May 31, 2013

The Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party Post #1

Thank you to all who have chosen to participate! I can't wait to go around and read everyone's posts. I was partly inspired to host this blog party by the journals many Quaker women kept during the Colonial period. Many times, they only gave an account of the weather and a short summary of the events of the day.

Here is an excerpt from the diary of Hannah Callender, a Philadelphia Quaker in the 1750s:

2nd day.--Rode a mile to Preserve Brown's where we passed the morning agreeably in seeing his mill and its works, attending to the fall of the water, pleasing discourse, fishing, &c. till 2 o'clock. Then we set out for Burlington, through Crosswicks, and pleasantly home by six o'clock.

The entries were short and simple but still gives us a lot of insight into their lives. I hope that we can add another, more personal, dimension to our blogs. So without further ado, my photos from this week:


Today I attended a lovely vow renewal ceremony for a couple who has been married for 50 years, which subsequently did not prevent 50% of the couple from tearing it up on the dance floor. :) 


I went for a nice walk in the woods near a river, where I stumbled upon something of a tent city. Graffiti, fire-pits and impromptu shelters right along the water. Then went to a Memorial day get-together picnic and got to see some of Andy's family.


Had the opportunity to walk through a submarine while in Philadelphia. I took a lot of nice photos from all of the interesting stuff we saw this day, it was very hard choosing just one. This one was taken in the submarine, Becuna.   


There's something funny about where I work. There are no gas stations between my house and there so I generally won't get gas until I HAVE to. My dad had to move the car this morning and exploded because he claimed that the gas gauge was on "E." I had to snap a photo of the gas gauge when I was on level ground to prove that I would never park the car in the driveway on empty. He also didn't think it was very funny when I told him I was hypermiling all week on those last few drips of gas like Wayne Gerdes. :)  It rained all day at work and the kids were soaked.


Today, I thought I'd be reporting on my new camera. Instead, our ox got loose at work today and the gentleman that fetched him sustained a hand wound which I ended up having to patch up in the kitchen. He bled a good deal outside before coming in and I had to do a good kitchen clean up before the kids showed up. I can only imagine the faces of the kids if they saw that in the kitchen. My coworker assured that it "isn't as bad as it looks, I'm on blood thinners." I also went to the library today and got 5 books out to keep me busy.   


Today I was giving tours of the house at work. It was very hot. As we walked down the hill to greet the students, we were already covered in sweat. Unfortunately something awful happened! A water main broke near us and the water closest to the house was unavailable as gallons and gallons per second were shooting from the ground uphill from us. Luckily, we had some water stored up in plastic jugs.

So far here is our list of our blog party attendees:

Andy from Crotchety Drones. 

Andrew from Air Nice-to-Livelands

Jeff from Dispatches from Company 'Q.'

Jess from Musings of a Creative Writer .

Laurie from Teacups in the Garden and Teacups Among the Fabric.

Please visit everyone's blogs and get to know them! Please invite your friends and readers to participate in the blog party too. Fear not if you didn't get to participate this week, leave a comment and I can add you for next week! :)

May 29, 2013

My Trip on the Amistad: Independence Seaport Museum

For our birthdays, Andy and I decided to spoil each other and go on a trip to Philadelphia to take a sail on the schooner, Amistad which was only docking there for a few days.

Before our sail, we checked out the Independence Seaport Museum and were able to tour the 344 foot Olympia, which fought in the Spanish American War and the Submarine Becuna, a WWII and Cold War vessel.

The Independence Seaport Museum was very interesting. There were a lot of unique artifacts that document a part of history that tends to stay isolated from other museums. Boats played a huge role throughout history from wars and exploration to shipping and travel.

The museum was surprisingly easy to get to and had a nice parking garage, a rarity in Philly. I'd recommend a visit, if you have the chance. It's very picturesque and close to the water.  I might write more about the Amistad and the other vessels in the coming days, but for now I'll just write about the sail.

The Freedom Schooner Amistad isn't exactly a reproduction of the schooner that caused a big stir in 1839. The historic vessel was illegally ferrying kidnapped Mende people from Sierra Leone who were brought to Cuba to be sold as slaves. As the slave trade had been abolished, the ship's owner falsified documents claiming that the enslaved Mende people were born in Cuba. During the voyage the prisoners were able to escape their chains and used harvesting machetes to take control of the vessel.They were eventually brought to court in the United States and with the help of abolitionists, were allowed to return to Africa.

We were extremely lucky that it turned out to be a beautiful day. This was the only day Andy and I were both off from work. The two sails before us were cancelled and rescheduled. We feared that happening to us as we wouldn't be able to reschedule. 

The crew was entertaining and the boat is part of an interesting program that teaches students at sea, called Ocean Classroom. The crew encouraged passengers to help with the deck tasks while we were sailing.   


Overall it was a beautiful trip and we had a lot of fun relaxing on the water. It's nice to be on the water without having to hear loud motors downing out the tranquil sound of the water.  

May 24, 2013

The Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party

The blogosphere has been quiet lately so I thought I'd throw a blog party!

Having kept this blog for a number of years I still feel that my readers don't get to meet the whole me. As I am increasingly encountering people who tell me that they recognize me from my blog. Sometimes I feel like I let them down. On my blog, I seem like a crazy history person, which I am. But if you meet me, I am just as likely to be running around in the woods in my Chuck Taylors, snapping photos of furry woodland creatures as I would be wearing period dress.

So I decided I'd start posting some photos from everyday that would show parts of my life that didn't typically make it to the blog. I thought it would be great for giving my readers a little more of a sense of who I am and I'd really like to get to see the lives of other bloggers.

If you would like to participate please leave a comment on the party page and I'll include your web addresses so other people can view your pictures.

Here's an example I made this week, hopefully they will be a little more eventful in the coming weeks:    


My little herbs waiting to be big enough to be planted in the garden.


Cooking with the students at work. We typically make sugar cake, shortbread, stewed apples and whipped cream. Yum!


Getting ready to teach dancing at work. It was 88 degrees and so humid! I should have took a photo after I was finished. I was exhausted.


Today at work we found this little lady, possibly finding a nice spot to lay eggs. We had thunderstorms and I thought the school might cancel. 


Still rainy here. We thought the school would decide to cancel. Everyone came out and we had a good time, although cold and wet. I hope to finish the night off with some Singapore Mei Fun sans meat and chicken. It's one of those things I really like on a dreary day.

Hope everyone joins in! Lets get some more conversation in the blogosphere!

May 20, 2013

Two Events, Two Days: Greenbank Mill and Whitehall, Camp Geiger

As is increasingly the case, this weekend I found myself attending two different Civil War events. Greenbank Mill Civil War Days in Delaware, and Camp Geiger in Whitehall, Pennsylvania.

The event at Greenbank was smaller than last year but still had a nice charm to it. There were Sanitary Commission displays, heritage dancers, Civil War era games, and a nice picnic.

Some of the goods sent to the soldiers.

The ladies had this lovely peach pie stolen by a Yankee scoundrel.

The conspirator, gives himself away. :)

But it was retrieved after a high-speed chase. 
Thank goodness, the rain stayed away until after the event on Saturday. It was a good time and I got to hang out with people I only see a few times a year.

On Sunday, I ventured to the Whitehall event, which was pretty rainy. But I do  have to say, the boys looked pretty spiffy:

I got to see a few people I haven't seen in a while, but I did not watch the battle for very long. Everything was wet and my feet were soaked but everyone seemed to be having a good time.

There are a lot of big events this year, so I hope to be posing more than I have been. I can't wait to see everyone at Gettysburg, let me know if you will be there!

May 13, 2013

Blogging is Dead! The Benefits of Blogging

Many sources have been reporting the death of blogging, saying that no one reads blogs anymore, blogs aren’t relevant to readers today, and blogs are now only business tools.   

I’ve been keeping my blog going for a few years now and even though the blogosphere has changed in that time, I still feel that keeping a blog is valuable. Many people my age have stopped blogging due to increased obligations or changes in interests.  Some feel that their interests have changed so much that their current interests and writings no longer meet the goals of the original blog. Others mention that they have turned to “micro-blogging” or “photo-blogging.”

Even with this decrease, there are many benefits of blogging. Blogging helps keep up your writing skills, which may deteriorate as we get older and aren’t writing as much for school. It helps keep us in contact with what are friends are doing and creating. It also gives an extra push on those days when you just don’t feel like doing anything.  I blog for all of these reasons but most of all I blog because it gives me a very in depth look at where I was in my life at a given time.  I don’t feel that facebook, twitter or instagram really give much insight into what we are thinking and doing. When I read a blog post I have written in the past, I remember my thoughts, emotions and interests at that time. I am also impressed at how many projects I completed.  

I definitely like to see what my friends are up to and what they are thinking. I know there has been a decrease in the community aspect of blogging. Some of this is due to spam blockers making it harder for people to comment, but it also has to do with how people read blogs now. Many people read on their mobile devices which don’t allow for commenting or make it difficult to comment. Many bloggers hear over and over again “Oh, I read that post and wanted to comment!” or “I’m still reading even though  I don’t comment so much!” 

Also many people are busier than ever and there is more and more content vying to be read every day.  Even I find myself culling my reading list (which I recommend.) There’s only so much time in the day and you can’t keep up with everything. It only makes sense to cull and only read what is meaningful to you. 

Even with these changes, there’s still a lot of value in blogging. Blogs are inspirational and “aspirational.” (You know that made-up word that describes that feeling you get every time you open pinterest.) J  Many bloggers are good role models and looking at their lives, encourages me too start doing those things I really want to do.  Sometimes they show me some things I thought would be very hard really isn’t anywhere near as difficult as I thought.

So even though I don’t blog as much as I used to, I still plan on keeping it up and still love getting to look at the lives of other bloggers.

May 6, 2013

150th Chancellorsville Reenactment

Wow! What an event. We just returned from the Chancellorsville reenactment in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The weather was cool and hoods and shawls were the fashion of the weekend. Chancellorsville is well known for being the place where Stonewall Jackson was shot by friendly fire and subsequently died, causing a lot of problems for the Confederates.

At the end of April in 1863, Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River in eastern Virginia, placing his troops in a great position to attack Confederate Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee's exposed flank.

Gen. Jackson quickly moved 30,000 Confederates over the river in a circular sweep, placing his troops on Hooker's right flank, a daring achievement.  The Confederates caught the Union off guard while they were eating breakfast. It was said to be General Lee's best command.

The battles were large and although I only got to witness Saturday's battle, the battle on Sunday sounded like the most fun I have ever heard from a battle reenactment. Throughout the whole battle, there was constant fire from battalions as well as a line of cannon. The rebel yells were constant and could be heard all the way in our camp.  

There were many specialty impressions at this event, including the more obvious Lee and Jackson and some not so often seen such as Thadeus Lowe with his observation balloon.

There was a small museum that put the town into its historical context during the war. The museum had a lot of interesting pieces from thousands of years ago to the people who founded the area in the 1600s and the town's Civil War history. 

It was also home to one of the most hysterical displays I've ever seen. :) The museum is haunted and I was lucky enough not to just catch a photo of one ghost but of a lot of ghosts.

Sign "Ghosts, lot, Circa 1864: Acc# 1864. 

That's a hysterically great way to fill an empty display case.

We went to see the battlefields on Saturday night but only had time to see a couple of things here and there. It was about a 5 hour drive for us, so we knew we wouldn't be back there any time soon. Andy commented that he did not realize that some of the battlefields there were so built up. I knew they were in trouble but didn't realize that the Sunken Road at Fredericksburg stood looking at a neighborhood. The CWT is trying to purchase land at Chancellorsville to protect some of the important sites during the battle. Through matching donations, each $1 they collect will be multiplied by 13. So even a $5 donation will become $65 dollars. Please donate, if you can.

It was a fantastic event overall.  

May 3, 2013

How to Make a Colonial Era Sugar Cone or Sugar Loaf

During the Colonial period, refined white sugar was commercially available in the shape of cones, or loafs because of the processing technique used to refine the sugar. Sugar during this period came primarily from the Caribbean and was typically the product of slave labor.

In simplistic terms raw sugar from sugar cane was boiled and filtered a number of times, then poured into cone-shaped molds. Once in the mold, sugar water or other solution was poured over the sugar to remove the excess cane molasses. The sugar loaves were then removed from the molds and dried. Many loaves during the period were wrapped in blue paper for shipping. 

Fine sugar came in smaller cones and cheaper sugar came in bigger cones as lower quality sugar was more difficult to crystallize and worked better in bigger molds.     

Sugar Cone Prop Recipe

Things you'll need:

- Sugar (white)
- Mold or glass
- Cooking Spray
- Water

Things you will need.
Spray mold with cooking spray. Add water to sugar. There is no real formula for how much water should be added. Just add a few teaspoons at a time until your sugar sticks to itself but not so much that it is "slushy." It should have the consistency of brown sugar. Add sugar slowly into the mold, being sure to pack it down every few spoonfuls. Let sugar dry in mold for a few days. Tap out the sugar and feel for any softness, if still soft, let dry out of the mold for another day. 

Sugar "slush."

Pack it down.

Let it dry.

Enjoy your sugar! Sugar cones had to be broken with sugar nippers before use. (Pictured in top image.)

I've had some questions about brown sugar cones, as many Mexican grocery stores still sell brown sugar cones. I have not come across evidence of brown sugar cones during this period as the cone shape came from the refining process. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, I would love to know of it. As of right now, brown sugar cones don't seem to belong to the 13 colonies during the Colonial period. 

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