Friday, July 24, 2015


Oatmeal. Yes, that pantry staple the lurks in the back of cabinet with it's happy hat-wearing logo smiling back at you. I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast almost everyday lately- which has me thinking- what else can you do with oatmeal? There are cookies, muffins, & breads- but what about our 19th Century counterparts. There always seems to be a reference to oatmeal when a discussion is started about breakfast options while at events. So let's look at some of the items they would have made with the grain.

First we have a nice Pudding of oats- "serve with a good deal of butter poured over it"- yes, I think I could try that!

The Frugal Housewife, 1803
Next, a great soup option. Soups seem to be a the top of most lists when feeding a crowd- and this is a great cheap soup and would work great for a working class impression.
The Complete Confectioner...., 1864
There are countless recipes for Oatmeal Gruel in period cook books. Most of the time you will find such recipes in the sections for "Feeding the Sick".
Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, 1844

So, there you have it. Oatmeal. Only a sampling of things to do with it, but it does answer the question as to what our ancestors did with the grain.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mrs. Gray's Muffins

Yesterday I decided to bake. Yes, bake. I haven't done much baking in the past 4 months, an infant keeps you on your toes! I wanted something easy- so I pulled Nancy Crump's Hearthside Cooking off the shelf since she has already done all of the hard work for me.

I browsed through the pages and landed in the "Breads" chapter, and there was Mrs. Gray's Muffins. I had previously made Mrs. Gray's Light Biscuits, and they turned out wonderful, so I trusted Mrs. Gray- and went with her muffins.

"To be made ten o'clock at night for breakfast, or 12 in the day for tea. Sift a quart of flour, work in it a piece of butter large as a hen egg-a teaspoon full of salt, & a large tablespoonful of lard beat 2 eggs, have a quart of milk ready & pour a little in the eggs, then add flour & milk alternately until all the flour is in, beat all well, for five or ten minutes then stir in gently a gill of yeast. Some cream or all cream is still better than milk. If ou want waffles, stir in gently half a pint of cream, at day light." 

What I love about Crump's book, is that she gives the period and modern way to execute the recipe- I was making these for tea, so I wanted them to turn out right the first time, so I followed the modern directions. 

Proof yeast- sift flour & salt- work in butter & lard. Combine egg and milk- blend into dry ingredients. Add yeast. Beat batter with a spoon for five minutes to aerate. 

5 minutes!  This is important- you'll see why in a moment. Really mix in that yeast- the batter will be light, but similar to a cake batter. 
Batter ready to rise. (This picture was an afterthought) 
Let rise for about 30 minutes. Then fill greased muffin tins half full. (Note: She does include directions on how to cook these on a griddle using rings.) Place in a 375* oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown. These muffins do rise well.
Muffins Plated with jam and marmalade, 

The muffins turn out very much like a bread. Not sweet, but good flavor. A friend compared the taste to a nice fluffy pancake- which may explain the "if you want waffles" comment in the original recipe.
Muffin insides! 
Remember how I said it was important to beat the batter for 5 minutes- to get it nice a fluffy? Look at the inside of that muffin! It's so airy! We served these at tea with jam and marmalade, but the would also be very good served with butter.

These will defiantly be made again!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nothin' Fancy

After years in the reenacting world, I think I found my clothing niche just a few years ago. Living in eastern NC doesn't really call for much pomp & circumstance with silks and rows of fringe- it does however call for sturdy & serviceable garments.  In the past few years I have found that I really only pull 2 dresses out of my closet. These 2 dresses are pictured above. I have worn them both for years, and still pull them out almost every event, despite there being some new choices in the mix.

The first one is a lovely green cotton print, I made this dress 5 years ago and I have dubbed the dress "Ole' faithful," as it will fit almost any social class or setting here in NC. Adding a clean collar & cuffs, belt, and fashion bonnet, it does make a respectable impression! I have also thrown on a slat bonnet for a day light activity. The dress has had blue trim added to the sleeves as well was yellow glass buttons down the front. I must admit, I have been wanting to take the trim off those sleeves- but the buttons are staying!
DH & I 

Tintype by Harry Taylor
Playing graces on a Spring day
Such a great day! 
DH & I at an event last March. 

Even Louisa had to have one just like it! 

The second dress I seem to wear all the time is my go-to work dress. I made it about 4 years ago out of some $1/yard homespun I found in the red tag section of Joanns's Fabrics because it had some fading lines on it. I had intended for the dress to be the staple for hard labor in my 19th century closet, and it has been. The fabric is thin enough that it is ideal for the heat that comes along with cooking.
It has some quirks- which I love. The neck stretched out during the fitting, so I had to re-cut it- this is has a pieced bodice, I have now lost at least 2 of the vegetable ivory buttons- so they will need to be replaced. The hem is stained with mud, suit, & who knows what else. The shoulders of the dress have started to fade- its more of a tinged yellow there now instead of its pink/brown gingham.
The first time the dress was worn- yes it was at work & they must know my name. 

This may be a staged photo

Stewing Chicken

Hanging out with my favorite blacksmith! 

I post all of this to say that you don'e need as much as you might think. I tend to portray the same type of person- either I'm working with ladies aid, or I'm cooking. Many reenactors feel as if they need a closet of 897 gowns to do everything the need- and you really don't. Yes, I have more dresses- but I don't wear them nearly as much as I do these two.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Salads for the Season Part 2

Still Life Strawberries, Nuts & etc., Raphaelle Peale, 1822

I did a Salad post way back 2013- you can find it here. With the weather warming up here in NC, it reminded me how much I hate to cook over a flame in the heat and humidity- enter in the salads & sandwiches menu! I have dug around to find even more great salad offerings that can be made easily without cooking. These would also be a wonder addition to a picnic!

The Neighborhood Cookbook, 1914

Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent
The House Servants Directory, 1827

White House Cookbook, 1887

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How does your garden grow?

So, this is the first year DH and I have had a place that we can have a real garden!  So, we set out with excitement at our garden center, within reason. I wanted all the plants, he wanted ones that were aesthetically pleasing-we met in the middle with a good mix.
Vegetables and herbs, I really only wanted a tomato plant, until I go there.
We have a great little plot on the side of our house, where the fence offers 2 sides that will help support beans & tomato plants.
The plot beside the house. Allows for lots of sun & but also evening shade. 
We planted corn, 2 types of beans, cucumbers, squash, radishes, tomatoes, 2 types of onions, garlic, mint, cilantro, and rosemary.
DH putting mint in the ground. 

Everything will start from seeds except the herbs and the tomatoes- I have 6 plants! I really am excited to see how this will turn out. The rosemary and cilantro are in pots, I prefer my rosemary in a pot so I can move it around. Don't ask me why.

Cilantro, mint, rosemary, and tomato plants! 
This summer will be full of adventure in this little garden! I hope to at least get one vegetable out of it. If I get only one I will still count it as a success! I hope to get many more off of it, but even one will make me happy.
Geraldine observes from the window. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Years Goodies!

Looking for the perfect thing to celebrate New Years with? Look no further than our knowledgeable ancestors for traditional fare for the inspiring holiday!

Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, 1850

Domestic Cookery, 1869

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014: A Year in Review

I used to do these on my other blog- but I thought my readers here would like to see how much this past year had in store!

It snowed a lot here in NC! It seemed to keep coming- but made for some beautiful pictures! 
I had this image struck for DH as a valentines gift! 
Small, local events! This one was at a restored plantation home. 
April brought 150th Bermuda Hundred, we portrayed the US Christian Commission with some great friends!

Not much happened in May- but I did get my new favorite cup! 
DH & I celebrated 3 years of marriage! We spent a few days at the beach for the first time in years! 

We had some pretty nice pictures taken in the summer!
We announced that we were expecting our first little bundle in March! 
We moved out of our apartment into a house in a small town- here is a rather dark picture of our living room. The curtains were the one thing that DH & I agreed on and based the room on! 
One of my favorite events happens every year! The civilian program at Bentonville!This year- I made stew for 100 people! 

I voted! 
We will ring in the holiday season one last time with only 2 stockings on the mantle! 

So, there are only a few highlights from my 2014! I look forward to what 2015 has in store! It's already shaping up to be a busy- event filled year!