July 30, 2011

The Perfect Working Space

Many times I find myself thinking "If I only had a desk that was an inch shorter and a big comfy armchair, I would be able to write more," or " I can't possibly sew so much until I have a permanent spot where people won't keep moving everything." Many people have an image of what their perfect working space will look like: the space where they will finally get all of their work done.  Possibly, the perfect working space will have a large ornate antique writing desk and large windows that look out onto a breathtaking vista. This space will inspire and allow you to do work. It is the perfect space and it is a perfect lie. 

 Had your perfect working space ever materialized, you might find that it wasn't the perfect working space. One thousand new problems would materialize there. The windows might be distracting or the room too spacious. It is very hard to build the perfect space. This is why this type of perfect working space is false.    
The perfect working space is the space where you actually get work done. You might already know this space or have yet to find it. But the important thing is to not wait for the perfect space to do work. If you wait for the perfect space, you will never accomplish anything.
Many people have accomplished a lot in places that are perfectly average places. J.K. Rowling found that her perfect working space was in cafes. Thomas Mann liked to write in a wicker chair with an ocean view. It doesn’t matter where you work as long as you get work done. 

Some tips on being productive especially when working space is less than desirable:

Keep well stocked.
Even if your working space isn’t perfect, make sure you have everything you need before you start. It is frustrating to have to stop working every few minutes to find more paper or some scissors.  

Keep a schedule.
Depending on your situation and work you may have to plan to do work early in the morning, late at night to variable. Just make sure you set time aside to work. Make an appointment with yourself and don’t break it. It might be from “6 AM to 8 AM” or it might be “45 minutes a day.”

Work toward goals.
Set little goal and big goals. Little goals help break down a colossal task into smaller, more manageable bits.  

Take breaks.
Make sure you take breaks to prevent boredom and alleviate pain. Typing on the computer, sewing, painting ect. for a long period of time can make working more difficult. Breaks help keep you refreshed and focused.  

July 27, 2011

Easy English Colonial Dance: The Hessian, Dance Diagram and Music

A Hessian Soldier 
 This is a part of a program that a friend and I have been putting together for work. We will be teaching a colonial dance: "The Hessian."

Hessian soldiers were German soldiers who were hired out by their government to England. They were known as "Hessians" because many of them came from the state of Hesse-Kassel. England stationed these soldiers in America to keep the peace and later to fight the Patriots in the Revolutionary War. They were known for their brutal killing techniques and weaponry. 

 There is a grievance about them in the Declaration of Independence: "He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation."   

The Hessian is a very simple dance so anyone can do it. Colonial dances were set to a particular tune, normally of the same name as is true with this one. Below is a music clip and the instructions for the dance. In the diagram, circles represent the men and squares represent the ladies. This type of dance could be danced in groups of four or with numerous groups of four, lined up in lines.The partners travel through the dances and eventually dance with every other couple. Keep in mind, if you are dancing in a line, one or more couples may be "out" during a rotation, but they will soon be back in. 

Step 1: This is the starting position of the dance. The men are on one side of the line and the women are on the other. The men are facing the women. 

Step 2: The first gentleman offers the second lady his right hand and they make a complete turn and return to their starting positions.

Step 3: The second gentleman offers the first lady his right hand and they make a complete turn and return to their starting positions.

Step 4: The first gentleman stretches his right arm across to the second lady who does the same. Simultaneously, the second gentleman stretches his right arm across to the first lady’s. From above, the arms will form a cross. Together, everyone turns in a circle to the right. (From above the figure will look like spokes of a wheel turning.) 

Step 5: The first gentleman stretches his left arm across to the second lady who does the same. Simultaneously, the second gentleman stretches his left arm across to the first lady’s. From above, the arms will form a cross. Together, everyone turns in a circle to the left until back in starting positions.

Step 6:  The first gentleman will offer his right hand to the first lady, who will do the same. They turn in a circle to the right one time. The first gentleman should be in the first lady’s starting position and the first lady should be in the second gentleman’s starting position.

Step 7: The first gentleman and the first lady turn to the outside of the group and walk down behind the second couple. When the first couple gets 75% of the way down, the second gentleman offers his right hand to take the second lady’s right hand and leads her one step to the front. The first couple takes the position that the second couple has just vacated. 

Step 8: The first gentleman will offer the first lady, both hands and they will make one right turn so that both the gentleman and the lady are on the side that they started on. 

Step 9: While not a physical step, the couples change numbers. The first couple becomes the second couple and the second couple becomes the first couple and the dance is repeated until the song ends.

Please watch the video to hear a pretty boring rendition of the music. Imagine the melody played on the harpsichord or by an orchestra.  

July 25, 2011

Ways to Save Money Reenacting

 Reenacting can be expensive. If you add up the cost of gas for one event, the price of your gear, the cost of food and the price to register, you are talking about a lot of money. Many people are surprised to find out that reenactors are not paid to do what they do and, in fact, actually pay to be there. Most reenactors also buy their own cookware, tents, clothing and other equipment. 

Civil War Reenactor Reenacting

Become a Nonprofit. If you haven’t already, make sure your reenacting group is registered as a nonprofit organization so that your clothing, weapons, equipment and gas mileage is tax deductible (save your receipts.) 

Focus on one impression. Would a poor farm-girl have 10 dresses? Probably not. Would she really want a new dress? Probably. Wanting what you can’t have? Priceless. Do you know how the guys talk of those magic moments on the battlefield when it “feels real?” It feels real when you sit outside of a ball, just listening to the music because you don’t have a nice dress to wear and your poor farm-girl couldn’t afford a ticket anyway. (If you are poor in the day, be poor at night. If you are a man in the day, stay a man at night. If you portray a wealthy person, make sure you have the money to do so properly and can afford nice dresses, bonnets, jewelry, ect. If you choose to be a wealthy person, it is much cheaper to not have a “farmer’s wife impression” and a “nurse impression” and a “general’s wife impression in addition to it. When you are ready to take on an entirely new impression and after a lot of research, you should have been able to have saved up enough money for it. ) 

Buy secondhand or trade for things you need. Once you have created a new impression that you like and want to keep, you can get rid of some of the old things that you don’t use anymore by selling them to reenactors that need them and buy things that have already been used. Used clothing has the added bonus of looking like it is worn everyday and not just one weekend a month for half the year. 

Do without. Limit yourself to what you bring to an event. It would be nice to be able to bring a dish for anything you might possibly want to cook but it’s costly, not practical and period incorrect. 

Learn to Sew. You might spend a little bit making mistakes when learning to sew but the mistakes will pay for themselves when you can make your own clothing. If you are truly a beginner, try to find someone to help you sew something simple to start out. 

Try to keep your “gear” to a minimum and sell the rest. In my tent, there is a rule that if something isn’t 100% necessary (dress, shoes, gun, cartridge box) than it must serve at least 3 other purposes. We have a tiny skillet that we use to move coals, dig holes, cook and as my plate/dish. Our 99 cent skillet has replaced a possibly expensive shovel and eating utensil. Less money and less to carry. 

Do research then buy at unexpected places. If you study fabrics and research well, you can find cheap, appropriate fabrics at thrift stores and yard sales. Make sure you are very well researched first, though. This works for cookware and furniture too. 

Share equipment. This can cause problems so be careful. Hammers, cooking utensils, some clothing can be shared. Make sure you are respectful and courteous to those you share with.   

July 20, 2011

7 Books to Read with Children

 Whether your a mom or a dad, older sibling, babysitter or teacher, these books are great books to read with children. A great benefit of reading along with a child is the ability for discussing the book. You can answer questions, discuss decisions that a character made and whether or not you both think that it was a good idea and what you would have done differently.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Brian's parents are divorced. He goes to spend time with his father but tragedy strikes and Brian gets stuck alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a hatchet. Will he survive? 

 A brother and sister decide that they are taken for granted so they run away from home and take up residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When a mysterious statue, possibly the work of Michelangelo, is sold to the museum for a few hundred dollars, the siblings can't rest until they get to the bottom of the mystery.  

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Okay, the appeal of this book might just be the reenactor's dream that this could come true.)
Jessie is a normal 13 year old girl in 1840: she lives with her family, goes to school and has never been far from town. That is, until children start getting sick and her mother tells her a huge secret: the year is really 1996, they live in a historical museum and the owners are holding them hostage and denying them modern medicine. It's up to Jessie to sneak out and find help in a modern world that she knows nothing about.

Anne is a orphan with flaming red hair and a temper to match. She is mistakenly sent to a brother and sister looking for a boy to help them on their farm. Anne likes to daydream which gets her into trouble at the worst times possible. She doesn't mean to be a bother, but will the family keep her after all the trouble she causes?

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter is an orphan whose parents died in a horrible car accident. He is sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle who hate him until he receives a letter in the mail telling him that his is really a wizard. He finds out that his parents were really killed by an notoriously evil wizard and in the wizarding world, he is famous. He is sent to school where he struggles through schoolwork, makes friends and comes face to face with the wizard who killed his parents.

The Sign of the Beaver

Matt lives with his father on a homestead in the early days of American colonization. His father leaves him to watch over the house while he brings the rest of the family there from the east. Matt is alone and without food when he gets injured, when he is saved by a Native American doctor. A Native American boy, Attean helps Matt learn Native American survival methods in exchange for English lessons. The boys don't like each other but they soon learn to respect each other.

Huck sets out on an adventure, rafting down the Mississippi with an escaped slave named Jim. There is some controversy over the word choice in this book. The book is a period book and clearly a product of its time. 

According to US News in 2007, 1 in 4 American adults had read 0 books in the previous 12 months. We need to raise children who become adults who love to read. Children who are read to, learn to love books. Many students' only experience with books is in the classroom where they can link books with negative experiences. Children should associate books with having fun and exploring worlds with the people they love.   

July 16, 2011

Godey's Lady's Book Recipes for July

 We have finally had some perfect weather days this summer. Most of the days this July have just been too hot to want to cook.  Godey's Lady's Book was one of the most popular ladies magazine in America during the Civil War. Below are some recipes taken from the 1864, July issue.  

Historical Recipes Civil War Recipes

SNOWBALLS.-- Place some rice in milk to well ; strain it off ; put the rice round apples pared and cored, with a bit of lemon-peel, a clove, and a piece of cinnamon in each ; tie in a cloth, and boil well. (81)

SCOLLOPED TOMATOES.--Take fine, large tomatoes, perfectly ripe. Scald them to loosen the skins, and then peal them. Cover the bottom of a deep dish thickly with grated bread-crumbs, adding a few bits of fresh butter. Then put in a layer of tomatoes, seasoned slightly with a little salt or cayenne, and some powdered mace or nutmeg. Cover them with another layer of bread-crumbs and butter. Then another layer of seasoned tomatoes ; and proceed thus till the dish is full, finishing at the top with bread crumbs. Set the dish into a moderate oven, and bake it near three hours. Tomatoes require long cooking, otherwise they will have a raw taste, that to most persons is unpleasant. (81-82)

YOUNG CORN OMELET.--To a dozen ears of fine young Indian corn allow five egg. Boil the corn a quarter of an hour ; and then, with a large grater, grate it down from the cob. Beat the eggs very light, and then stir gradually the grated corn into the pan of eggs. Add a small salt-spoon of salt, and a very little cayenne. Put into a hot frying-pan equal quantities of lard and fresh butter, and stir them well together, over the fire. When they boil, put in the mixture thick, and fry it ; afterwards browning the top with a red-hot shovel, or a salamander. Transfer it, when done, to a heated dish, but do not fold it over. It will be found excellent. This is a good way of using boiled corn that has been left from dinner the preceding day. (82)

Historical Recipes Civil War Recipes* A salamander is an iron tool that is heated up and used to brown the top of dishes. When cooking over a fire, a small frying pan or coal shovel can be heated up and used like a salamander. 
*Indian corn  is not the ornamental "Indian corn of today." Indian corn was edible corn that could come in white, yellow, red or mixed.

RASPBERRY WINE.--Bruise the finest ripe raspberries with the back of a spoon ; strain them though a slannel bag into a stone jar ; allow one pound of fine powdered loaf sugar to one quart of juice ; stir these well together and cover the jar closely. Let stand for three days, stirring up the mixture everyday ; then pour off the clear liquid, and put two quarts of sherry to each quart of juice or liquid. Bottle it off, and it will be fit for use in a fortnight. By adding Cognac brandy, instead of sherry, the mixture will be raspberry brandy. (83)

SPRING ROLL.--Four eggs, one cup of sugar, one cup of flour, half a teaspoon of soda, one teaspoon of cream of tartar, add any flavor to suit the taste. Stir well, and spread thin on bread pans ; bake quickly, and when thoroughly baked turn it out on a cloth, and spread with jelly and roll it up.(83)

*My grandmother used to eat a similar dish when she was a child. She made a plain eggs, spread jelly on them and rolled it up. It is a different taste than we are used to.

Recipes from: 
 Hale, Sarah Josepha. "Receipts, &c." Godey's Lady's Book. July 1864, 80-84.

July 13, 2011

Stealing History, Again!

Landau's Mugshot
I do many more posts on things like this than I would really like to. It's horrible, but yet another researcher has been stealing historical documents from a museum. Saturday, Baltimore Police arrested Barry Landau and accomplice, Jason Savedoff, for the theft of over 60 documents from the Maryland Historical Society. The documents included Lincoln memorabilia, notably a document signed by Lincoln. The current total for the known stolen material is over $900,000.

Landau, is a presidential historian who boasted of his Manhattan home artifact collection that topped a million pieces.  

The day of the heist, Landau brought cupcakes for the museum staff, who claimed that Landau and Savedoff had visited the museum previously and had odd behavior. Now the FBI has to discover the extent of the thefts and hopefully recover all stolen material. Landau, like Thomas P. Lowry who was charged for altering a Lincoln-signed document back in January, has a book in the works due for release in a few months.

It is frustrating for historians to not have access to documents because of stuff like this. It is even more frustrating to not be able to find a document because it has been stolen. Unfortunately, original sources have to be referable. It is amazing how easily mistakes can happen in a historical work which are then amplified in future historical works that never checked the original documents. Hopefully, the digitization of documents will help alleviate problems with theft.     

Watch a video from the Huffington Post.

July 11, 2011

Finished Project! Dark Mark Illusion Scarf!

The scarf at an angle.
I finally got my "Dark Mark Illusion Scarf" off of my needles! It has been one of those projects that was pushed to the bottom of the pile by more time-sensitive things. I still need to add fringe to it and block it. I was thinking about white fringe or red. If I put red fringe on it, I think the scarf will look a little too lizard-like which would look neat but wouldn't be as wearable. I think the white fringe would make it look less Halloween-y.

The scarf, looking straight-on.
The neat thing about this scarf is that when you look straight on it, you can not see the design. But if you are at an angle, such as walking up stairs, the design pops out. The design is from the Harry Potter Movies (which I don't like all that much) but the pattern was fun so I had to make one. I also try to knit a bit more in the summer because if I don't, nothing will be done in time to wear it when it is cold.  It is harder to knit in the summer because the wool on your lap does get very warm, in the winter, the extra heat is welcoming.

So, which fringe do you think would look better? I can do all green, all black, a mixture of green and black, red or white. What do you think would look best? If you want to make your own scarf, the pattern is now on Ravelry for free and only took two skeins of wool to make. I used alpaca so it's very toasty to wear. I can't wait for winter now.


July 8, 2011

Wild Berry Picking!

Today, I went berry picking with a few friends. The forecast called for severe thunderstorms but luckily, they held off. We plan to make jam, preserve them whole and make colonial wine. The majority of our haul was wine-berries (Rubus phoenicolasius) but we also found a few ripe blackberries. We saw unripe wild grapes, patches of unripe blackberries, tons of walnuts and hickory nuts and even some mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum.)

Wineberry is a species of raspberry which originated in Asia and has since become invasive. This particular type of raspberry was introduced into the U.S. in 1889 and now grows in practically every state in the eastern U.S. They were originally planted for their berries but were later valued for their ornamental use.

Once off the bush, the berries are indistinguishable from older strains of raspberry so we can use them for our colonial treats. In Colonial times, raspberries were used for wines, pies and deserts.
Sometimes the plants would be cultivated but frequently, many plants were propagated wildly by birds. The wild berries were harvested by locals, used in the home or taken to market for city dwellers who could not grow their own. 

In her 1837 book, The American Frugal Housewife, Lydia Marie Child recommends that children make themselves useful by picking wild berries for sale in town.

We gathered a lot of berries. It is definitely a task that is a lot easier with a lot of helping hands. The plants are prickly so you have to be careful not to get pricked.

July 7, 2011


Map from http://www.oasisafrica.com/Maps.html

Today I opened up my school e-mail (to let the months fly out) and I was deleting the normal spam mail and came across a piece of mail from June 1st. I opened it up, it was from one of my teachers that I will have in the fall. I read through it, noted some important textbook information, and opened the attached message. Turns out that that book is summer reading and I have large project already! Goodness! I was given the topic "Southern Africa."

I may be a month behind, but I hope I can catch up before school starts again. I have a lot of reading and research to do! I admit, I am very behind in my African history: I only know it from a European perspective. The professor's goal was to assign us a region of the world that we might be "weak" in so we all can improve. I am excited for the chance to study regions and cultures that I wouldn't have chosen myself--so far I've been North America, Europe and Asia centered in my studies.

July 5, 2011

Beach Vacation, Warning: Photo Heavy!

Last week, my family and I went to the beach. We went up in the Cape May lighthouse, which was built in the 1860s, took a ferry ride, walked the board walks, and collected seashells on the beach. We all had a lot of fun, it's been a really long time since we've gone somewhere as a family.

Me at the beach.
Beach Bunnies. Two different species.
Scattered storms came and went all day.
Andy and I went up in the Cape May Lighthouse.
Andy getting over his fear of heights.
Me at the top of the lighthouse.
View from the top.
Beach near the lighthouse which is home to a lot of wildlife.
My family and Andy going to visit a WWII bunker. We never made it. A thunderstorm struck right at this moment and we had to leave the beach. (Good thing we were down from the lighthouse!)
Stuff on the beach. Looks like a movie set, doesn't it?
Me on the ferry ride.
Birds in the wake of the ferry. I had thought that maybe the ships propellers were leaving behind a trail of freshly minced sushi but Andy told me that the seagulls did that even before propellers were used on boats. Turns out that the ships make an airflow that the seagulls like to fly in. The pull from the boat might also "streamline" seafood into the general area making it easy for them to catch it.
Jellyfish at night off of a fishing boat dock.
Remember, if you are going to win your girlfriend a large stuffed toy on the boardwalk, make sure it fits in the car.

Sailboat on the beach
We normally find seashells on the beach and paint them ourselves as souvenirs of out trips. My little sister painted all of these. I especially love the whale.

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