The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yay! New history research project!

ca. 1840 silk dress in the Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
O.k., I've been volunteering in the Collections Center at the history museum where I'm on staff (in a different department) off an on for the past few years (mostly during the summers), but steadily once a week for the past 6 months.  I'm assisting the Registrar in various tasks having to do with restoring, labeling, identifying, photographing, storing, and making records for various artifacts in the collection.  All very cool because I, as a part-time volunteer, get to work directly with the artifacts with very little supervision (the perks of working with a small museum that is underfunded and understaffed, and yet has a huge collection to maintain).  The Registrar knows of my interest in and experience with historic textiles and fashion history, so he's assigned me to work primarily with the textile items that need processing and care.  It's been really fun and interesting!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

An Old Christmas Greeting
Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day,
Twine mistletoe and holly,
For friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let’s all be jolly.
-- old nursery rhyme

May you and yours have the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Victorian Christmas customs, ca. 1855

CHRISTMAS AND ITS CUSTOMS.  By Caroline A. White.  (from Godey's Lady's Book, December 1855)
THERE is something so congenial to human nature, so absolutely necessary to the health of mind and body, in the relaxation which festivals afford, that we do not wonder at the unwillingness which Sir Isaac Newton tells us the heathens felt to part with their holidays ... During the continuance of this antique feast, every one interchanged presents with his neighbor; their houses were decorated with evergreens and laurel; no criminal was punished; no arms taken up; the very slaves were permitted to sit at the table with their masters, in allusion to the happy equality which was supposed to have existed during the reign of Saturn; nay, banquets were sometimes made for them, at which their masters served—a custom whose shadow still lingers with us in the yule feast once common in the baronial halls of England, and not yet quite exploded from them.
We know of hospitable hearths, whose yeomen-proprietors annually preside at a supper given to their laborers, or, if this part of the business be deputed to their bailiff or foreman, at least make their appearance amongst them, to utter the old-fashioned but hearty “Much good may it do you!” and to give and receive the gratulations of the season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home remedies for the common cold, ca. 1870.

Image from ClipartETC.

Aaargh!  With the changing weather -- the usual autumn winds, and unusual amounts of rain -- it's cold season again at The Cup That Cheers!  That means another seasonal foray into the antique domestic manuals and cookbooks for advice.  The following tips come from the Excelsior cook book and housekeeper’s aid, from 1870.  Beware the liberal use of paregoric (opium) and other dangerous ingredients!

If feverish, bathe the feet in warm water, take some hot herb tea, or hot lemonade, but use no spirits, as this will only increase the fever.  Get up a perspiration, and be careful about exposure the next day.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving preparations, ca. 1915

image from Grandma's Graphics
"How to Select Poultry.

In selecting poultry full-grown fowls have the best flavor, provided they are young.  The age may be determined by turning the wing backward--if it yields, it is tender.  The same is true if the skin on the leg is readily broken.  Older poultry makes the best soup.  The intestines should be removed at once, but frequently in shipping they are left in and, hence, when removed, the fowl needs washing in several waters.  The next to the last water should contain a half teaspoonful of baking soda, which sweetens and renders all more wholesome.  The giblets are the gizzard, heart, liver and neck."-- from The Bride's Cook Book, ca. 1915.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chit-chat of November fashions from 1850

_Peterson's Magazine_, 1850.

CHIT-CHAT OF NOVEMBER FASHIONS. (Godey's Lady's Book, November 1850)

To commence with out-door dress, it will be noticed that the favorite materials for walking costumes are merino, cashmeres, and silks. The first are exquisitely fine and soft, falling to the figure ... Plain colors are most in favor, and, most of all, a new rich hue of dark brown; this is the most distingue of the multitude of shades that pile the counters of our merchants. Among them are every variety of greens, blues, crimson, corn color, purples, browns, and scarlets. The same hues are in cashmere, with the advantage of being lighter and a trifle less costly. There are several styles of trimming for these heavy materials; one very simple, alternate rows of wide and very narrow plain silk braid, or galloon. A more expensive mode is velvet of the same color as the dress, embroidered with narrow braid, which has a richer effect than embossing, and, being so heavy, is suitable for an out-door costume. Alternate folds of cashmere and satin are also very pretty, but not decidedly new. Worsted lace is also much used, and a quilling of plain or velvet ribbon is always elegant.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Experimenting with domestic receipts: historic hair washes.

Image from ClipArtETC.
Over the years of reading historic household manuals, etiquette books, and cookbooks, I have seen many recipes and instructions for making cosmetics, personal cleansers and any number of toiletries, and while my allergy to almonds prevents me from trying many of them (since almond oil seems to have been a popular ingredient), I have recently been experimenting with some of the recipes for hair washes.  It began in the spring – I don’t remember exactly how – with me reading the recommendations posted to a discussion forum for people with long hair.  People were doing so many different things to encourage their hair to grow, to improve its texture, and it never really occurred to me that using anything other than my modern shampoo and conditioner would make a difference with my hair.  My hair is waist-length, very fine, and I don’t have much of it, but it has good color and a smooth texture, and I’ve been pretty satisfied with my regular hair-care routine, which is as minimal as I can make it!  I’m not one for serums and other products in my hair; I basically shampoo and condition 3 times a week, brush it every morning and evening, and wear it in a ponytail every day.  I own a can of hair spray, a canister of mousse and a tube of hair gel, as well as an assortment of bobby pins and hair pins, which I use when I put my hair up into a historic hair style, but that’s pretty much it.  However, the women on the hair forum were discussing the use of regular bar soap, bar shampoos, and various hair rinses instead of commercial shampoos and conditioners for cleaning their hair.  It was intriguing to think that I might be able to get out of buying huge bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and still keep my hair in good condition.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gardening operations for October, ca. 1858.

Nikolay Dimitrov,

1040. OCTOBER.—Flowers of the month.—China-aster, holly, and ivy.
1041. Gardening Operations.—Sow rose-tree seeds and fruit stones, also larkspurs and the hardier annuals to stand the winter, also hyacinths and smooth bulbs, in pots and glasses.  Plant young trees, cuttings of jasmine, honeysuckle, and evergreens.  Sow mignionette in pots for winter.  Plant cabbages, &c., for spring.  Cut down asparagus, separate roots of daisies, irises, &c.  Trench, drain, and manure.
-- from Inquire Within for Anything You Want To Know, by Dr. Chase. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards: And the 2012 winners are ...

Association of Tea Bloggers
The results are finally in!  I am ashamed to say I haven't tried most of these teas, but that means I now have a great excuse to buy more tea: I have to get to know the winning teas!  These are the winners of the Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards for 2012.  

  • Unblended/Unflavored Black :  Teavivre Yunnan Dian Hong Golden Tip 
  • Blended/Flavored Black:  Harney and Sons Earl Grey Supreme 
  • Unblended/Unflavored Green:  Den's Tea Gyokuro Kin 
  • Blended/Flavored Green:  Aiya Tea Matcha Infused Sencha 
  • Unblended/Unflavored Oolong: Teavivre Jin Xuan Milk Oolong
  • Blended/Flavored Oolong: Naivetea Lychee Oolong
  • Unblended/Unflavored White: Rishi-Silver Needle Premium
  • Blended/Flavored White: Art of Tea Coconut Creme White Tea
  • Unblended/Unflavored Puerh: Rishi Ancient Puerh Classic
  • Blended/Flavored Puerh: Stash Black Forest Cake Puerh
  • Herb Blend: David's Tea Chocolate Rocket
  • Single Herb: David's Tea Spearmint

Have you tried these teas?  What do you think of them? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gardening operations for September 1858

Grandma's Graphics.

This is from one of the many long-winded instruction books available on Google Books: Inquire Within For Anything You Want To Know, from 1858.

1038. SEPTEMBER.—Flowers of the month.—Clematis, or traveller’s joy, arbutus, and meadow saffron.
1039. Gardening Operations.—Plant crocuses, scaly bulbs, and evergreen shrubs.  Propagate by layers and cuttings of all herbaceous plants, currant, gooseberry, and other fruit trees.  Plant out seedling pinks.  Sow onions for spring plantation, carrots, spinach, and Spanish radishes in warm spots.  Earth up celery.  House potatoes and edible bulbs.  Gather pickling cucumbers.  Make tulip and mushroom beds.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Autumn bonnet fashions from September 1855.

The Monitor, 1855.  Image from The Costumer's Manifesto.

The following is from Godey's Lady's Book, of course!

“PEOPLE,” in the Grundy sense, are beginning to arrive from watering-places and the country, with the first demand of absentees, fall bonnets.  Belgian straws, satin straws of mixed colors, as brown and white, black and white, or Leghorns, are the decided favorites.  The first is trimmed with a mixture of ribbon and black blonde as simply as may be, with perhaps a few field-flowers inside the cap, or a bouquet on one side, mixed with lace.  One of the most elegant we have seen had a large crimson poppy, with a black heart; buds and leaves arranged around it, as above; the strings were, of course, a rich crimson and black ribbon.  This bonnet was appropriately worn with a black silk dress and mantle.  Leghorns are much trimmed with straw in bands, bouquets, rosettes, etc.  Black and white satin straws are the favorite bonnets in half mourning; they have black taffeta ribbon and straw gimps, mingled in loops, bands, and bows.  Those who have had transparent straws through the summer sometimes prefer to have them made up over dark shades of blue or green to purchasing entirely new bonnets.  Most of the fancy braids will do up to look almost as well as new for a second season, particularly French lace straws, and even Neapolitans.  The autumn ribbons are, as usual, very rich in color and variety of shading.  Plaids and strips or moire and velvet, with taffeta, either in the same or contrasting colors, are the favorites.  Never was there a season when ribbons were more in use for dresses, mantles, even chemisettes and  undersleeves.  In all our large cities, “ribbon stores have become a feature.”  They sometimes have embroideries also; but other establishments deal in nothing else.  Every hue of the rainbow—every shade of heaviness or delicacy in material is represented.  Velvet, moire, taffeta, gauze, and mixtures of all these, in widths from half an inch to six inches, are to be found."

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's the deadline for the ATB Award nominations!

Photo: Graeme Weatherston
Well, as usual, I've waited till the last minute to submit the nominations for the Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards!  Here are the nominations I'll be submitting today: 

Flavored black tea: Satori Tea Bar's Lady Londonderry 
Unflavored black tea: Taylor of Harrogate's Yorkshire Gold blend
Flavored oolong tea: Lisa's Tea Treasures' Louis XIV's Favorite Blackberry Jasmine Yin Ho blend
Unflavored oolong tea: Red Blossom Tea Company's Orange Blossom Phoenix Mountain Oolong
Flavored green tea: Celestial Seasonings' Candy Cane Lane blend
Unflavored green tea:  Koyto Obubu Tea Plantations' Genmaicha
Flavored white tea:  Republic of Tea's Orange Blossom 100% White Tea blend
Unflavored white tea:
Flavored pu-erh tea:Unflavored pu-erh tea:
Unflavored pu-erh tea:
Blended herbal infusion:  Twinings' Lemon Ginger tisane
Single-herb infusion: Stash's Oregon Peppermint 

Here are some other blogs that are also submitting nominations.  Check them out!

The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook
Tea For Me Please
The Sip Tip
Black Dragon Tea Bar
The Devotea's Tea Spouts
Joy's Teaspoon
Scandalous Tea
Tea Happiness
Notes on Tea 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back from a summer afternoon in the 1850s

Here is my picnic spot, with a view of the Fallon House.
Photo by Kim.
Well, the ca. 1850 sheer dress I've been working on is finally finished enough to be wearable, although there are some things I'm going to have to tweak ...  But such is life!  Our Greater Bay Area Costumers' Guild Victorian Picnic was a success, with perfect weather (August in San Jose can be scorching hot, but we had a cool breeze all afternoon), plenty of shade, and everyone in wonderful mid-Victorian summer day dress.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's a Blog Carnival, and you're invited!

Mini pu-erh tuo cha: source unknown.
(They were a gift.)
What's the occasion?  The Association of Tea Bloggers and their Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards.  As a member of the Association, I'm collecting nominations for "favorite teas", and I have too many favorites!  I can only nominate one tea for each category (see below), but I drink mostly flavored black tea blends, and don't know which one to choose as my favorite, not to mention, I'm still getting familiar with the many other teas available and don't know that I have a favorite, say, oolong or pu-erh tea (yet).  So, I ask for your help: which are your favorite teas?

Black tea (flavored and unflavored): I have so many favorites (see previous post) for flavored tea blends, that it's just silly.  I still don't know which one to choose!  The ones I've been drinking most this summer (as cold-brew iced teas) include Satori Tea Bar's Earl Grey Creme which is a smooth vanilla Earl Grey, Lady Londonderry which is a strawberry-lemon scented black tea, and Valley of Heart's Delight which is a black tea flavored with stone fruits; Lisa's Tea Treasures' Royal Wedding which is a raspberry champagne flavored Darjeeling; and Whittard of Chelsea's Orange Blossom black tea.  My favorite unflavored black tea blend is between Taylor of Harrogate's Yorkshire Gold and Tfactor Specialty Teas' Cream of Assam, although I've started to become interested in 2nd flush Darjeelings ... I've also been drinking a lot of Tazo Tea's Chai, iced.  However, these are all blends, and I don't know that I have tasted that many unblended black teas!

Favorite tea.

vintage yellow rose cup and saucer
from my collection.

So, in choosing favorite teas to nominate for the Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards, I have more than one favorite tea in several categories!  I'm sure you can empathize!  Here are some of my current favorites: 

Earl Grey Creme from Satori Tea Bar 
Lady Londonderry from Satori Tea Bar 
The Valley of Heart's Delight from Satori Tea Bar
Bloomsbury Afternoon from The Ladies' Tea Guild 
The Royal Wedding from Lisa's Tea Treasures 
Earl Grey from The Good Earth 
Orange Blossom black tea from Whittard of Chelsea 
Yorkshire Gold from Taylor of Harrogate 
PG Tips from Brooke Bond 
Cream of Assam from Tfactor Specialty Teas 
Candy Cane Lane from Celestial Seasonings (makes a great iced tea!) 
Jasmine Green Tea from History San Jose (sold in their gift shop; don't know the actual source) 
Original Herb Blend from The Good Earth 
Lemon Ginger herbal tea from Stash 
Oregon Peppermint herbal tea from Stash 

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's your favorite tea?

What's in your teapot?

I just heard about a new "competition" called the Tea Bloggers' Choice Awards, and thought it would be fun to participate.  At first I thought I would need to choose my favorite tea blogs (but there are so many!) and nominate them for an award, but the "competition" is actually between tea blends, not companies or blogs.  Here is the explanation from the Association of Tea Bloggers website: 

"What are the TBC Awards?
The TBC Awards are independent awards of the Association of Tea Bloggers (ATB) determined by members of the Association of Tea Bloggers and their readers to celebrate favorite teas of the online tea marketplace.
- The awards showcase favorite teas of the online tea community
- The awards reveal useful info on tea consumer preferences
- It is NOT a list of “best” teas. Awards do not necessarily reflect a tea’s quality
- The awards encourage interaction between bloggers and their readers, strengthening their voice in the tea community
- The awards point new tea drinkers to teas they may also enjoy
Winners are announced once per year. Winning companies receive a formal statement of their tea having won a particular category and an official winner’s seal/logo that can be used in association with that product."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More summer fashion hints from Godey's of 1855

ca. 1860 sheer dress from St. Albans Museums.
Among the coolest-looking dresses for this hottest month of the year, we notice the so-called “pine-apple” tissues, that are more particularly imported by the India stores of Boston and New York.

One of these establishments is well worth a visit.  Crapes of every description in dress goods, shawls, and scarfs, cashmere shawls, pine-apple handkerchiefs of almost inconcievable fineness and delicacy, gorgeously embroidered taffetas, everything for which the India trade is celebrated, which sea captains bring, and ship owners import for their wives after a successful voyage, are here gathered together.
The pine-apple tissues of which we speak come in patterns, from ten to fourteen yards each, and are less expensive than ever before, ranging from $4 to $8.  They are in stripes, plaids, and checks, on a white ground, and almost transparent, or “see-through muslin,” as some gentleman happily characterized the present style of gossamer summer fabrics on their first introduction.  As they do not rumple or crush, they are especially suitable for flouncing.  The shade of blue, purple, green, etc., in which they come, being rather dull, a bright gauze ribbon trimming adds much to their effect, running around the edge of the flounces, and disposed on the waist and sleeves in bretelles, bows, etc., with flowing ends.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mid-Victorian sheer muslin dress inspiration

ca. 1850 fashion plate.
So, I'm slowly but surely working on my sheer dress for the GBACG Mid-Victorian Summer Picnic at the Fallon House at the end of next month.  Originally, I wanted to make my dress more ca. 1848 because I like the simple lines of Gold Rush-era styling, and I like the fact that not as many people do 1840s and 1850s costume as 1860s.  Not that more people shouldn't make the earlier Victorian styles, but I like being a little "different" from the majority, and with the popularity of Civil War re-enacting in the area, 1860s styles are much more frequently made.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Victorian recipe reborn -- summer pudding!

Summer pudding.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
It's "too darn hot" around here! Yet, there are festivities where sweet things are expected.  Ice cream and popsicles are always a good thing (I keep a box of popsicles or fudgesicles in the freezer all summer), but what if you want something a little more elegant, but you don't want to heat up the house?  Summer pudding is a refreshing, no-bake, party-worthy dessert.  Opinions differ as to the origins of the recipe; it seems to be a late-Victorian Trifle combined with a Charlotte.  No matter; it's delicious, and easy, and involves 2 minutes of simmering on the stove, so your house stays cool!  I made a summer pudding for a party on the 4th of July, and it went over really well.  Here is the recipe I used, based on a recipe from a book by Elizabeth David, posted to the Leite's Culinaria blog:

12 oz. frozen sweetened raspberries (thawed)
1 box fresh raspberries
1/2 lb. fresh sweet cherries (pitted)
2 Tablespoons plum jam (could use raspberry or strawberry)
1/4 cup sugar
1 loaf sliced white bread, day-old or dried slightly in the oven, crusts trimmed
heavy cream

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tips for a "Patriotic Evening Affair"

Image from

This information is from the Woman's Home Companion magazine from 1919:

“For a Patriotic Evening Affair”

Open Sandwiches, Allied Style
South Park Sweetbreads or Veal Souffle
Pineapple Mousse
Coffee or Shrub Punch

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Victorian enigma.

Can you discover the answer to this riddle?  It is an "enigma" from Godey's Lady's Book from July 1855.

Enigma 25. 
TAKE a cross letter, and two-thirds of the sea,
Unite them together; the product will be
What some people say gives to scandal a zest,
And oft is found worst where they say it is best;
A traitor’s its doom—for ‘tis quartered away,
And for such execution too dearly we pay;
Yet ‘tis treated still worse, for, by royal desire,
In the palace ‘tis “drawn” through hot water and fire. 

The clue to the answer is in the photo above!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Picnic recipes from Godey's of July 1855.

Lemon balm at History Park,
San Jose, Ca.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Wow, the weather is really starting to heat up around here!  June is usually not a really warm month in this area, but I think we'll be breaking some heat records in the next few days or so ... This is when we should air out the house and get outside in the cool mornings and evenings, and then shut ourselves away from the heat in the afternoon with something cold and refreshing to drink.  To get a break from sodas, make some iced tea or tisane (you can make it by the pitcher and just keep it in the fridge all the time) or some lemonade, which are not only good for hot weather, but for the sick and invalids, as recommended by Godey's Lady's Book in 1855:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New costume plan: a sheer dress from the 1840s!

Image from Wikipedia.
Well, I've settled on the 1840s as one of my favorite fashion eras, and now that I've made a nice wool gown from 1848-ish, I need a sheer gown for summer, right?  Of course.  My costume guild's upcoming Victorian Picnic in the garden of the Fallon House in San Jose gives me the perfect excuse reason to make what the Victorians called a "clear muslin gown".

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Celebrate the Queen's Jubilee with a special afternoon tea

Cherries Jubilee, Wikimedia Commons.
 Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria are the longest-reigning monarchs in the history of the U.K. -- amazing that they beat out all the men!  There are a lot of events and festivities scheduled for this weekend in the U.K., the Commonwealth nations, and in households where Brits, Canadians, and their friends live, including the Sunday Lunch (tomorrow).  Red, white and blue bunting, ribbons, and flags are used to decorate homes, businesses, and even cakes this year!  Many people are decorating regular cakes with the Union flag in fondant, or red and blue sprinkles, but why not adapt a recipe or two invented for Queen Victoria's Jubilee back in 1897 and bring some history into it?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tutorial: Steampunk-friendly millinery flowers

Japanese hana kanzashi flowers turned into
Steampunk-friendly millinery flowers!
I've taken a bit of a detour from my Victorian and 1912 day dresses and started to flesh out an idea I had for a Steampunk hat trim.  I usually don't make my own hat trims -- heck, I have trouble using pre-made trim and silk flowers on my hats -- because I just don't have the right kind of imagination to come up with something that looks good.  A few years ago I was at Costume Academy -- a one-day costume conference put on by the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild -- and ended up taking a class on hana kanzashi, or the delicate, elaborate flower-bedecked hairpins and headdresses that Japanese geishas wear. Making them involves doing origami with tweezers and 1/2 inch squares of hand-painted China silk ribbon to make the individual flower petals, and is very time-consuming and fiddly.  I didn't really know how I would ever use the information, but because I was getting ready to help with the costumes for a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado, I thought it might come in handy for making headdresses for the women in the cast.  While I didn't end up making any headdresses at that time, I did start thinking about how to alter the design and production for theater costume purposes.  I ended up with cool Steampunk propeller-flowers for my hat (which I don't have yet, but that's another story)!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Golden Gate National Cemetery, So. San Francisco, CA.

While the main conflicts of the Civil War occurred far away from San Jose, California did participate in the fighting, with local skirmishes between Union and Confederate sympathizers.  California was split between North and South in its sympathies, with more Confederate sympathy in southern California, and more Union sympathy in the North.  Since the gold fields were in Northern California, the Union received large donations of California gold, which greatly supported the war effort.  California’s brand-new state legislature also sent multiple companies of men to serve in the Union army, most ending up replacing more experienced soldiers stationed at army forts in the Midwest, but several seeing action on the front lines by joining up with Massachusetts and other Northern states’ militias.  The conflict split the nation in more ways than one, and the scars from those wounds are still sore in some areas of the U.S.!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Titanic Survivors' Reunion Picnic and Commemoration

"Wild Blue Yonder" rose
We had a lovely time at the Rose Garden on Saturday.  A small group of us gathered at a shady picnic table and enjoyed a menu inspired by the "Last Dinner on the Titanic" menu, as well as some recipes from Mrs. Rorer's cookbook from 1912.  Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the table or the food, but you can imagine from the menu:

Ginger Ale and Tea Punch
Iced Black Tea

Cucumber, Mint and Cream Cheese Sandwiches
view of the Rose Garden
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwiches
Creole Sandwiches (cream cheese, cheddar, tomato, and sweet pepper)
Stone-ground Wheat Crackers (standing in for the Cabin Biscuits from the Titanic menu)

Fresh Strawberries
Fresh Cherries
Coconut Cake
Coconut Lemon Sandwich Cookies

I wore my partially-restored antique lingerie blouse, with my walking skirt made from Sense & Sensibility's Beatrix Potter pattern.  It actually has a higher waistline, more in line with 1912 fashions, but because of the drape of the blouse, and the fact that my ribbon belt slid down to my natural waist, you can't tell from the photos.  I'll have to put it on again and take better photos of the line of the skirt.
"Europeana" roses

My friend Sara also wore a vintage dress; she actually took a vintage nightgown, made a slip out of vintage fabric to wear underneath, and wore it as a summer day dress with a vintage hat and parasol!  When I get the photos from the other ladies who were present, I'll post them.

It was extra fun because Saturday was Senior Prom for the local high schools, and there were a bunch of young ladies and gentlemen in evening dress, taking photos in the garden!  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another Titanic event to attend!

View of the Rose Garden from June 2004.
Although the majority of Titanic commemorative events happened last month, on or around the actual anniversary of the sinking, there are still a few here and there, providing more opportunities for wearing the costumes that everyone worked so diligently to complete.  The next one on the calendar for the San Jose area is the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild's Titanic Survivor's Reunion Picnic.  Here are the details:

Titanic Survivors’ Reunion Tea: Imagine yourself as someone who might have been a passenger on the Titanic, and survived the tragic sinking.  We'll get together for a picnic to celebrate our survival and remember those who were lost.  Gentlemen and older children welcome!
Date: Saturday, May 12, 2012.
Location: San Jose Municipal Rose Garden (near the Rosicrucian Museum)
Cost: $25 per person
Suggested Costume: day or dressy afternoon dress, 1900 through 1915, all classes.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Greet May 1st with Morris dancing!

Morris dancers in England.  By Kaihsu Tai,
GNU Free Documentation 1.2
My friend Amy is a Morris dancer and says that it's traditional to greet the sun (i.e. get up before sunrise and dance at dawn) on May 1st, "to make sure the sun will rise for the rest of the year."  So, if you happen to be up before 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, and you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, why not go down to one of the following Morris dancing performances?

Berkeley Morris: from 5:30 to 6:45 a.m. at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park.
Mad Molly: at 5:50 a.m. at the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
Goat Hill: at 5:45 a.m. in the Twin Peaks parking lot in San Francisco. E-mail goathillsquire (at) oakashthorn (dot) com for more information about the group.
Seabright Morris & Sword: at 5:30 a.m. at the Lighthouse on West Cliff Dr in Santa Cruz.
Apple Tree Morris: at 5:30 a.m. at the Sebastopol Community Center Youth Annex, 425 Morris St., Santa Rosa.

They say that there will be dancing all day long, so you may still be able to catch a performance even if you can't be there at dawn!  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Oh, Fair to See", by Christina Rossetti

Fruit tree in bloom.
Oh! Fair To See 
Oh, fair to see 
Bloom-laden cherry tree, 
Arrayed in sunny white: 
An April day’s delight, 
Oh, fair to see! 

Oh, fair to see 
Fruit-laden cherry tree, 
With balls of shining red 
Decking a leafy head, 
Oh, fair to see! 
-- by Christina Rossetti 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"The Valley of Heart's Delight", a poem from 1931.

Orchard in bloom. 

The Valley of Heart's Delight
The Santa Clara Valley is
To those who hold it dear
A veritable paradise
Each season of the year.

One loves it best in April
When the fruit trees are in bloom
And a mass of snowy blossoms
Yields a subtle sweet perfume.
When orchard after orchard
Is spread before the eyes
When the whitest of white blossom
'Neath the bluest of blue skies.

No brush can paint the picture
No pen describe the sight
That one can find in April
In "The Valley of the Heart's Delight."
-- Clara Louise Lawrence, "The Valley of the Heart's Delight" (1931)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Working on a Titanic costume project.

ca. 1911 day dress
Well, as everyone around here knows, this Sunday marks the 100th year since the tragic sinking of the Titanic, and I'm planning to attend some of the memorial events in the Bay Area.  While the Titanic dinner sounds fabulous, it's way out of my budget, and I didn't have anything to wear to the Titanic Ball last weekend.  A few friends from my costume guild are meeting for tea at a local tea room, and going to see the 3-D version of James Cameron's "Titanic" immediately afterwards.  I don't plan to join them for the movie, because 3-D movies always give me headaches, but I'll be there for tea!  That means a costume from 1912 ...

my vintage "pneumonia blouse"
I made a ca. 1911 shirtwaist and skirt for the California Woman's Suffrage Centennial last fall, so if I don't get anything else made, I can wear that.  I also have a 1912-ish blue lingerie gown that a friend made and passed on to me when she could no longer wear it, and it's just barely big enough (if I pull my corset laces tight!), but I need to put the hem up so I don't trip.  I've also been working on a ca. 1910-ish linen skirt and jacket, and I have a vintage ca. 1912 lingerie blouse that would be perfect with them.  However, the skirt is in the Edwardian high-waist style and I discovered that I don't have the right materials to make the fitted under-waistband that will keep the skirt waist at its proper position.  I haven't even cut the jacket out yet, and the vintage blouse is damaged and needs restoration, including the removal of rust stains.

Then, on top of that, I need the accessories, in particular the hat and hairstyle.  I have white stockings and T-strap pumps that will do, as well as vintage (1950s) elbow-length gloves and a modern handbag that sort of looks Edwardian, but I just have no imagination when it comes to trimming hats.  My hair, while it's very long, is also thin and fine, and won't hold a curl or wave even if I coat my hair with products and sleep in curlers, and it disappears to nothing when I pin it up.  So much for a full, luxurious, Gibson Girl marcel-wave hairstyle!  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An April Day.

 An April Day
When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has returned again,
‘T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs
The first flower of the plain.

I love the season well,
When forest glades are teeming with bright forms,
Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
The coming-on of storms.

From the earth’s loosened mould
The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives;
Though stricken to the heart with winter’s cold,
The drooping tree revives.

The softly-warbled song
Comes quick from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along
The forest openings.

When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
Its shadows in the hollows of the hills,
And wide the upland glows.

And, when the eve is born,
In the blue lake the sky, o’er-reaching far,
Is hollowed out and the moon dips her horn,
And twinkles many a star.

Inverted in the tide,
Stand the gray rocks, and trembling shadows throw,
And the fair trees look over, side by side,
And see themselves below.

Sweet April! – Many a thought
Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed;
Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought,
Life’s golden fruit is shed.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter blessings!


The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
-- Psalm 103:8-11

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
-- A. E. Housman, "A Shropshire Lad", 1887

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fun events in San Jose this week.

Image: Lyric Theatre of San Jose.

Lyric Theatre's The Pirates of Penzance: Thursday, March 29 through Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 1 at 2 p.m. at the Montgomery Theatre, downtown San Jose.  The show opened on March 24, and tickets are going fast for the last 4 performances!  Tickets run around $30 for general admission, and $12 for youth.

Historic herb garden at History Park.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
18th Annual Spring Garden Market: the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County are gearing up for their annual plant sale on March 31 at History San Jose’s History Park.  You can get organic herbs, heirloom tomato, pepper, and other vegetable seedlings, as well as potted orchids and garden art.  There will also be food trucks, demonstrations and gardening talks.  The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., each plant costs $3 to $4 each, and the vendors only take cash and checks.

I'll be there; will you?

Copyright 2012, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my tea articles on, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea!

For more information:
18th Annual Spring Garden Market
Master Gardeners Spring Garden Market
Spring Garden Market herb varieties for 2012

Lyric Theatre of San Jose web page
Lyric Theatre's Pirates of Penzance page
Lyric Theatre Pirates of Penzance ticket page

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An Irish blessing for you ...

Image: Karen's Whimsy clipart
May you always have
Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire!
-- source: Irish Blessings & Sayings

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring teas in the San Jose area.

Me making the tea in the kitchen!
Photo: Joanne Santner
Well, I started getting over my bad cold (still not completely better, though!) just in time for last weekend's 4th annual Cat Rescue Tea to benefit 13th Street Cats.  All the tea was donated by Satori Tea Bar in San Pedro Square and Peet's Coffee & Tea downtown San Jose and at Santana Row.  We served around 150 people over two days with a completely homemade afternoon tea menu in a lovely Victorian mansion in downtown San Jose's Hensley Historic District!  I'm so tired and my feet are sore, but it was worth it!  This was our first time using a larger venue -- our original venue is also a lovely Victorian house but we can only seat 35 at a time in the house, whereas this house sat 60 at a time -- and yet we sold out every seat in advance and had a waiting list!  Didn't think that would happen right away when we almost doubled our space!  We're already planning for next year, so keep your eyes on this blog for the notice when tickets go on sale (sometime in January or February of 2013) ...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Invalid Cookery, from 1841.

Lemon balm.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Aargh.  Still fighting off this cold, or virus, or whatever it is.  Treating colds with chicken soup is a proven, old-time remedy, but Victorian cookbooks and household manuals are filled with other recipes and hints.  Some involve ingredients that are known to be harmful, or illegal (like opium!), but others are still in use today, albeit under other names.  Indian meal gruel is really polenta or grits.  Tapioca and rice pudding are still familiar, but we like them sweeter and with more flavoring than is called for by Victorian recipes.  Beef tea is basically broth.  Herbal teas are made by the same method today.

These recipes are from The Good Housekeeper, by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841.

TO MAKE GRUEL.--Sift the Indian meal through a fine sieve; wet two spoonfuls of this meal with cold water, and beat it till there are no lumps; then stir it into a pint of boiling water, and let it boil half an hour, stirring it all the time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Victorian cold and flu remedies.
Unfortunately, there's a virus going around and I seem to have caught it!  I definitely have a sore throat and sinus congestion, and my modern cold medicine doesn't seem to be helping much.  Victorian household manuals are full of tips for "Invalid Cookery" and remedies, and while some sound horrible and even downright dangerous, this one sounds like it might actually work. Plus, it doesn't use any poisonous ingredients!

355. SORE THROAT.—I have been subject to sore throat, and have invariably found the following preparation (simple and cheap) highly efficacious when used in the early stage; Pour a pint of boiling water upon twenty-five or thirty leaves of common sage; let the infusion stand for half an hour.  Add vinegar sufficient to make it moderately acid, and honey according to the taste.  This combination of the astringent and the emolient principle seldom fails to produce the desired effect.  The infusion must be used as a gargle several times a-day.  It has this advantage over many gargles—it is pleasant to the taste, and may be swallowed occasionally, not only without danger, but with advantage.
-- from Inquire Within for Anything You Want To Know, 1858.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 4th Annual Cat Rescue Tea Fundraiser in San Jose!

Tickets are now on sale for the
13th St Cat Rescue
Fourth Annual Tea Fundraiser
Saturday and Sunday
March 10th & 11th, 2012

$30.00 includes a full afternoon Tea
at a historic mansion & San Jose Landmark
Spend an afternoon sipping Tea for a Cause!
Please join us as we raise money for our very own 13th St Cat Rescue.
Spend an afternoon sipping tea in a beautiful
Victorian Mansion (new location for this year!)
located in the Hensley Historic District of San Jose.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

History for dinner: To Fricassee a Chicken.

Instead of a picture of Chicken
Fricassee, here is a picture of
one of the ingredients, lemon.
Image: www.public-domain-
I read a lot of old cookbooks and occasionally a historic recipe sounds great just as it is, and once in a while, there will be one that sounds easy enough that I actually make it (I avoid beating egg whites until they're stiff, for example).  Here is one that is easier in this historic form than it is in it's modern form: Chicken Fricassee.  What is that? It's basically chicken stewed or braised with herbs and vegetables in liquid (water, wine, or broth) and butter, so that it makes its own gravy, which is thickened with dairy and egg at the end.  You can serve it with rice or noodles, or by itself.

To Fricassee a Chicken.--Wash and cut the chicken into joints; scald and take off the skin, put the pieces in a stewpan, with an onion cut small, a bunch of parsley, a little thyme and lemon-peel, salt and pepper--add a pint of water, a bit of butter as large as an egg.  Stew it an hour; a little before serving, add the yolks of two eggs beaten up, with a tea-cup of sweet cream, stirring it in gradually; take care that this gravy does not boil.
-- from Early American Cookery: "The Good Housekeeper" by Sarah Josepha Hale (1841).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and The Young Lady's Toilette, from 1858.

Image: Simon Howden.

Tomorrow marks the day when England's Queen Elizabeth II equals her predecessor Queen Victoria in one thing -- a reign of 60 years!  Queen Victoria is the only other English monarch to live to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, and hers was in 1897.  The U.K. and the Commonwealth nations will celebrate this anniversary with speeches, a flotilla on the Thames, statue dedications, garden parties, and of course, lots of tea.  The Queen is scheduled to host a tea party for thousands of people at one point!  The festivities will continue through the summer, picking up frequency around the first week of June, which is the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's coronation.  Whether you are a citizen of Great Britain or just a fan, why not take some time in the coming months to raise a cup of tea to Queen Elizabeth and the tact and intelligence that have kept her sanity intact doing government work for so long!

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)