The Ladies' Tea Guild

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 ...

Currently I'm going through Gingerbread recipes from my historic cookbooks, and planning to make at least one kind of gingerbread cake, as well as ginger snaps, and possibly a gluten-free/egg-free/cane sugar-free version of gingersnaps for my cousin and aunt, who will be visiting in a few days.  I have to e-mail them and see which ingredients they can have these days, and then consult my baking pantry (contained in a large plastic box in my closet) for the ingredients to adjust the recipes I have!  As for the regular wheat-and sugar-filled gingerbread, I think I'll change the recipe(s) this year; in the past, I've used a vintage recipe from 1942, which is nice when fresh, but goes stale and dry very quickly, so not good for making ahead of time for Christmas presents.  I'll detail the recipes I used once I have chosen them -- there are so many interesting ones!
Figgy pudding.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

I have really enjoyed participating in the Historical Food Fortnightly challenges -- even though I haven't done too many -- but the founder of the challenges has decided not to plan any more.  I'll still be cooking historic recipes off and on, and I'll post about them on this blog (when I get around to it!), and many of the other bloggers who have participated in the challenges have said they'll do the same, so, don't feel abandoned, online food historians!  We are continuing our studies and experiments!

I have started researching graduate school -- something I never had the time (or money) to do when I worked at the museum, and have started taking some online classes through FutureLearn.  Recently I took a wonderful class -- The History of Royal Food and Feasting -- featuring several historic royal palaces in the U.K. and the curators and interpreters who work there, and it was such a wonderful experience that when they re-issued the class this month, I took it again!  They added some new recipes -- Christmas recipes -- for each of the time periods covered, so it wasn't all a repeat, and I am inspired to make some of those recipes as well.  I would love for them to do a follow-up course featuring everyday foods for the middle-classes, so we'll see if that ever comes to fruition.  If it does, I'll be taking that class!

I have costume plans for 2017; still finishing my niece's Renaissance Faire costume, as well as re-making my own costume, to fit me better and to be more historically accurate.  I may also end up making my brother a doublet (finally -- after years of promising one to him!), and I am also working on a new mid-Victorian costume for wearing with my Christmas caroling choir.  We get hired to sing at the local international airport several times each December, and sometimes we have to pass through security to sing at the gates.  Suffice it to say, it's not a good idea to wear a steel-boned corset through airport security!  (This is the voice of experience speaking ...) Since none of my Victorian dresses will fit or look right without a corset, I need to make one that is stiffened with something other than steel stays and a metal busk, and/or I need to make something that I can wear without a corset at all.  I got started on a pair of stays with plastic "whalebone" in them, but they are not wearable yet, so I need to finish putting in the front darts and "bones", and the lacing.  We'll see how well it supports my figure, which has gotten heavier in the last few years ... Also, I need to repair my regular corset, because I discovered that I had broken one of the stays, earlier this week.

All that, plus the beginning sewing class I'm teaching at the school where I work, should keep me busy!  I hope 2016 hasn't been totally horrible for all of you, and that 2017 will be much better! 

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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)