The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Indian Summer" is here!

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How did the Victorians survive hot weather, wearing 3 or more layers of clothing year-round?  They had their ways, which are just as helpful now as in 1852.  Unsurprisingly, Godey's Lady's Book has suggestions that are useful for this time of year.  Here is one tip for making cut flowers last longer:

“To Preserve Flowers in Water.—Mix a little carbonate of soda with the water, and it will preserve the flowers for a fortnight.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11: memorial events in the Bay Area

Everyone over the age of 15 remembers the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  The United States was affected in a way we have not been since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but the attack that happened 10 years ago came from an enemy we were not actively at war with, and for religious, more than political, reasons.  There are many lessons that we are still learning from the events of September 11th, and while the 10-year anniversary marks a time period that has seen some advances in security, there is still a long way to go in the cause of safety and freedom.

Many people blame all religions for the war, but the real culprit is selfishness, the devaluing of human life, and the desire for power at all cost, which can be expressed through atheism as well as organized (or dis-organized) religion.  Many people also blame God for the tragedy, but if you or I went out and robbed a bank today, would we have the right to blame it on God and weasel out of taking responsibility for our own actions?  God has given everyone the same choice; it's the ultimate "equal opportunity."

Every minute of every day, we all face the same choice again and again: to know what is good and to do it, or to have it our own way.  We are in the middle of a world where the overwhelming majority choose their own way instead of the right way, and this is the anniversary of one dramatic, wide-reaching consequence, which has sucked innocent people into its whirlpool of torment.  God allows us our own way, but He also allows the natural consequences to occur because He is fair.  He is not sitting up on a cloud with a thunderbolt in His hand, just waiting to punish people.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making strawberry ice cream the Victorian way: without a freezer!

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I got 3 pints of strawberries at the farmer's market last week, and they've been sitting in the fridge since I brought the home!  A bunch of great strawberries that will go bad if I don't do something with them *right now* is a great motivator to get into the kitchen!  But the house is too hot to make jam, and berries this ripe shouldn't be cooked (much) anyway, I think.  Ice cream sounds good, but I don't have an ice cream maker.  There is a popular recipe for making ice cream without a machine, but it involves cooking an egg custard, and taking the mixture out of the freezer to stir it around every 30 minutes for 2 to 3 hours.  I think I have a better idea (although it will make more of a semifreddo instead of a soft ice cream texture)!

"Strawberry Ice Cream.--Mix one pound of strawberry juice, strained and sweetened, with one pint of whipped cream; if to be frozen in a mould, add a little isinglass, melted and strained.  If to be eaten in glasses, isinglass is not necessary."  From The Good Housekeeper, by Lydia Maria Child, 1841.

Now, I am not going to do this exactly as Mrs. Child directs (I can't leave well enough alone).  I'm not using isinglass (a kind of gelatin) for one thing.  I'm also not using strained strawberry juice; I'm going to mash the strawberries with the sugar, and fold them into the whipped cream.  Then I'm going to line a baking dish with plastic wrap, pour the mixture in, and just freeze it.  I also inherited some fancy Jello-molds from my grandma so I may line some of them with plastic and make little molded ice creams for fun!  
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)