The company that resides on the top floor of my office building has challenged us to a chili cook-off this Friday. Bitter Young Guy said "Too bad I won't be here on Friday. I've got some venison in the freezer that has been infused with some sort of uber-hot spicy stuff. It's so hot, the resident 'I'll eat anything spicy' guys won't go near it."
I said "Too bad! You could call it 'Bambi's Revenge!"
Yeah. BYG is donating the venison to the Cause, and I think I've been volunteered to come up with said entry. The thing is, I've never cooked with venison, and, more importantly, I don't do spicy. Seriously. the Carroll Shelby chili mix without the cayenne pepper is at the very limit of what I can tolerate, and that's only with lots of dairy to go with it. Shorter Half has volunteered to taste test, but I need a starting point. Can anyone get me started? I think I've got about a pound and a half of radioactive venison to work with.
How good is your eye? Should you have been an engineer, or would you have been better majoring in Russian Lit? Read the directions first to see how it's scored. You time does not contribute you your score, but it is recorded so you can see if you can beat your previous score *and* time.
I thought I'd take advantage of the full-length mirror in my hotel room this weekend to show you the minimum of what I wear to 18th century events.
First layer, the one against the skin is the shift. Made of linen, it hangs down to about mid shin. Underneath the shift are stockings, garters and shoes. On top of the shift are the stays. The term "corset" isn't used until later. My stays are only partially boned, lace up the front and the back, and haven't been finished -- there isn't any binding around the edges yet. Which is good as I seem to have to keep taking them in. I've also put my hair up, and have covered it with a white linen cap.
Here, I've added my under-petticoat (you'd just call it a skirt), a pair of pockets, and a neck handkerchief to fill in the neckline and protect my skin from the sun. For a formal event, my clothes would be nicer, the neckline a tad lower and much more exposed if indoors. The pockets are a separate item, and are not sewn into each petticoat.
Here is my second petticoat and my bum roll. Technically, the bum roll should be under this petticoat, but if I did that, the petticoat hem would ride up in back. When I'm fully dressed, this won't show, so shhhh, don't tell, okay?
Now I've added my work gown with the back looped up a la polonaise, and a work apron that is tucked up behind. The ideal figure at this time was a cone, topped by an inverted cone. Or to look at it another way -- the bigger I make my hips look, the smaller my waist looks. I then take what looks like a giant 14" long tongue depressor called a busk, and slide it down the front of my stays to give me a nice straight front line. (Remember that cone shape.) The busk is one reason you see women in 18th century portraits sitting with their knees apart. Trust me on this.
I'd then add a shallow-crowned straw hat tipped forward over my forehead a bit, or a black silk bonnet, depending on the weather.
And this is why I get a little cranky when the temperature tops 100 degrees.
Sweet Daughter and I traveled to Yorktown this weekend for our last event of the season. As a treat for ourselves, we stayed at a “mid-level” hotel with an indoor swimming pool. While checking in, I noticed a table at right angles to the check-in area with some brochures on it, and a gentleman talking to a couple.
After successfully checking in, SD and I turned to grab a luggage cart, and go get all of our stuff out of the car. The gentleman with the brochures jumped up, came around from behind his table, stood in front of me, and asked if I was traveling alone.
I thought, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??” The desk clerk had done a great job not specifically mentioning what room, or even floor I was in/on, but told me where to park, what staircase to use, and handed me my key envelope upside down so nobody could see the room number written on it. Why was this guy asking me this question in a crowded lobby?
He asked again, “Is your husband traveling with you, or are you traveling alone with your daughter?”
This guy was not some roly-poly, unassuming type of guy. He probably had 6” in height on me, an athletic build, and had a rather aggressive manner.
I surprised myself a bit, and didn’t back down. “THAT’s a little bit creepy” I said just as aggressively. Somehow, I must have offended his inner salesman.*
“That’s not creepy!” he retorted.
“Are you traveling alooooooooooone? Just you and your daughter?? Yeah. THAT’S JUST A LITTLE BIT CREEPY!” I stated emphatically. I comforted myself as I pushed past him with the fact that I had 49 rounds of defensive ammunition with me.
When I went to sign in at the school office so I could play “chaperone”, it was a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. I wasn’t paying attention to the background noise as I was trying to navigate my way through the “Why are you here?” questionnaire when the office staff suddenly stopped what there were doing, stood up, faced the corner where there was an American flag, and placed their hands over their hearts. The voice over the speaker led the school in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance! And only one of the parents needed a pointed look to join in. And then there was a rather long “Moment of Silence” following the Pledge, AND there was a sign that said “In God We Trust. Our National Motto”. I was tickled pink!
Okay. Back to the pumpkin patch.
Sweet Daughter had gone off at as near a dead run as she can manage while navigating the vines, and leaping the trenches between the raised beds.
"I'm looking for the perfect pumpkin!"
"Maybe this one? No."
While SD is carefully examing about one in every ten pumpkins in the field, the rest of the four busloads of kids all grab a pumpkin and call it a day.
FINALLY. The perfect round pumpkin.
Finally, as the tractor returned to take us all back up the hill so we could eat lunch, an acceptable pumpkin was found. It followed the parameters that the child had to be able to carry it without help, and it had to fit in their backpack.
"It's okay, Momma. I've got it."
"Does it fit in your backpack?"
So, all is well and good. We cram ourselves back onto the wagons (this having the advantage of being so snug that nobody could have fallen off if they had tried), ride back to the picnic area, and disembark. Now, Sweet Daughter likes to jump off of things. Curbs, steps, you name it. See where this is going? I missed the jumping part, but I saw her on her back, looking surprised with her legs waving in the air as the weight of the pumpkin in her backpack pulled her off balance. She was fine, I laughed, and the other parents looked at me funny.
After they ate lunch, the kids got to go play. Since I wasn't riding back on the bus but was driving directly back to work, I went up to the teacher and told her I was leaving, and to thank her for letting me come along.
When I left, all the kids I'd had lunch with were breathing, and none were bleeding. I considered the day a success.
Today I volunteered to accompany Sweet Daughter’s kindergarten class field trip to a local pick-your-own farm.
They learned about different varieties of apples.
They sang songs.
They learned about how pumpkins grow.
And then the part they were all waiting for … the pumpkin patch!
The tractor pulled two wagons crammed with students and chaperones.
They have a goats in a pasture, complete with a "goat walk" up over the road.You can buy a handful of corn, put it in a cup, and run it up to a platform using a pulley system.
“I'm a model you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the goatwalk
Yeah on the goatwalk on the goatwalk yeah
I do my little turn on the goatwalk”
And then ... we reach the pumpkins.
I'm unable to upload any more pictures to this post for some reason, and I've got to finish up the 2 dozen scones I'm baking, and the turkey breast I'm roasting for the weekend, so the search for the greatest pumpkim will commence tomorrow.
Last Saturday evening in Williamsburg, while a group of us were waiting for dinner (the site fed us on Saturday night!), Sweet Daughter was squirreling around. When she’s tired, she doesn’t get cranky, she doesn’t melt down, she doesn’t suddenly fall asleep, she turns into what we call “shark baby”. As long as she doesn’t stop moving, she figures she won’t miss anything.
She was very close to falling down and going “blammo” several times, so I finally told her “Listen. I don’t have the spray-on Neosporin (the magical topical elixir of life, as far as she is concerned) with me. If you fall down, you’re just going to have to sit there and bleed until I’m done eating and we can walk back to camp.”
And the comment from the peanut gallery? “Wow. That’s Mother-of-the-Year material right there!”
We spent last weekend in Colonial Williamsburg at their “Prelude to Victory” event. We turned our coats and portrayed Continentals en route to Yorktown to meet up with Cornwallis.
The medical-types were ensconced in both rooms of the East Advance of the Governor’s Palace (yes, we play the Palace!) and the four of them talked non-stop both days. The weather was lovely for October. A wee bit cool at night, but the days were gorgeous, if a tad warm. The crowds were steady, but not the mobs we get in June, so that was nice, too. I scored a gown at the CW Costume Design Center yard sale that mostly fits. It needs some work and it's a bit short in the sleeve and skirt length (I know! Who'd have thought??), but it's workable. The other highlight being some tourists asking if I was a student at William and Mary. I thanked them profusely and explained that I'd graduated from college twenty-mumble years ago. They almost started to argue with me. I thought I was going to have to pull out photo ID to convince them. I was highly amused.
You didn't think I'd miss a good retractor photo opp, did you:?
Many, many photos were taken, shopping was accomplished, and good fellowship rounded out the weekend. Now, to sort through everything, wash, repack, and head off next weekend to Yorktown.
Written by the U.S. Army’s Chief Historian, Dr. Richard Stewart, it appeared in the regular feature “The Chief Historian’s Footnote,” of ARMY HISTORY, the professional quarterly journal of the U.S. Army Historical Program, published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, in the Fall 2010 issue.
A Historian’s Code (1)
1. I will footnote (or endnote) all my sources (none of this MLA or social science parenthetical business).
2. If I do not reference my sources accurately, I will surely perish in the fires of various real or metaphorical infernal regions and I will completely deserve it. I have been warned.
3. I will respect the hard-won historical gains of those historians in whose steps I walk and will share such knowledge as is mine with all other historians (as they doubtless will cheerfully share it with me).
4. I will not be ashamed to say “I do not know” or to change my narrative of historical events when new sources point to my errors.
5. I will never leave a fallen book behind.
6. I will acknowledge that history is created by people and not by impersonal cosmic forces or “isms.” An “ism” by itself never harmed or helped anyone without human agency.
7. I am not a sociologist, political scientist, international relations-ist, or any other such “ist.” I am a historian and deal in facts, not models.
8. I know I have a special responsibility to the truth and will seek, as fully as I can, to be thorough, objective, careful, and balanced in my judgments, relying on primary source documents whenever possible.
9. Life may be short, but history is forever. I am a servant of forever.
(1) Stewart, Richard, Ph.D., “Historians and a Historian’s Code,” ARMY HISTORY, No. 77 (Fall 2010), p. 46.
You see, I’m getting ready for an event in Williamsburg, VA, this weekend, and I thought that I’d see if I couldn’t get those pesky orange stains out of the neckline of Sweet Daughter’s and my white linen shifts. You see, if you put on sunblock and don’t wait until it soaks into your skin before you get dressed, it will rub off on your light-colored clothing, react with the iron in your water when you wash them, and stain your clothes orange.
So, I’m working my Google-fu, and find that I can rub in a dish detergent like “Dawn”, let it sit, and then wash, or I can use anything with rust remover in it, but not to use any oxy-type product as that makes it worse. A product called “The Works” got lots and lots of hosannas. One guy even said:
Since I’m sort of pressed for time this week, I decided I liked the “it works instantly” option better than the rubbing and scrubbing option. My “local” (yeah, it’s still 30 miles away) Target didn’t have the bathroom cleaner, but did have the stuff for the toilet bowl. “That’s supposed to work!” I said to myself as I tossed it in the cart.
When I got home, I gathered up our shifts and squirted “The Works” toilet bowl cleaner on the necklines. Hmmm. The stains didn’t just “disappear”. As a matter of fact, the shifts started turning pale blue from the dye in the cleaner. Except for the orange stains around the neck. They were a lot more noticeable now, since they contrasted with the blue.
I tossed the shifts in the wash with the rest of my white linen, some borax, and some laundry detergent. At the end of the cycle EVERYTHING was noticeably a little blue except for the cheery orange stains. Oh, and that really nice linen sheet that wasn’t quite white. The fibers still retained a little of its yellowish color which, when mixed with the blue, made for an interesting green tinge.
Eh. I tossed everything back in the wash for another go-round, this time with some bleach which seemed to lighten things up a little. The sheet spent 24 hours outside on the wet grass getting a “dew bleach” which helped a little. The shifts still have a bluish tint, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that they did have bluing in the 18th century. Now if I can just get rid of that toilet cleaner odor so I don't walk around all weekend smelling like a urinal cake. Because that's farby.
“We don’t seek to be the alternative to the tea party or the answer to the tea party, but we’re very much the antidote to the tea party,” added Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP and a leading organizer of the rally. “This is a time of increasing tension and decreasing prosperity. We simply want to say we’ve come way too far to turn back now.”
Don’t turn back from the increasing tension and decreasing prosperity.
Last weekend we traveled to Brandywine Creek State Park near Wilmington, DE, for an event. The weather Friday night was gorgeous. Warm, with a lovely breeze, and a moon one day past full meant I stayed up way too late enjoying both the weather and the company, including some friends I haven’t seen since before Sweet Daughter was born.
Sunrise on Saturday
Saturday was another lovely day. Sweet Daughter got out her 18th century-style watercolors and proceeded to paint some paper fans. The solid tablets of color are put into small dishes (oyster shells work really well) and a little water is added.
Painting a fan
Sweet Daughter explaining what she was doing to the public.
Oyster shells holding what's left of the paint tablets.
There was a battle scenario with lots of artillery. I reminisced about how I missed my days out on the field serving on a field piece, and then I watched the crews pull their guns UP the hill, back into camp, and I didn’t miss it so much anymore. There was a really nice bunch of sutlers and I found many, many things that I “needed”.
After a supper of corn chowder, we made bacon Peeps. And then the rum came out. But not just any rum. Michael W. brought Pyrat Pistol rum. Amazing stuff. (Michael W. is very, very good to his friends.) Much rum punch was consumed. There was mirth and merry-making. That’s what I remember, anyway. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Pyrat Pistol Rum. If single malt was rum, it would taste like this.
Sunrise on Sunday
Sunday morning dawned a bit gray. And then it rained off an on most of the day. There was a skirmish in the morning, for fun, and another fantastic battle for the public later in the day. And it stopped raining in time to pack up. All in all, a great weekend!*
More pictures (not mine) can be found here. *The drive home was a bit odd, but that's a post for another time.
I found the solution to making the perfect bacon-wrapped Peep. No more under-done bacon and over-melted marshmallow the consistency of shaving cream! Start with pre-cooked bacon that comes in a box, wrap it around your Peep, secure with a toothpick, and then toast. Et viola!
Two more skeptics who tried the combination at first just to be polite are now firmly in the "please pass me another bunny with bacon" camp.