Dickens, titled one of his novels A Cricket on the Hearth. The book suggests that any Victorian possessing a superstitious nature should keep a brass cricket by their fireside in an effort to ward off ill fate from what would otherwise be a safe and happy “Home Sweet Home”.



What Lies Beneath

Victorians firmly believed in the importance of wearing the appropriate clothing for every occasion. So how did Victorian women create their famous silhouette? With no fewer than seven undergarments!


Victorian women wore an extraordinary amount of underwear: first came the chemise and drawers, followed by a corset, under-petticoat, crinoline or hoop skirt, over-petticoat, and bustle.

While our Hopeless Romantic Camisole & Petticoat set isn’t true to the original in all ways, it will certainly keep you cooler in those hot summer months. Layer this soft cotton duet beneath sweaters and skirts, or wear as a night set.


The Origins of “Jet-Black”

One of the more fascinating histories of Victorian jewelry is that of jet. Jet is a fossilized driftwood, smooth and lightweight with an intense black color, that can be found in the seaside cliffs of Whitby, England.

The most prolific patron of this “gemstone” was Queen Victoria. In an era that called for heavy and voluminous clothing, jet’s lightweight characteristics made it the perfect choice for large, eye-catching accessories that could be worn with comfort.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria took to wearing jet in remembrance of him, making it the unspoken practice for all to accessorize their black mourning fashions with jet jewelry.


Creating a Cozy Home

As we await the coming of autumn, we are reminded of crisp cool days, changing leaves, mugs of cider, and crackling fires in the hearth. Ready your home for the new season by adding pieces that will transform your home into a warm and welcoming space.

Here are our musings on creating the coziest of homes:

Seek plush, upholstered furniture. If you cannot envision yourself curled up on a sofa or chair with a book and a cup of tea, keep searching!


To add warmth, incorporate soft, touchable elements such as plush rugs, warm throws, and fluffy pillows. Add texture by mixing and matching different materials.


Choose warm, neutral wall colors for serenity and quiet.

Be sure to add multiple light sources, such as table lamps with ‘warm’ bulbs, setting the stage for intimate gatherings with guests or a night in.


Use softly glowing candles to fill the air with the delicious fragrances of fall.


Light a crackling fire in the fireplace (or create the illusion of one with a gas or electric fireplace!).

20185 fireplace

Add sentimental and antique accents, including family photos, to make any house feel like a home.


The Summer Journals

Forever in pursuit of the beautiful and obscure…the latest obsessions from your friends at Victorian Trading Co.


Melissa…Foundress & Hopeless Romantic


“Ah, to sprawl on a pieced cotton quilt under a shade tree… I stock my wicker hamper with epicurean olives, sharp cheese, cherries, chilled ginger beer and dark chocolate toffee.”

SHOP —Two-of-a-Kind Heart Picnic Basket


“Lest there be a pesty picnic crasher looming in the clover, Nature’s Cloak is a delightfully aromatic repellant blended with essential oils of rose geranium, lavender, lemon tea tree and cedar wood that summon a faraway childhood summer day spent wandering in a flower-ridden field.”

SHOP —Nature’s Cloak Insect Repellent


“There are no words to convey how sublime my cocoon silk throw is to the touch…an inducer of lovely dreams. I keep one in my office on the feather daybed when a nap is stolen from my busy day.”

SHOP—Little Piece of Heaven Silk Sublime Throw



Julie…Product Design Diva


“No matter where my travels take me, this suitcase cover not only protects my bag but announces my individuality.  It is perfect for the savvy traveler and you will be the envy of the baggage claim carousel.”

SHOP—Still Life with Flowers Luggage Cover


“Partly because the Frenchie in the picture is my very own Gigi, I will say that this pearl collar is a show-stopper. It is sure to make your dog feel ‘fetching’ and bring out your dog’s inner Diva.”

SHOP—Opulent Pet Leash


“My little secret.  Such a fun way to feel feminine and make naughty a nice practicality. It really stays up and holds my essentials and frees my hands so that I can use them to talk.”

SHOP—Secret Stash Garter



Andrea…Marketing Mademoiselle


“I’ve always been drawn to colored glass, as it reminds me of my mother’s Depression-era glassware. Love this combination of pretty jewel-tones.”

SHOP—Belvedere Stemware


“This nightgown is so romantic, and I love the delicate lace details. My aunts always told me that yellow is a redhead’s best color!”

SHOP—Buttercup Nighty


These notebooks are almost too pretty to write in. I’m a list-maker, so these will certainly come in handy.”

SHOP—Birds of a Feather Notebook Set



Linda…New Product Fairy Godmother


“I love that something as fragile as found butterfly wings are given new life in a way that celebrates their ethereal beauty.”

 SHOP—Rothschild Butterfly Pendant Necklace


“Every time I see this cunning glassware it makes me smile…and when it’s filled with my beverage of choice, I can’t help but be an optimist.”

SHOP—Optimist-Pessimist Glass Tumbler


“Everyone who knows me knows that I love cookies. These delicious almond-flavored cookies, made using a German Springerle mold by the Sisters of St. Benedict in Indiana, are little works of art.”

 SHOP—Baked in a Convent Almerle Cookies



Carrie…Merchandising Maven


“I enjoy entertaining family and friends, especially during the laid-back summer months.  We spend many an evening around the fire pit in our patio. Presentation is part of the fun, can’t wait to see the expressions when drinks are served.”

SHOP—Willow Beverage Serving Set


“I love these lanterns.  They are beautiful, eliminate the need for batteries, and are solar powered.”

SHOP—Solar Lacy Lantern


“Fun for all ages!  I enjoy having something special for all my guests, can’t wait to see reactions from my daughters, nieces, nephews, and friends.”

SHOP—Ant Appetizer Picks



Diane…Belle of the Boutique


“Lake-bound…that is where you will find me this summer. On my dock, in the hammock, listening to tunes.”

SHOP—Parisian Barefoot Sandals


SHOP—Wedding Hammock


SHOP—Opaline Earbuds

The Crowning of May



The ancient rite that is May Day originated in the English countryside before the Middle Ages as a celebration of the halfway point between spring and summer. But it is perhaps best remembered as a popular Victorian festivity. On May 1st, children and young women would gather wildflowers to be woven into garlands and arranged in baskets. Maidens would dab their faces with the May Day dew, believed to preserve beauty. A rousing round of “Ring & Run” ensued, whereby fresh bouquets of spring blossoms were delivered in secret to doorsteps around town. If one was caught in flight, a kiss was claimed. Donning fresh white linens, youths gathered around the Maypole—fashioned from a large birch branch with ribbons fixed to its tip. Around they would dance, circling the pole with ribbon in hand whilst singing:

All hail gentle spring

With thy sunshine and showers,

And welcome the sweet buds

That burst in the bowers;

Again we rejoice as thy light step and free

Brings leaves to the woodland and flowers to the bee,

Bounding, bounding, bounding, bounding

Joyful and gay,

Light and airy, like a fairy,

Come away, come away.

Come see our new garland so green and so gay;

‘Tis the first fruits of spring and the glory of May.

Here are the cowslips and daisies and hyacinths blue,

Here are the buttercups bright and anemones, too.

~Flora Thompson (1878-1947)

The fairest maiden of the group was then crowned “Queen of the May” and thereby entitled to preside over games and the serving of punch and cake.

May these joyful May Day traditions live on! Take a moment to revel in a dewy cutting from the garden or leave an anonymous bouquet upon the front stoop of a neighbor, friend, or love interest. Let us wish a warm welcome to the month of May!

Source: Ban Breathnach, Sarah. Victorian Family Celebrations. p.  106-113. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1990.

Run for the Roses

peytona and fashion
Photo credit: The Smithsonian

In 1872, Meriwether Lewis Clark—grandson of the American explorer William Clark of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition—attended the Epsom Derby during his travels through England. He was so enthralled with the whole affair that upon his return to the States, he secured a piece of land for a racetrack and established the Louisville Jockey Club. On May 17th, 1875, the inaugural Kentucky Derby unfolded before 10,000 cheering spectators.

Over the succeeding years, much fanfare was added to the derby. Traditions of draping the champion horse with a garland of roses, sporting elaborate hats, sipping mint juleps, and singing “My Old Kentucky Home” endeared the event to the American people and enhanced its popularity. Indeed the Kentucky Derby quickly became a favorite sports event of the 19th century and was deemed “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

This year marks the 142nd Annual Kentucky Derby, making it the longest-running sports event in American history!

Photo credit: The Filson Historical Society

Source: “Kentucky Derby History.” Kentucky Derby. <;.

Hot Cross Buns History & Recipe Share


There is a great deal of tradition and lore surrounding hot cross buns. According to some accounts, this sweet dough roll—studded with dried fruit and scored with a cross—dates back to the 12th century, when an Anglican monk was divinely inspired to bestow the Christian sign of the cross upon a batch of rolls in honor of Good Friday. The first written record of the hot cross bun, however, dates back to a 16th century rhyme:

Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns.

The tradition of making hot cross buns on Good Friday has persisted throughout the centuries and was a favorite Eastertide tradition of the Victorians. Popular superstition of the time suggested that leaving a hot cross bun to hang from the kitchen ceiling throughout the year warded off evil spirits and made for a happy home. Shavings from preserved hot cross buns mixed with water were believed to cure minor illnesses. And the sharing of a hot cross bun was thought to solidify a friendship, hence the old rhyme:

Half for you, and half for me, between us two good luck shall be.

A royal decree was even made regarding the humble hot cross bun. Queen Elizabeth I believed the bun was too special to be baked just any old day. And so she forbade the peddling of this delicacy on any occasion other than Good Friday, Christmas, or a Christian burial.

Come Friday, we’ll be donning our aprons and firing up our ovens to keep this ages-old traditional alive! Here is our recipe:

Mrs. Sharp’s Hot Cross Buns


  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk, scalded
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup currants
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg white


  • Soften yeast in warm water.
  • Dissolve sugar in scalded milk. Let milk cool, then combine 1 cup of flour, yeast, and milk-sugar mixture together. Beat together. Add butter, salt, eggs, and remaining flour. Hand beat until light (about 5 min.)
  • Cover with a damp dish towel, set in a warm spot, and let rise until doubled (about 1 hr.)
  • Beat down and then add currants and cinnamon.
  • Roll dough 1/2-inch thick on a floured board.
  • Shape into buns (or cut into circles using a small juice glass).
  • Place on a greased baking sheet.
  • Cover and let rise for about 30 min. or until dough feels springy and is about double in size.
  • Cut a deep cross into the top of each bun with a sharp knife. Brush with slightly beaten egg white.
  • Bake at 350 for 12-14 min.
  • To make a glaze, dissolve 4 teaspoons granulated sugar in 6 tablespoons of milk and boil for 2 minutes. Brush warm buns twice with this syrup to glaze.



Breathnach, Sarah Ban. Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions: Nostalgic Suggestions for Re-creating the Family Celebrations and Seasonal Pastimes of the victorian Home. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.  p.93.

Rheinlander Bakery. “What Are Hot cross Buns?”. <;.

“5 Great Historical Myths & Traditions About Hot Cross Buns, a Pre-Easter Pastry.” <;.

Mrs. Neilan’s Raisin Bread Recipe


Mrs. Neilan’s Raisin Bread

A recipe borrowed from Our Irish Grannies’ Recipes: A Unique Collection of Delightful Recipes from Grannies’ Kitchens All Over Ireland

I never actually met Mrs. Neilan—as far as I know, she was a neighbour of my granny’s. However, this was one of the first things I baked by myself as a child, and it still always reminds me of my granny—the cinnamon-y aroma, the taste of the plump, juicy raisins and the moist consistency of this cake that just cries for a cup of tea to accompany it. For me, this is what baking is all about—memories.

~ Helen Dalton

N.B. : This recipe is as authentically Irish as they come. You will find measurements in mugs and teacups. And you will not find a temperature setting for your oven. We have added a few notes to help interpret Mrs. Neilan’s intentions. After all, baking should be an adventure, embarked upon with wild abandon!


  • 1 mug raisins (1 cup)
  • 2 mugs flour (2 cups)
  • 1 teacup sugar (2/3 c.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (all spice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg


  • Boil the raisins in 1 1/2 cups of water until the liquid is reduced to 1 mug.
  • Pour off the raisin water and let it cool.
  • Put the raisins to dry on newspaper. (This can be done overnight).
  • Roll the dried raisins in the flour and mix with the remaining dry ingredients.
  • Beat an egg, mix it with the raisin water, and add to dry ingredients.
  • Mix well.
  • Pour into a well-greased and lined tin.
  • Bake in a moderately hot preheated oven (~325 F) for about one hour.