Friday, May 27, 2011

Jane Austen Festival of Louisville: Registration 2011

The 4th annual Jane Austen Festival of Louisville, is being held July 9th and 10th at historic Locust Grove.  For details on the event, please visit JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) Greater Louisville Region Site.  Registration begins June 1st, 2011! 

I'm so excited.  It is a fabulous event for Regency and Literature lovers alike.  You can read more about last year's Jane Austen Festival that I attended here, here, and here.   Please do come and join us in the fun!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blogger = Sad Face :0(

So....I've heard that I'm not the only one that this is happening to, but Blogger is really making me a bit sad lately.  Over the past couple of months or so, I've had trouble uploading pictures (it takes FOREVER) and there have been insane spacing issues.  Well, now, I find that  after I "sign-in" I'm not necessarily "signed-in".  I used to be able to post a comment from my email.  Not anymore, I have to go into my comment moderation area and post from there.  And I just found out today that I can't REPLY to a comment on my own blog, without it being left as "anonymous." 

 What's up, blogger people? 
It's a mess out here....
 Would you mind fixing it, please?
Thank you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

V&A Open Robe: Planning Stage and a Study in Chiaroscuro

For the Jane Austen Festival Grand Ball, I'm planning on dressing up my 1798 Gown with the V&A open robe found in Janet Arnold's " Patterns of Fashion 1 ". 

I purchased this silk taffeta from Burnley & Trowbridge, and it's a study in Chiaroscuro.  Breaking it down, it is a robin's egg blue, shot with dark gold.  But look at what different lighting and angels does to it...

In the evening, under low lighting, the fabric has a dark, smokey-blue hue.

Next to green, it looks almost silver-blue in tone.

Next to blue, it looks sea-foam-green.

Under flashing light, the silvery blue really stands out, and almost has a marbling affect.

In bright day light, a golden yellow can be seen.

And occasionally a copper undertone almost makes it look violet.

It's strange stuff, but I'm in love with it!  Certainly, though, I will be making a toile before I cut into this.  So, stay tuned for updates on this project.  This will be the first official "ball gown" I've made.  The first "unofficial" one I made was the before I understood what I was doing, and it look like it came out of a Halloween that doesn't count. (And no, I won't show you's embarrassing!)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Raised Garden: Update

Remember the day I nearly broke my back making raised garden beds?

Well, we are finally starting to see the results of our hard work.  Tiny tufts of lettuce and spinach are growing up every where.  Looking back, I probably could have planted more.  But, I was a good little girl, and followed the spacing directions on the packet.  My garden looks a bit sparse.

Scraggly bits of radishes and carrots are popping up.  The radishes are ready to eat.

The pole beans are barely just tall enough to reach their climbing apparatus.  It appears that something has already made a feast of the leaves...and it's only May.  I hope that isn't a sign of bad things to come.

A few weeks ago, I planted my tomato seedlings only to come out the next day to find that some creature had eaten all of the tops off of them, leaving nothing but pathetic little stubs.  They didn't survive.  So, I bought three slightly more mature tomato plants, put them in the ground about two weeks ago, and because Kentucky has suddenly become Seattle, the rain has nearly drowned the poor things.  They are scrawny and anemic looking.  I'm hoping they make it.  Tomatoes are a staple in our summer household.  Last year we had a surplus of tomatoes...this year, I'm hoping for enough to maybe make a single Capri salad.  Our pepper and cucumber seedlings have all but nearly died as well.  If only we could take some of this rain and send it to Texas.  I normally LOVE the rain (I'm weird, I know) but I'm all for sharing the love.

I suppose I will enjoy what I can of this gardening endeavor.  I'm eating these for lunch tomorrow.

*By the camera is behaving cantankerously.  Some days it turns on...others, it doesn't.  It's also not focusing very well.  I fear it's on it's last leg.  Because I'm not made of money, and I can't make money grow in my garden, if my camera dies, it might be a while before I can get a new one.  Which would obviously hinder my blogging abilities.  :0(   This makes me a bit peevish myself.*

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

18th Century Food: Onion Pye

Just before the Picnic at the William Whitley house, I experimented with another 18th century recipe.  This one is called "Onion Pye."  I used a recipe I found on The Old Foodie.  It was an excerpt from the Art of Cookery made plain and easy  by Hannah Glasse, 1747.  My crust recipe is from a recipe for raised pie paste that I found on Historic Food.  I did my best at copying the leaf and rose design on the same page as the crust recipe. 

I won't write out the recipe, since you can see the originals on their respective sites, but I will walk you through them step by step in case you are curious.

*Please forgive my kitchen lighting.*

Make your dough.  Again, I used the recipe from Historic Food, but any pie crust recipe will work.  It just has to be stiff enough to hold it's shape if you plan on doing any molding and shaping.

Divide your dough in half.

Roll out one half of the dough so that it is large enough to spread generously over a pie pan.

You really want it spread thin enough so that extra dough hangs over the edges...we will trim it later.

Grab one potato, one green apple, and one sweet onion.  This is called an Onion Pye, but it could just as easily be called a potato pie, or apple pie, or egg pie, use just as much of these other ingredients as you do onion.  Peel all of the above (except the eggs, of course.)

Thinly slice the apple, onion, and potato.

This pie calls for a LOT of butter.  But, you can't really tell once it is cooked.  I suppose the potatoes, apples, crust, eggs, etc sort of soak it up, and cook well with it.  I think all of that butter is necessary in order to keep from making the pie too dry.  Cut up one stick of butter into bits and place them in the bottom of your pie crust.

Sprinkle your salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace(I used allspice) over your butter.  Take it easy on the nutmeg and mace...they can easily over power everything else.

In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs.  The recipe called for a dozen, but I only used 10.  Really, it's all I had, but it was more than enough.  Sorry, there are only 4 in the picture...I thought for sure I wouldn't need very many to fill my pie, and I didn't want to waste eggs.  As itt turns out, I really did needed that many.

Layer in your potatoes...

...your apple slices...

...and your onions.

Season with a little more salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace(allspice).

Poor in your eggs until nearly everything is covered.  You don't want to overflow your pie.

Chop up another stick of butter, and scatter the pieces around the top of the pie.

Use a knife and trim off the excess dough.  Save it!!!!  Don't toss it will see why in a second.

Roll out your second half of the dough.  I used another pie plate as a template, so that I could cut a perfect circle.  You will not want to make this top crust too thick, because you will be decorating it later.  Once you cut out the circle, save the extra dough from this half too!!!  Place the circle on top of the pie, and crimp together gently around the edges, just enough to seal it up.

Now, use your extra dough scraps...the ones you cut off of the pie sculpt your masterpiece.  I started by taking a long thin strip and rolling it up into the shape of a rose.  I cut a small whole in the top pie crust and placed the rose down inside of the hole.  I use a small knife to cut a sort of steam vent in the center of the rose. 

Next, I used a knife to cut little oval shapes that I used as leaves.  I used a butter knife to gently press the leafy vein texture on to the ovals, and then evenly layered them around the top of the pie crust.  One thing to keep in will need to brush a little water over the top of the pie crust, and on the bottom of each leaf.  This will help the leaves to stick to the pie.

If you have enough crust left over, roll it out into a long snake-like coil, and twist it around the edge of the crust.  The only thing left to do before baking is to cut a few vents in between some of your leaves, and brush the top lightly with an egg and water wash.

I baked my Onion Pye for about an hour and a half (just like the recipe suggested) at 325 degrees F.  I turned it half way through, just because my oven gets a bit hotter in the back, and I wanted it to be evenly baked through.

I probably could have been more careful with the sculpting aspect, but it was a late week night when I made this, and I was very tired.  It wasn't hard to make, but when you spend the whole day playing art teacher to crazy kids, the last thing you want to do when you get home is sculpt dough.  I rushed it.

I supposed it could be made without the fru-fru-ness on top, but really, getting over my weariness, that's the fun part, isn't it?  The results, though, were worth it. It was a little on the heavy side, but made a lovely, practical dinner with a side salad.  It would have been an equally delicious brunch food in my opinion.  It was a little like a savory potato and onion quiche, but the apple and nutmeg gave it an ever so slight hint of sweetness.  It was a good balance.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

BGRS: William Whitley Picnic

The Blue Grass Regency Society traveled through the heart of the Bluegrass on Saturday morning to the William Whitley House. As you can see in the above picture, the beautiful landscape was shrouded in a non-stopping rain for the majority of the morning and afternoon. Thankfully, the estate had a picnic shelter in which we huddled comfortably.

I longed to set out and explore, but I was terrified of ruining my dress.  I should have pulled a Marianne and walked through the rain anyway (whispering "Willoughby...Willoughby" and quoting Shakespearean sonnets.)

I over came my fear by pinning up the back of my train, and stepping out briefly during a lull to have my picture taken.

Here's a close-up shot of Jane's gown...the one I made from scraps of my own.  I made it to have split sleeves, which was a style worn by little girls during the Regency era.  It has two drawstrings, one at the waist, and one at the neckline, and both tie at the back.  Because I used scrap fabric, it came out a tiny bit short on her, and I should have made pantlets, but I ran out of time.  That will have to be a future project.

Thankfully, the clouds parted toward the end of the afternoon, allowing us a glorious moment of sunshine and blue sky, in which we set out to carefully explore a wee bit of the grounds (the grass was still wet and very muddy, mind we didn't go far.)  At the end of the day, we were a bit damp and our hems, unfortunately, were be-speckled with mud, but these trials were well worth it for the good fellowship of a few members of the Blue Grass Regency Society, and comfortable hospitality of the Whitley family home.

The house in itself is fascinating, full of quirky interior windows, hidden staircases, faux walls and hiding holes (to keep the 11 Whitley children safe from Indian raids). The bravery of the family is evident in these things, but the interior furnishings show a carefully balanced juxtaposition between this courage and the family's simple, civility and elegance.

We set up our feast under the shelter, and enjoyed a delicate salad, strawberries, and an assortment of cheeses.  Coffee was our friend, and warmed us through.

The piece de resistance of the fiest was my White-pot

I hope to return some day (perhaps a slightly less wet one) to this lovely bit of Kentucky history.  An over-all good time was had by all (in spite of the rain.)

18th Century Food: White-pot

In preparation for the Blue Grass Regency Society Picnic, I decided to try my hand at an 18th century dish.  Specifically, an 18th century dessert called White-pot. White-pot is a traditional English pudding....not pudding like we think of in's more like an American 'bread pudding'...only much, much better! 

The height of White-pot popularity was between the mid-17th century and early/mid-19th century.  I discovered White-pot when I was browsing the "Historic Food" site HERE.  The White-pot dish and 1723 recipe near the bottom of that page was my inspiration.  I had a little modern help though from another similarly named site called "Historical Foods."  HERE is their modern interpretation of the same 1723 recipe. 

I apologize in advance for the poor lighting in these photographs.  My kitchen doesn't have the greatest natural lighting, and on top of that it was a rainy early evening when I made up this recipe.  Those are my excuses. 

Here are the ingredient amounts translated from the European "Historical Foods" recipe into American quantities and weights.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 Loaf Of White Bread (around 20 slices)
  • 1 Quart Heavy Cream
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) Butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace (I used Allspice)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
sweet-meats (dried fruit) ( I might have used a bit more than the called for measurements.)
  • 1/4 cup currants (optional - I used dried figs, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (assorted kinds)
  • 1/4 cup dates (chopped small)
 Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place your cream in a heavy pot at Medium heat and heat until a slight foams starts to form on the top, about 4 or 5 mins.  Then add your Allspice, Nutmeg and salt and heat gently for another 4 or 5 mins.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 20 minutes.

While the cream is cooling: Place egg yokes in a large bowl.

  Add sugars to the eggs and beat until smooth and well combined.  I didn't have brown sugar, so I added a bit of molasses to my sugar.

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  I used about 18 slices. This step is really important.  It might seem like a LOT of butter, but if you don't do this, your White-pot will stick to your pot, and you won't be able to get it out in one piece.   Leave a bit of butter (about a Tablespoon) to use at the end of the recipe.

Chop up your sweetmeats into bite-sized pieces.

Find a large, oven-proof bowl.  Mine was white, but your doesn't have to be...the name comes from the color of the ingredients, not the color of your bowl.  Line the bottom and sides of the bowl with your bread slices, butter side out, pressing firmly as you lay each piece in.

Sprinkle about 1/3 of your sweet meats mixture into the bottom.

Place another layer of bread (about 3 pieces) and another layer of sweet meats (another 1/3) on the bottom of the pot only.  Stop here before layering anything else.

Once your cream has cooled a bit, slowly, so that your egg yokes down scramble, whisk in a half cup of the cream at a time into the beaten egg and sugar mixture until all of the cream is Incorporated.

Pour about 1/2 of the cream/egg mixture into the pot, giving your bread time to soak it up a bit before continuing on (this only takes about a minute or so).

Place another layer of bread (about 3 pieces) and sweet meats (the final 1/3) on top of the cream you just poured in.

Carefully poor all of the remaining cream, EXCEPT about a cup of it, over that last layer of sweet meats, giving it time to soak in.

Put your final two or three pieces of bread on top, and pour your final cup of cream over them.

Sprinkle the top of the White-pot with a couple tablespoons of sugar and the remaining Tablespoon of butter cut into bits.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.  This is what it will look like when it comes out.  Let it cool for 30 minutes before turning it over, upside down onto a serving platter.

And, voila!  Here it is in all of it's glory!  You can serve it hot, or chill it and eat it cold (which is what I did...yum!)

This really wasn't a hard dish to make.  The flavors are subtle, and quite modern...a delicate nutmeg and custard type of flavor...similar to the flavors of creme brulee.  But it's the texture that really sets this dish apart.  The bread along the outside has soaked up some of the cream-egg mixture, and it's soft and spongy, similar in texture to angel food cake.  The pudding in the middle is creamy and silky, sort of like the texture of cheesecake (without the same flavor), and spotted throughout with the chewy sweet-meats.  I would recommend this even for the most timid of cooks.  It's really quite delicious!