When life hands you lemons…

I am completing a course on woodstove cooking. One of the challenges is trying to cook without using a timer and temperature control. Using sight, touch, sound, and smell to understand where something is in the cooking process is a skill set that has been numbed with the use of timers and pre-packaged heat and serve foods. Next week I am going to be making a Lemon Curd recipe that was discovered in a 18th century cook book. I decided to make a batch on the modern stove, so that I could observe the thickening process, and see what the curd looked like at the 3 min point, the 5 minute point and so forth. Next week I will be attempting to make this on a woodstove located in a 19th century historic house. Good thing this recipe cooks up so delicious, this was hands down the best lemon curd I have ever consumed, so having another batch to look forward to next week will be a pleasure. 20140511_130557

International Women’s Day

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Gentle reader,  let us not forget that March 8 is International Women’s Day. It focuses on the collective efforts of women’s struggle for equality. And while many of us “Good Time Regency Girls” love to curl up with a Jane Austen novel and romanticize the period as an endless string of dinners, dresses, and balls, it is worth remembering that most regency girls were most likely not having all that good a time.

Jane Austen died in 1817, and she lived in the shadow of a century’s long patriarchal society which viewed women as lustful, stupid, sexually manipulative inferiors who needed to be constantly controlled by men.  It was not until the later half of the 19th century that Women were seen to start raising organized issue with their place in society. The inability to inherit or retain property rights following marriage, the vote, and the right to be admitted into academic programs and careers that were considered the domain of men were battles being taken on by women.  The London School of Medicine for Women was established in 1874 and was the first medical school in Britain to train women. In 1889 Cornelia Sorabji became the first woman to enter law school at Oxford University and eventually practice law in England.  Women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom was a national movement that began in 1872, and women did not get the vote until 56 years later in 1928.

I sometimes play a game where I imagine that I can transport people from the past to spend a day with me here in the present. What would Jane Austen think of the 21st century woman?  Jane wrote

” A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can”

Would the modern women shock or intrigue our Jane?  I imagine hot running water, medicine, and transportation would count as shiny objects. But what would she think of the status of women? In my country I can take any academic program I want to, work in a career of my choosing, and the law states I am not to be beaten.  I can buy and sell my own property,  can vote, and live my life without the support or control of a man.   And I find it comforting to remind myself of these facts, as I am still dubious as to the overall status of women both in my society and worldwide. There is still much work to be done.

So as we 21st century girls delve into our books, wear our ball gowns, dance at balls, and feast at regency supper parties, let us not forget the violence, objectification, and humiliation that women of the regency era were subjected to. Let us honor their strength and ability to cope within a stifling and horribly unfair patriarchal society, that in some respects still exists in the modern world. And each time we slip into one of our ball gowns, remember the successes because

“Our scars make us know that our past was for real” … Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

 

 

 

Scent From the Past

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I am a 21st Century gal who has a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Anything with artificial fragrance can set it off, perfume, hairspray, strongly scented lotions, scented dryer sheets or even the ‘odour guard’ infused into garbage and doggy-doo bags. The other day I was chatting with someone about life in the 18th century, and she said it was a good thing I did not actually live back then because people bathed little and wore heavy fragrance to mask the odor.

My initial response was that I would have been better off back then because fragrance was derived from natural products, and not chemically manufactured, and to my knowledge, I have never had a reaction to pure essential oils. I may hate the smell, but it does not cause the headaches, rashes, or asthma attacks that modern chemical scents do.

So I checked it out…

17th and 18th century perfumes fell into two general categories: floral or musk. Florals were made from distilled essential oils or waters distilled from flowers such as roses, orange flowers, lavender, and jasmine. Musk was usually animal-based. Perfume came in a variety of carriers: alcohol-based, oil-based, water-based, and wax-based. There was no difference between the scents used by men and women, people simply used what they liked. People enjoyed adding fragrance to objects such as handkerchiefs or gloves.

So to honor days gone by, here is a simple recipe for a natural homemade perfume

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons of beeswax
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet almond oil (available at health food shops)
  • 48 drops of pure essential oil
  • An old lip balm container that has been well cleaned

Directions:

1. Blend the following essential oils before you melt the beeswax. 12 drops each of essential oil of orange, essential oil of bergamot, essential oil of lemon, and essential oil of lavender. (Or just use one type oil that you fancy). Be aware that some essential oils can irritate the skin. If you are unsure, ask a clerk in a health food store to make sure.

2. In a separate cup from the essential oils, measure out the almond oil.

3. Melt enough beeswax to yield 2 teaspoons.

4. Once the wax is melted, add the almond oil and stir to combine. Then add in the essential oils and stir to combine. Quickly pour the mixture into your container. Cover it, let it rest for about 10 minutes to set, and apply sparingly…please!

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The Battlefield Ball

Being somewhat new to the creative world of Regency Events, it was a nice surprise to find another Regency Ball being held so soon after the Ball at the Forkes (in Chatham) and just a month later!

So Lady Anita and I made it to the Battlefield Ball on Saturday, November 2…arriving in our silver chariot around 5:45 p.m. in Stoney Creek. Just one near carriage-turning-over, as I thought that perhaps the car needed to be weighed at a truck weigh station and exited…oops, good thing that there weren’t open and we just sailed through! You are so very conscious of being pulled over for a traffic misdemeanor when dressed in Regency clothes and hairstyles 🙂

The Battlefield House hosted the Ball as the culmination of their 1812/1813 festivities. It was held at the very lovely and historic Liuna Gardens. We arrived just ahead of many other guests, so we grabbed a table by the window and were soon joined by two lovely women from Hamilton, who were Friends of Battlefield. The table then filled up with friends from Chatham, and lots of great stories and memories of the Battle of the Thames re-enactment and the Ball at the Forkes.

After introductions around the table and by the MC, dinner was served and the selection of salad, vegetables and meats were nice. But the real treat was after dinner when the Fashion Show began – presented by Betsy Bayshore. This is the second time I’ve seen a show by her and always learn so much! Oh, I have so much appreciation for those dresses, spencers, pelisses, etc. after my sewing projects this past summer!

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After drawing for the door prizes (3 out of 6 at our table won something, including yours truly!), there was SO MUCH Dancing! Lady Anita and I danced all of the dances, which totaled six, but when you consider that each dance involved instructions and then going “down the set and up the set” and there were 8 couples or so for each line, it was a lot.

These are the dances, in order: Miss Muster’s Fancy; Constancy; Allemande Swiss; Doubting Shepherd (???) and we finished with British Sorrow. My favourite? The Shepherd song, which I can’t remember the first word of except that it started with a “D”. In this one, the men danced a little turn while the women danced around the men, like a shepherd leading the sheep. Does anyone know the one I mean?

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Many thanks to the Battlefield House for giving a Ball this fall! There was some talk of it being repeated next year…let’s hope so!

Shoot that Poison Arrow

Archery was considered a “graceful exercise” for women in the upper classes. By the mid 1800’s archery had become an established leisure activity and there were over fifty societies in existence spread among the larger towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales. Women and men competed against each other, and it must have felt quite empowering for ladies of the time.

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This weekend the barn where I keep my horse was hosting an archery day so I had to give it a go. It was a little cold to be wearing a regency dress, and I am not sure if graceful entered into the equation at any point in the day, but I had a great time, hit the target many times, and got some fantastic pointers from a friend who used to compete in the sport and knows much. This is something I want to continue to do.

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Another regency era activity of the leisure class checked off the to-do list. It will look so much better next summer while wearing a linen dress.

Regency Bodice

I attended a regency bodice making workshop on the weekend. A few things stood out, the first being that I now understand why none of my dresses fit correctly. I took measurements that I never even knew existed, and the majority of them required the assistance of a helper. The second thing that stood out was the connection to the past. A group of women gathering together to create clothing, problem solve and chat. I am not much of a talker, so during break times I wandered off to the kitchen to help make afternoon tea, but that in itself was also something that women would have been doing in the 1800’s, preparing the same type of food we were preparing, brewing pots of tea, putting homemade scones on the table next to the clotted cream. Modern life is so fast, technical and pre-packaged and participating in these types of events is extremely grounding.

In the past I have used a period pattern from “The Elegant Ladies Closet” and managed to produce what I thought was a lovely bodice. The issue is that I have been having the devil of a time trying to attach the skirt.  Pictured below are the bodice pieces from “The Elegant Ladies Closet” pattern.

Elegant Ladies Closet Bodice

I noticed that the bodice I made at the workshop is much smaller, and hope that adding the skirt will be a less complicated process. Pictured below is the custom measured bodice pattern.

Custom Bodice Result

 

The photo below shows the difference between the front bodice patterns. The piece underneath is from the Elegant Ladies pattern and the muslin laying on top is the custom piece. What a huge difference, no wonder all of my dresses felt so huge.

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Unfortunately, there were too many people at the workshop, we ran out of time, and I did not leave with a completed bodice. I have been sitting on a pile of mud green fabric, all pre-washed and ready to become something that will hopefully resemble a day-dress using the new bodice template. I suppose that update will have to wait for the next workshop.

Mud green     Mud green fabric to be continued…..

 

 

 

New Author Lady Kathy on Good Time Regency Girls

I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to live up to the name “Lady Kathy” when I was asked to contribute to this fantastic Good Time Regency Girls blog! For my introduction, I would love to share with you how I came to be interested in the Regency period.
For the last 8 years, I have been a devoted Jane Austen fan…going from “not interested, thank you very much” to having some reading material either by or relating to Jane Austen on my nightstand every day of the year! My history up to this turning point had been that of someone interested in literature but primarily newer writers – say, in the 20th century. And preferably American. And preferably short stories.
I had definitely read my share of English writers during my 4 years of study as an English Major. But when it came to reading for pleasure, they were not my focus. Not yet, any way.
Of course I had heard of Jane Austen…who hasn’t? But did I realize that her novels were so few (only 6 completed) and her life was so short? NO. But more importantly, I did not grasp the way her stories mirror real life…not just in the early 1800s but still today. And because I had not been required to read her at University, I was just plain missing out.
My sister-in-law, whom I shall call Sue (like I do in real life), wasn’t missing out…in fact, she loved the movie Pride and Prejudice (BBC) and would often have it right by her TV/VCR because she was committed to watching it twice a year. The first time I noticed it there, I actually teased her about. My SIL is an urban gal, sophisticated, and what interest could this story hold for her? But her response was something like, “I just love the story” and well, how can you argue with that?
So fast-forward a few years, when I was asked to be the delivery person to a mutual friend of these BBC Pride & Prejudice VCR Tapes. There they sat, on my windowsill for a few days with Darcy’s picture spanning the tapes while Elizabeth sat calmly by. One night, I decided to just play the first one and see what the big deal was about.
Oh, my. I was hooked. As I neared the end of tape 3, I wasn’t even bothering to rewind them anymore. Just hit “eject” and pop in the next one, like candy. And yes, I had to re-watch tape 6 immediately after it was finished and rewound, because it was just SO GOOD.
I still occasionally thank my sister-in-law for introducing me to Jane Austen and re-assure myself of her forgiveness for ever snickering at her about her love of Pride & Prejudice.

1812 and Table Top Gaming

So who is ready for Halloween? My self and his Lordship will be setting up the window display ether tonight or tommorw and we are also in a deep deep talks about what this years punkin should look like. With all this spookiness in the air I have been reading some scarey stories.

While he is not a Regency writer one of my faves of the horror tale is H.P. Lovecraft. A master of creeping you right out and the fellow who brought us things like the Necronomicon and the dark one Cthulhu.

I got to thinking what if I ran a table top game that was Cthulhu based but set during the War of 1812.? Personally I think that it could be super cool.

Going on a hunch I am going to guess that many of you have played some sort of table top game that involves story telling, dice and a ton of Mountain Dew. I say this because when I first started going to Regency dance events I was shocked at how many folks in the room had played Dungeons and Dragons. The more I thought about it the more it made sense, here was a group of people who liked to get dressed up and imagine they are back in time. Not a far leap to table top at all.

As part of a table top group it’s going to be my time soon to run the story or “DM” (Dungeon Master). When we have a game going, we tend to meet maybe twice a month have some pizza and play. The last few times have been in a modern setting and using the monsters and mystery of the Lovecraft stories.

My idea is that I am going to per-create some characters for the players to pick from. Normally you would build your own, but I want to make sure that particular types show up during the game play. Players will get to pick from: A British Officer, Young Wealthy Politician or His Wife, a Common Solder, Dressmaker, a Settler, a Minister or Female Missionary.

It would open as all good Regency stories start…with a ball of course! However something would be very very wrong and a handful of the guests would have to work out just what lurks in the dark. I was going to write more but I don’t wish to give to much away. I will however if we run this story, post more should you folks be interested.

So I leave you with some questions – would you be up for a Regency table top game? How would you run something like this? Would it be more war tactics? Or maybe something about snagging a rich husband? Let us know in the comments below.

Oh and Happy Halloween!

The Monk – Thoughts on a book

I know that the post you all want to read is about me and Lady Jen’s adventure at the ball at the Forks, trust me readers we are working on that. We had such a good time we want you give you the best possible review of the event.

In the mean time it’s October, and time for things to get spooky. So I thought I would share my thoughts on what I feel is one of the most whacked out creepy books ever written. It’s The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis in 1796.

Had this book been written today….forget that I am not sure out side of a self published e-book this thing would have ever seen the light of day.

Many of you know I am a fan of Gothic Lit. Not just from the regency era but also spanning into the Victorian is it a ghost or is it a killer in the attic sort of books. So it comes as no surprise that I would pick up The Monk and give it a read.

What did surprise me was just how dark, sexy, and off the wall nuts this book would be. FYI this may have some very light spoilers, so feel free to stop here. I promise though nothing I can write can fully share what a nutty wack job this book really is. Also this is not really much of a review but more of my own thoughts on this crazy book.

It starts with beautiful woman going to church. The town is taken with a young Monk who is everything a man of the cloth should be. We learn that he has been destined for such a life and folks flock to hear him speak. Things are going alright for this Monk until a mysteouse new Brother joins the order.

Things go down hill for everyone all at once at this point. Dark arts, ghosts, evil nuns, angry mobs, killers in a German forest and ghosts all show up. Some of this when I look back at it seems to be in the book for no reason. Like at all. At one point my mind was so blown I has to put the book down and look at the wall for a few moments.

Oh and once the end bit gets going the action and madness just gets kicked up. In bed one night his Lordship was confused as I looked up from the book muttering ” Well that escalated quickly…”

It’s one of those books that once you start it like or not you have to keep going. Also it’s something that once read can’t be unseen in the depths of your imagination. Personally I don’t know even now how I feel about it. Though I am glad I read it and if your up for something wicked and twisted you will be also. Lady Jen will attest that I bring up and promote this book every chance I get. Not sure what that says about me….

Oh and it’s free on Protect Gutenberg so super easy to pick up as an e-read.

So there you have it, The Monk my pick for an October read….if you dare.