Friday, October 2, 2015

Building a Working Wardrobe (with printable!)

As a follow up to my image series of working women form the mid-19th Century I have put together a snazzy printable on how to build your own working wardrobe!

Returning from the Fields William Edward Millner       

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How wet can your feet get? or Welcome to the 18th Century!

I spent Saturday in the 18th century.  The rainy 18th century. This past weekend we traveled to Historic Halifax for their first Muster Days program. Despite the wet conditions, it was great day spent with friends and colleagues. The day was full of normal activities such as sewing,  firing demonstrations, and browsing the buildings.

It rained off & on all day, but that only damped our feet. By the end of the day my shoes & stockings were soaked through. The good thing about 18th century is that skirts are hemmed high enough not to absorb the moisture from the ground!

A scenic view

Artillery Demonstration

DH & I

Fuzzy, but fun!

Pinning my hat in the wind.

Pinball and scissors

Sewing on the porch

Standing outside of the Tap Room 


More photos from the event from the local paper. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cause & Country, Serving the Soldiers 2015

Again this year, we overloaded the car and headed north to one of the best events, with some of the best friends. This year Ft. Washington was sent bustling again with everyone coming in to participate.
This year there was an increased participation in almost all parts of the fort. The military really helped give the fort life again, guards posted at the gate, drill throughout the day, soldiers wandering around on their duties. This year there was great fair planned to benefit the USSC. Booths of all sorts were on display- Scotland, curiosities, music, fancy goods, dolls, and a restaurant department with lovely baked goods, shrub, lemonade, and candies( All of which was organized by Mrs. Brown!). Once again some VIP's from Washington City made their way to Ft. Washington to support the soldiers with their company and generous donations.  It rained on Saturday- just like last year- but we didn't let that spoil our fun! That is the great thing about Ft. Washington- almost all of the activities are located inside so good company is always an option- even in the rain.  Sunday dawned much cooler than I ever anticipated- and left me wishing I had brought my wool dress after all. I was glad that I brought my lightweight shawl so that P was wrapped up & warm! Again, like all things, it came to an end.  It was wonderful to spend time with friends, and make so many new ones as well! Until next year!

Breakfast Saturday Morning
Photo by: Tim Massey

One of the best pictures. Our dear friend Cheyney was our nanny for the weekend- and P really enjoyed her!
Photo by: Tim Massey 

Beautiful doors of Ft. Washington, advertising the Saturday evening dance and Co. K 3rd US.
Photo by: Tim Massey

DH speaking with Mrs. Kallal
Photo by: Tim Massey
Patrons enjoying music at the fair!
Photo by: Tim Massey

A busy day at the fair.
Photo by: Tim Massey

Co. K 3rd US
Photo by: Tim Massey

P & I on the porch
Photo by: Tim Massey

This image- my favorite from the whole weekend of DH & P!
 Photo by: Tim Massey

Gorgeous sunset over the Potomac from the fort walls.
Photo by: Tim Massey

Speaking with Ms. Robinson
Photo by: Tim Massey
Sunday morning services.
Photo by: Tim Massey

P's first 19th Century selfie! ( We couldn't let the weekend get by without one) 

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