August 31, 2011

This Thing Called Sleep

I've been working on a neat post but; unfortunately, school has kept me so busy that sleep has become this amazing novelty that is better than anything I can think of. 

However, I am taking a bunch of classes that I am actually interested in! That has never happened before. I am taking a class on the history of Pennsylvania and on the Revolutionary War period. I do have a ton of interesting reading but it's still a lot, even if it is interesting.

I'm really aching to write a post. I have a whole bunch of interesting ideas and no time to write. I'm sure after the first few weeks things will settle down and I'll be able to write a proper post. In the meantime, I look forward to this thing called sleep which is so glorious I am recommending it to everyone I know. :D

Is anyone else feeling this stress?

August 26, 2011

Book Sale Woes

Dear lady at the book sale with the book scanner,

I know buying books cheaply and reselling them is your livelihood. I was enjoying my day, casually looking through the used books at the library sale. I never buy more than 5 books and the books that I buy aren't exactly big money makers. In fact, that day I was just looking for a replacement 4th Harry Potter book for mine that promptly fell apart the first time I read it. I just want you to know that I very much appreciated you constantly raging toward me, like a reaping machine, throwing books every which way and pulling books practically out of my hands. Your reaching across me numerous times at the sale was welcomed and I hope you found everything you were looking for. You must have because I saw your 7 large bags of books stationed around the sale. I also liked the way you almost attacked that lady who saw a book in one of your bags and thought that it must have been available.

I was wondering if you noticed that other gentleman with the book scanner? The one that realized that the likelihood of any of us casual book shoppers  picking up a particularly valuable book was close to nil. He waited until us other shoppers moved until he started scanning in an area. In fact he didn't touch me at all during the whole time I was there. He even watched me pick up the books I wanted and let me pass, with a smile.

As a bibliophile, I just love relaxing and looking at the lovely $1.00 offers at book sales. I am not a person who buys more than they can read. In fact my budget for the sale was $5.00. Thanks for making my relaxing day perusing gently used books a nightmare. I had heard of your kind before but had never personally witnessed them. I want to thank you for demonstrating to me what I can only term as "Book Sale Rape." Rape is not funny but I feel it is the word that most accurately described what you were doing. (Yes, I had to make up a term for your actions.)

I just want you to know that I did get the Harry Potter book that I was looking for. I know it retails for a whole $0.01 online but liked the book enough I sprang a whole dollar for it. Especially since I like to support the library.


The girl with the suede bag that you complimented before you shoved me out of the way.

Has anyone else seen this happening? I am lucky in the fact that I tend to like books that no one else finds interesting and are pretty worthless in terms of resale value but are worth much more in knowledge value. Another good reason to love the Classics. :D I know this post was a little bit cheeky, but I have noticed this is a growing trend and have even heard that these people are banned from some sales during peak hours. While I am personally unaffected because of the books I like to read, I am sure others are frustrated with not being able to find books at sales because of this practice. Also, a little bit of courtesy to other shoppers wouldn't damage the "haul" too much either. I am very glad that the libraries are befitting from this practice but it really is a sad sight to see for people who love books.   

August 24, 2011

Reenacting Safety

These storms we've been having! The thunder last night was rolling and constant. I was lying in bed, looking toward the window and couldn't help but think of artillery fire.  None of my family could sleep, so we sat up and watched the lightning storm together. There is a reenacting event this weekend that part of our group is going to (Andy and I are taking a reenacting break.) I have been at events in the past where people could have seriously been hurt but "hardcore-ness" or "this is what they had to deal with" has gotten in the way of many people taking necessary safety precautions.

 Heat-Related Problems:

I think heat exhaustion is one of the most common reenacting maladies. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 154 people were treated for heat-related illnesses at the last reenactment of First Manassas. But it happened then too: "Our men now and then fell down exhausted. If there were any cowards, they had a good excuse," wrote Frederick Frye of the 3rd Connecticut Infantry on July 30th, 1861 of his troops.

There are actually many heat related problems, including heat cramps, syncope, exhaustion, and stroke. The first three can be treated in camp but heatstroke is a medical emergency.

If you:

-Start to feel sick to your stomach
-Have been drinking a lot, but can't urinate
-Stop sweating when you should be sweating

Start to rehydrate by drinking a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda per quart. The person should then take a trip to the medical tent. It is generally advised to not do any further physical activity after you've become sick, so if you are feeling slightly sick in the morning: sit the battle out. Don't let anyone convince you that you are "letting them down" or "they need the numbers," when it could turn into a medical emergency.

A mixture like this can easily be kept in a small period correct jar or poke sack and poured into a tin cup or canteen as a precaution.  Make sure to keep an eye on other reenactors, especially on hot days or when marching. If nothing else will persuade you to take necessary precautions; remember, if you go down with heat and EMTs have to treat you, they will cut right through your meticulously researched, expensive, time consuming clothing to save your life. (It's ridiculous to have to put it into these terms but it is actually the only thing that will convince some people.)

Cold-Related Problems:

Cold-related problems include hypothermia and frostbite. These problems normally only occur at events that are later in the year, high in the mountains, or near a body of water. Sometimes events can be sizzling hot in the day and freezing at night. If you get to the point of hypothermia, it is a medical emergency.  According to The Civil War Battlefield Guide by Frances H. Kennedy "Many of the Union wounded froze to death in the no man's land between the lines," during Fredericksburg in December of 1862. Not many winter events include camping but some do, such as the Bath-Romney Campaign in January.

The best thing to do to prevent cold-related injuries is to pack a change of clothing and extra blankets, even if these things are kept in the car. Always take an extra blanket, even if you think you won't need it. You never know if one of your blankets will get wet or if it will turn out to be a lot colder that everyone anticipated.  Also keep a spare change of socks in a dry place.

Some "reenactor" tips for cold events include carefully warming up a stone near the fire, wrapping it up in a blanket, and using it as a heating pad for your feet at night. Also carefully putting hot liquid in a tin cup and holding it helps warm the hands. Keep in mind cuddling for body heat like real Civil War soldiers did; some guys would rather freeze, I know. Many people prefer to sleep "taco style" which is folding your blankets so you have one side of the blankets under you and the other part over top of you.


Rain is a common reenactor nuisance. One would think that we would all be better prepared for it. While there were rain umbrellas in the 1860s, I have yet to see an accurate reproduction one. Coats designed to repel rain did exist but I have not seen a reproduction one either. A good photo of Thomas Jackson's coat can be seen here. Also for civilians, oiled-silk capes existed for rain and some wools are water resistant. Oiled-silk was also used for water-proof dresses.  

Most storms are small and can past without harm, but violent storms can be dangerous. Make sure that your wood pile is covered with a ground cloth so that you can cook once the storm is over and that your tent stakes are firmly in the ground as wet soil can loosen them. Some people dig a small trench around their tent to direct water away from it but it is not possible or allowed at some events.

If there is lightning at an event, the best thing to do is to get a hotel room or sleep in your car. The last place you want to be during a lightning storm is in an open field with metal flag poles, cooking equipment, rifles, ect.  Metal on the ground doesn’t normally attract lightning strikes but can direct ground currents. Make sure not to touch metal during a storm with lightning. This is hard with rifles in tents.  Some people may dismiss the danger of lightning storms, but if the thunder is within 10 miles, find another place to stay. (To see how far away a storm is, count the seconds between when you see a lightning strike and when you hear the thunder. To see the science behind this see my post here: How Close are the Guns?)

Lightning will strike the tallest object in an area and then spread out along the ground. You do not want to be too close to the tallest object in the area to be hit when the energy travels along the ground and you do not want to be so far away that you become the tallest thing in the area. Last Gettysburg reenactment, lightning injured 5 reenactors during an early morning storm.

I think this post will be part of a series on possible safety issues we might encounter in the field. Hopefully I won't have to cover gun safety as it should be drilled into everyone's heads. I hope everyone was safe and enjoyed that last event, even with those terrible storms.

August 22, 2011

No Internet

It's true, I have no internet and i have a nice long post written up and no way to post it. I am writing this post up on my Kindle. Those of you you with Kindles know how ludicrous this is. It really is terrible being so disconnected from everything right when school is starting up and information can only be had online. I am enjoying my time offline by catching up with my reading. Hope all is well with everyone and I hope to catch up with everyone soon.

August 17, 2011

It's School Time Again

School will be starting up again, and even though it has been rainy, the weather is starting to feel like Fall. I have been cramming to finish books I have to read for my new classes, which has been difficult as I have a lot of personal reading I'd like to get done.

The problem with assigned reading is, even if the book is good, it still has been "injected" into your reading list instead of getting there "organically." :D Those books on my list have to fight for their position on the "to be read" list and they can be carelessly shoved out of the way by an assigned book.

I've been busy trying to get all of my school things together and out of the way before the stress of classes starts. I still have a lot of school stuff to buy and my temperamental internet hasn't been working because of all of the storms.  A lot of people do "spring cleaning" but I always do my heavy cleaning right before classes start so I don't have as much distraction from my work. My schedule this semester is kind of crazy and it seems I will be spending more time traveling to class than in class. Right now is a hectic time for everyone but I can't wait to see everyone in the next coming months. 

P.S. I am pressing "publish" before my internet decides to stop working again. 

August 13, 2011

Meteor Showers of 2011

I sat up last night and this morning trying to catch a bit of the Perseid Meteor shower that peaked early this morning. The full moon was too bright to see much this year, which was disappointing. The Perseid Meteor shower is known for producing up to 60 meteorites an hour and is always a great one to watch. My first year of reenacting, we had a couple of good events where meteors brightened the sky at night. Lately, even if they did, most of us are asleep long before and miss them.

 Meteors are frequently called "falling stars" but they really are just debris left behind by comets. The debris granules can be the size of a sand grain or as large as a boulder and are known as meteoroids until the reach the Earth's atmosphere and heat up. The trail that the meteorite follows through the atmosphere is a meteor and if a meteor doesn't burn up and hits the Earth, intact, it become a meteorite.


 Here is a list of the showers over the next few months. Most will not be as spectacular as the Perseid but can still make for a fun night of stargazing.

  • October: 
    • 8th-9th, Draconids- Only a few meteors an hour.
    • 21st-22nd- Orionids- up to 20 meteors an hour. Known for "fireball" meteors.
  • November:
    • 17th- 18th, Leonids- Best known for it's 33 year cycle. Harriet Tubman saw this shower back in 1833 and thought it was the end of the world. That year the shower was so big it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of meteors shot through the sky an hour. Yearly, about 20 meteors can be seen an hour.  
  • December:
    • 13th-14th, Geminids- Normally one of the best ones to catch. The meteors of this shower are known for their bright hues.

**Note: Both of these images are of the Leonids Meteor Shower which gave a spectacular show in 1833 and again in 1866.

August 10, 2011

25 Things You Didn't Know About Me

 This meme is about as old as the internet but I have never done it and I thought it would be fun.

1. I have recorded in Elvis’ RCA studio in Nashville, TN.

2. I have gone over a waterfall without a boat, like they do in movies. You will scratch your back up, but it is worth it.

3. I crave “normal” knitting patterns. Making historical items is fun but working with 100% wool is expensive and limiting.

4. I held a baby chimpanzee once.

5. I used to like Harry Potter this much:

10 points to anyone who questioned that this ended.

6. Fall is my favorite season and Halloween my favorite holiday.

 7. I love to cook but my family will not even taste anything that I cook.

8. Andy and I don’t know when our anniversary is. It’s sometime in September about 4 years ago. Around September 26th or 27th each year, we pick a day on the weekend that is good for both of us and celebrate on that day.

9. I think Valentine’s Day is stupid but I celebrate it anyway. It gives Andy and me an excuse to spoil each other rotten.

10. When I can’t sleep, I read the Federalist Papers.

11. I don’t like fiction all that much. 90% of what I read is nonfiction and the rest is Harry Potter (just kidding.)The rest tends to be classics. I do read a few children’s historical fiction books so I know what the children I teach have read about the Colonial and Civil War time periods.

12. I love thunderstorms, they are so relaxing.

13. Sometimes I read Cotton Mather’s, The Wonders of the Invisible World and am too scared to sleep. Scary stuff:

a. “For Instance, John Cool: testifi'd, That about five or six Years ago, one Morning, about Sun-Rise, he was in his Chamber assaulted by the Shape of this Prisoner [Bridget Bishop]: which look'd on him, grinn'd at him, and very much hurt him with a Blow on the side of the Head: and that on the same day, about Noon, the same Shape walked in the Room where he was, and an Apple strangely flew out of his Hand, into the Lap of his Mother, six or eight Foot from him.”

b. “VI. Samuel Gray testifi'd, That about fourteen Years ago, he wak'd on a Night, and saw the Room where he lay full of Light; and that he then saw plainly a Woman between the Cradle, and the Bed-side, which look'd upon him. He rose, and it vanished; tho' he found the Doors all fast. Looking out at the Entry-door, he saw the same Woman, in the same Garb again; and said, In God's Name, what do you come for? He went to Bed, and had the same Woman again assaulting him. The Child in the Cradle gave a great Screech, and the Woman disappeared. It was long before the Child could be quieted; and tho' it were a very likely thriving Child, yet from this time it pined away, and, after divers Months, died in a sad Condition. He knew not Bishop, nor her Name; but when he saw her after this, he knew by her Countenance, and Apparel, and all Circumstances, that it was the Apparition of this Bishop, which had thus troubled him.”

14. I never spell check the titles of my blog posts which is why a lot of them have huge spelling errors. I type them fast and forget to check them.

15. I love books to the point it was necessary to switch to ebooks because I honestly did not have room for any more.

16. I am a vegetarian.

17. My favorite food is “Noodles and Spinach” made by my grandmother. It is pretty much macaroni and cheese with spinach and sweet onions in it.

18. I don’t believe college degrees mean much in terms of ability to do a job. There are plenty of intelligent, competent, creative and talented people who never went to college.

19. I am addicted to Chinese Food, especially steamed vegetable dumplings. I love “trashy American” Chinese food as well as traditional.

20. I think corsets are comfier than bras. Which is why I think it is hilarious when people put on a corset and declare “I can’t breathe!” like they do in the movies.

21. I believe in doing what you love now, instead of waiting for recognition. a. You might not be a famous clothing designer now. But you are a clothing designer, don’t wait until you are well known to start designing clothing or you never will. I also don’t think you should title yourself as an “aspiring clothing designer” when you actually are a clothing designer by definition.

22. I love animals, especially bunnies.

23. I don’t really like watching movies. When I do watch movies, I have to be doing something else or I get incredibly bored. I normally knit, sew, draw or write.

24. I didn’t feel that this blog was established, until the day I found out that other sites stole material from it.

25. I dislike it when blogs supply their own music that plays automatically. If you have more than one blog open, this gets really annoying as you scroll to find the little off buttons to turn all of the music off. It is even more annoying if you are listening to your own music already. I think it would be cool to have a music widget there, with your favorite songs to read by that allows your readers to click and listen to your playlist if they want to.

26. I found out I am allergic to peanut butter while I was writing this list and had an allergic reaction which closed my throat. (I’m okay!)

If you think this was fun, do it on your blog, or in a comment on this blog. It’s fun to get to know everyone!

August 8, 2011

How many calories did they eat in a day in the 1860s?

This very unscientific study was inspired by rumors I have heard about the caloric intake of people during the 1860s. It is almost impossible to figure out an exact number due to the high levels of variety. Tastes, preferences, food availability, costs and personal habits can make a huge difference in the amount of food consumed.

This list was printed in a British book for housewives and was intended to give new housewives an idea of how much food to buy per person. It is a  very rough guideline. It does not take into account slight variations in amount such as it is recommended to buy 1/2 pound of sugar for a person but in a family of two, one person may eat 1/4 of it and the other 3/4. It also could vary depending on the different varieties of food, 1 pound of chicken has less calories than one pound of beef.

If there was a difference in the caloric counts of different articles, I picked an 1860s appropriate variety with a median caloric count.

  • 1/2 pound Sugar (white)
  • 1/2 pound Cheese (cheddar)
  • 1/2 pound Butter
  • 1 quart Milk (Whole Milk)
  • 8 pounds Bread 
  • 6 pounds Meat (3 pounds Chicken, 3 pounds Beef)
  • 1 gallon Beer (for a woman) 7 quarts for a Man
  • Potatoes 
The totals came to 18,250 calories per week for women which comes out to 2,607 calories per day and 25,162 calories per week for men or 3,594 per day.

These totals seem pretty decent, considering the amount of physical labor that many jobs back then required and the amount of walking that people did. Obviously, no one was eating exactly like this and the totals don't include vegetables, fruits, baked goods, ect. However, I feel it is a good guideline for the items in a common diet in Britain at the time, especially since the high calorie items listed most likely made up the majority of the diets then. It is also interesting to note that a large percentage of the calories came from drinks.

( Besides finding out this information for the 1860s, I would love to be able to do a real study of Colonial caloric intake, as I am constantly bombarded with the "fact" that people ate around 6,000 calories a day in the winter. While possible, I feel that would be a ridiculous amount of food to preserve. However, if the people who say this really mean that people "consumed" 6,000 calories a day, including high calorie drinks such as cider and beer, this seems much more possible.)

All in all, this was just for fun and should be taken with a huge pile of salt. The foods listed and the amounts of food given probably give us a better picture of what an 1860s diet looked like than anything else.

**Note: The image at the top is from The Photographic History of the War in Ten Volumes (Vol. 8) by  Francis Trevelyan Miller and Robert Sampson Lanier from 1911.The list is from Warne's Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book, published in 1868.

August 5, 2011

Andy's New Civil War Trousers

 Andy needed some new pants this reenacting season after another soldier exclaimed that the patches on his old pants "drew the eye places he shouldn't be looking at." :D

I like to sew but I do not sew that often because of the cost. I also can't rationalize having a wardrobe of clothing devoted to reenacting. So Andy and I wear our stuff until we really can't anymore. Then I get to sewing. I do have to admit, I do not have problems sewing dresses, but trousers really like to torment me.


 Maybe my next pair will actually have a watch pocket. Every time I attempt to sew one, I spend many hours and  waste a lot of fabric before I let him know that there "will be no watch pocket."

 I used a mix of antique buttons and new bone buttons. I would have used all new buttons but I had a lot of antique ones in my sewing box.
 I kind of wish I just left the lining white. This was a scrap of left over fabric from the very first reenacting shirt I made him. The shirt matched the lining of his hat and he liked it a lot. Recently he lost his hat and had to buy a new one and caught on fire while wearing the shirt. (He was okay, but there's a funny story there you should ask him about if you see him.)

 I tend to like trousers with buckles on the back and haven't decided if I am going to add a piece to the back yet. The buckle look nice but is not as comfortable to sleep on. I still have to put on the buttons for the braces but I need him to model them for me to do so.
This is a pretty lightweight wool that I originally purchased to make a sack coat out of. It is a little thin for pants but he will be wearing them in the summer and they are civilian pants and not standard  military.

 I was really excited to get this fabric because the weight is much more similar to what museum sack coats are made out of rather than blanket wool which some people mistakenly use.

Sometime this year, I hope to get a new dress that is a little nicer than the two I have now. Both my dresses are dirty old work dresses and I'd like something to be able to wear to nicer events.

August 3, 2011

1858 Peterson's Mantilla Pattern

In the 1850s, mantillas were lightweight, short capes with hoods. They were outerwear meant for Fall and Spring  and were frequently made out of lace or silk. If plain silk was used, mantillas were typically richly decorated with large pleats, ruffles, lace and ribbons.

This particular mantilla is made of silk, had a ribbon closure, an embroidered muslin collar and is decorated with a goffered flounce that is accented with braiding.

It seems like the perfect, simple project to make considering some of the reenacting and other period events will start getting a little chilly soon.

  This was a strange illustration to have in the magazine as the diagram requires editing to make the mantilla look like the back in this illustration.

The pattern has sharp curves unlike the illustration. The square-cut fronts is what makes it a "Bournous Mantilla."

This is a diagram for an embroidered collar that was featured in the same issue of Peterson's Magazine. These collars were typically embroidered with white thread on a white background but some were done in entirely black. The collar for the mantilla should be equally decorated.

This is an illustration on goffered flounce. The pleats were usually 4 or 5 inches deep.Mantillas were a high-fashion item and were trimmed to excess.

  If you plan to make this mantilla, keep in mind that it should not be lined with a heavy material or quilted. The square cutouts are supposed to land on your bent elbow and the back point should about 5 inches below your waist. Hopefully, I will enlarge the diagram and give everyone an idea on how many inches each part should be. It would be a nice, light covering to wear on your way to a ball.

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