The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Soft Gingerbread from _The Bride's Cook Book_, 1915.

photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
 Since I've had this week off between Christmas and New Year's I've had a bit of time to do some baking.  There is construction going on in the kitchen, so I have to wait until the workers go home in the evening before I can clean up all the dust and grime, and cook anything; I've also been fighting a bad cold for over a week anyway, so I've been spending my time compiling historic Christmas-season recipes from all the files on my computer and the books on my shelves.  I haven't quite gone through them all, but some of the gingerbread recipes have begun to catch my eye.

I made the dough for some gingersnaps, and made 2 batches of gingerbread cake; one divided between small pans, to give as belated Christmas gifts to my family (when I see them), and the other in a loaf pan, for my housemates and I to eat at home. *I also have a plan to make some gluten-free cookies for my cousin and aunt when they come to visit, as well as a Twelfth Night or New Year's Cake, but more on that later*

Monday, December 26, 2016

A long-awaited update!

Me and two friends in 1920s
costume at the local Egyptian
Museum, September 2016.
Photo: Ann Morton.
Hello everyone in blog-land!  "I'm not dead yet!" as goes the line from Monty Python's _Holy Grail_ ... As you may have surmised, things have been changing around here, but hopefully I'll be settled for a good while and can get back to my cooking, costuming, and general historical nerd-ery.

I moved twice this year, once at the beginning of September, and again at the end of September/beginning of October.  I have mostly unpacked my things; still finding places to put things and working out what I need to add to my storage supplies so that I have a place for everything, so I still have a couple stacks of boxes waiting to be unpacked, or to be taken to my storage unit.  I think I have all my costuming and cooking supplies at the house, but the homeowners are doing some remodeling to the kitchen, so there is sawdust and paint and caulking and dropcloths everywhere, so I can't do much baking yet.  I did make two figgy puddings, from the recipe I blogged about here, so that's something at least!  I totally failed at getting my Christmas cards out on time, so yet again they will be New Year's/holiday cards, because I really need to let my family know my new address ...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Slowly catching up ...

photo from
‘Tis Autumn time! the summer flowers
Have faded ‘neath its golden feet;
The birds have left their shady bowers,
And winds chime mournfully and sweet;
The maple boughs, whose folded leaves
Have whispered through the summer days
Like bright-winged birds, around the eaves
Are flitting in the sun’s pale rays;
I hear their rustling low and sweet,
As if an angel floated o’er;
They seem to me like friends I meet,
And love, then part forever more. 

The dreamy lull of limpid streams;
The azure haze that floats above,
Enshroud earth as mysterious dreams,
O’er all our spirits softly move. 
Spirit of dreams! oh, I would bless
Thy soft luxurious charms for aye,
And fold thee in my soul’s caress,
Now and forever till I die!
Oh, chide me not! the low wind rhymes,
Full many a plaintive trembling lay,
And I could listen to her hymns,
Till I had breathed my life away. 
-- from Godey's _Lady's Book_, October 1855. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly and A History of Royal Food and Feasting -- Tartes owt of Lente

ingredients for Tarte owt of Lente.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
So, I haven't exactly fallen off the end of the earth (again), but I haven't had much energy after working all day at the school.  Now that summer has arrived, though, I'm only working half-days at the summer school, and also taking two online classes through FutureLearn.  One class is called The History of Royal Food and Feasting, and it's really interesting.  This week the class discussion was about the Tudor period and Hampton Court Palace, and we were challenged to cook one of the recipes that the Hampton Court Palace staff of Tudor kitchen interpreters has made on one of their promotional and educational YouTube videos: Tartes owt of Lente.  It's from a manuscript from around 1500, probably in the Bodleian Library and not published (except on the Hampton Court Palace web page) in modern times.  It also happens to be a pie, and I also happened to get it done within the time limit for this challenge, so YAY!  The first challenge I have been able to complete this year ... 

Challenge #13 Pies (June 17 - June 30) -- Make a pie! Meat, fruit, sweet or savory; traditional pies, hand pies, standing pies, or galottes - get creative, but make sure it’s documented!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly: A Cap with a Pleated Ruffle

_Plucking the Turkey_ by Henry Walton,
1776, Tate Gallery.
I won't be able to keep up with all the challenges this year, and will probably be finishing up the blog post and putting it online after the deadline on whichever challenges I can complete, but hopefully people will enjoy seeing the results anyway!  Here is the challenge for February, in which I make a simple 18th century cap with a pleated ruffle.  Although I'm posting this in March, the sewing actually happened at the beginning of February ... 

Challenge #2: Tucks & Pleating – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration.
Material: ¼ yard of cotton-linen blend fabric  
Pattern: self-drafted from Sue Felshin's instructions online
Year: 1775-ish
Notions: white thread, 20 inches of cotton cord (kitchen twine) and 26 inches of 1-inch wide ribbon 
How historically accurate is it? 75%, producing an accurate-looking, entirely hand-sewn cap, from a modern blend of linen and cotton. 
Hours to complete: 6 hours (by hand; would have been less if done by machine) 
First worn: for photos only, in mid-February.
Total cost: all from the stash, but it would have been less than $10 total if I'd bought everything new.

_The Butter Churner_, by Henry Robert Morland,
before 1797, Bonhams Auction House.
As many costumers have discovered, once your family knows that you make costumes, they turn to you when they want to borrow an outfit for whatever costume-friendly events come up in their life ... often not giving you much advance notice for pulling something together!  As if you have a whole costume shop inventory – in their size – at your disposal ... Anyway, as long as they don't expect me to let them do whatever they want to the costume or give them the aforesaid costume to keep, at no charge, I'm usually happy to put together an outfit for them, if I have the time.  This time around, it was my cousin's daughter, who is in 5th grade, and who had a special social studies theme day at school at the beginning of this month.  The theme was the English colonial period of America's history, and all the students (and teachers) in the 5th grades were expected to dress up and bring a period-inspired lunch for the day.  The teachers had gone to Party City and bought a bunch of cheap "Colonial" costumes for the kids to wear if they didn't come up with their own costume, but I had seen those before, and they were hideous, as those things typically are. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly -- Procrastination (how appropriate!): A pre-Gold Rush California day dress

Version 1.0 of the California day dress ca. 1838.
The Challenge: Procrastination (January 2016), Out of Your Comfort Zone (June 2015), and Stashbusting (March 2015).  I didn't realize it until last month, but I neglected to publish the blog post in 2015 for the Out Of My Comfort Zone and Stashbusting Challenges, which were part of the original reason for this dress being made!  7 months is quite a procrastination, although I still don't consider this dress finished ...

California history, especially domestic history, has been a major passion and research topic for me for the past 15 years or so.  Part of my research has involved re-creating typical daily outfits for California women, from the early Spanish settlement period in the late 18th century, to the early 19th century Rancho period on the eve of the Gold Rush.  Unfortunately, comparatively little of the European, English, and North American fashion information from that time is widely applicable to California during the same period, due to the distance – both physical and cultural – between the people of California and those in the rest of the Western world before the Gold Rush. 

_Mexicains_ by Emile Louis Vernier, ca. 1850.
 New York Public Library Digital Collection.
Beginning in the 1760s, Spain established frontier settlements in California, but all contact with Spain ceased between 1810 and 1824 during the Mexican War for Independence; when the fighting ended, California's settlers benefited from the free trade that resulted.  Trade with England and the United States enabled the people, now calling themselves Californios, to enjoy many of the products and luxuries that had long been available to more settled parts of the former Spanish empire, with closer ties to Europe.  Even now, however, shipments did not usually include fashion magazines or any ready-made articles of women's attire, unless specifically mail-ordered.  Almost no non-Hispanic women arrived in California to influence the local fashions during this time.
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)