September 30, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post 28: My Fuzzy Brain

This month has been interesting.  I've done a lot of things out of my comfort zone in a short period of time which has been good but I've also had to change my work habits which turned out to be horrible. I was working from another home and alone most of the time so I found myself using technology more than ever to detrimental effect.       

I have found that my switch from listening to music on my computer to listening on my ipod touch has been bad for my focus as I get facebook notifications and email notifications. The time it takes me to check the notification takes a few seconds, but the time it takes to get my brain back on track is a lot longer. A study conducted by Michigan State reported that a 3 second distraction doubles work related errors and I believe it.

I've also been doing a lot of unnecessary multitasking, such as checking facebook, writing, listening to music and checking the news all at the same time. I find the new gadgets make multitasking like this effortless and quick. It seems like the less time I spend focusing on one task the more "fuzzy" and overwhelmed my mind feels. Science seems to back this up.

Now I'm strangely trying to undo all of the extremely handy features that my phone has and removing all of my saved passwords on the computer so checking thing is no longer a "3 second" jump. I've always been a fan of the "Slow tech" and "unplugging" movements and have been good about getting things done in the real world, but this last week I was glued to my devices and I feel horrible.

I encourage everyone to try and take a break from crazy  multitasking this week. There are a lot of beautiful things going on outdoors take the time to relax and enjoy them without checking your phone every two seconds.           


September 21, 2014

Photo Essay: Star Spangled Spectacular Sailing Trip

Star Spangled Spectacular, Gazela, Baltimore I don't always fall off the earth for a week, but when I do, I'm up to something fun. I helped sail tall ship, Gazela Primeiro, down to Baltimore for the bicentennial of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. As this was my first real sail, I was very excited and overwhelmed.

We arrived at the ship at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia on Monday night and started off Tuesday morning. That night we dropped anchor near the Sassafras river. On Wednesday, we set off again and arrived at Baltimore around 10:30 in the morning. I was the cook for the first few days.

I created a photographic essay to document the experience.

September 17, 2014

Civil War Era Crab Apple Jelly Recipe

“I enjoy doing housework, ironing, washing, cooking, dishwashing. Whenever I get one of those questionnaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife. It's an admirable profession, why apologize for it. You aren't stupid because you're a housewife. When you're stirring the jam you can read Shakespeare.”
― Tasha Tudor

September 16, 2014

Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation Civil War Event 2014

I have been missing all week, but that is a post for another time! On Sunday, I helped out with the Civil War event at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation in Media, Pennsylvania. This is my home event and I was sad to only be able to help out one of the two days.

For those of you who have never been to the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, the farm is beautiful and is the perfect spot for a time traveling trip. It's a gorgeous backdrop for a Civil War event. The farm house and surrounding buildings bring farmhouse life to life and the spectators stand so close, that they are really a part of the action.  

September 8, 2014

Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party: Post # 27

Now that life is settling back down again I've actually got a new blog party post. I have lots to tell but no time to tell it so hopefully I'll get everyone updated next week.


We've been finding frogs all over the place at the farm. The spring house has a surprisingly large regular frog as well as a couple of salamanders.


The twilight really shown through the blinds.


I've been working on a food project. 


I've been spending a lot of time messing around with my camera again.


I've been pruning the bookshelves. Which is a hard task but I only like to keep the really good stuff.


Paranormal investigation at work. 


Went to the Brandywine Festival for the Arts. Helped out with the giant Lite-Brite built by Barrel of Makers. They will be taking it to Makerfaire in NY soon.

September 1, 2014

American Potash Cake or Long Island Pound Cake: Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge 7

The 1700s housewife had two options when trying to get her cake to rise. For the first, she could beat eggs or egg whites strenuously for 2-3 hours or she could use yeast and let her cake rise just as she did bread.

The first method was costly in time and money. Recipes of the time call for 12-35 eggs and while eggs were a bit smaller in the days before egg grading and genetically modified hens, that is a lot of eggs for one dish.  The second method worked but the housewife would have to wait until the cake rose which can be longer than an hour.

The issue housewives faced was time. If visitors suddenly showed up, it would take at least 2 hours to make a cake. To get around this a housewife might make treats like Hannah Glasse's Portugal Cakes, which she directed lasted half a year if they were made without currants or she could make smaller "cakes" that relied solely on a few eggs for rising. Today we call these small cakes, cookies.

In the 1750s scientists were experimenting with potash, which was wood ash with the lye leeched out and some lye added back. They found that when added to food, it acted as yeast did. Potash did leaven food but it had a bad after taste. Pearlash, a more refined potash became popular in the United States. These leavens revolutionized baking for women who were used to time consuming leavening methods. In later years, saleratus became more popular and eventually baking soda.

For this Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge I used pearlash (potassium carbonate) to make American potash cake or Long Island Pound Cake, so called because the American women adapted this new technology early and apparently the women of Long Island were known for it. Pearlash was called for in four recipes in the first known American cookbook, Amelia Simmons' American Cookery in 1796.   

The Challenge: "The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread August 24 - September 6
Create a food item that reflects historical food improvements. Showcase a new discovery in food preparation, a different way of using food, or a different way of serving it. Make sure to include your documentation!"
The Recipe:
This recipe was printing in more than one European publication at the time.


 The Date/Year and Region: 1799 U.S. and England

How Did You Make It: (a brief synopsis of the process of creation)


- 6 Cups Flour (save one cup for dusting and adjusting)
- 1/2 Pound Butter (2 sticks)
- 1 heaping teaspoon Pearlash or Baking soda (You did use enough)
- 2 Cups Buttermilk or Sour Milk
- 1/2 Cup Sugar


Cut butter into small pieces and mix into the flour well. Put the sugar in the buttermilk and add to the flour mixture. Dissolve baking soda in a little water, add to mixture. Blend together until a soft dough is formed. Add more flour if necessary to make a workable dough. Roll it out to about a 1/2" on a floured surface with a floured rolling pan. Cut out into small circles with a cookie cutter or cup. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. The cakes won't spread while baking.
Time to Complete:
30 minutes

Total Cost:
$8.00 I had to make 2 batches.

How Successful Was It?: (How did it taste? How did it look? Did it turn out like you thought it would?)
I made the cardinal sin of cooking with potassium carbonate. I added too much, even though every instance of someone telling me they cooked with it ended with them using too much. I guess I read too much into "heaping teaspoon." I had to make a second batch.

When i first started, the recipe seemed similar to sugar cookies, but as i went on I realized that it was actually going to be closer to modern day biscuits.

How Accurate Is It?:
More accurate than I would have liked. In the future I would cook these with baking soda as the pearlash is scary to use and I don't feel comfortable serving foods that contain it. 

I've really wanted to try a recipe with potash or pearlash to see how differently they acted from modern day equivalents. It was fairly similar. It does have a "taste" but so does baking soda if you put too much in. Can't wait to see what everyone else makes for this challenge!

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