April 17, 2014

Who doesn't love a cute dog?

A very early spring day. The sun is shining, but it's cold and everything is still...brown, ugh. Miraculously though, all the mountains of snow that half-covered our windows this winter are gone, and I have spied green shoots popping through the dirt here and there.
I have no car.
Among other things, our two yorkies have a "pet stroller"---Yeah, a pet stroller. It is quite marvelous, really.
I had to walk up the hill to the town hall and the post office on this early spring day. The yorkies go with us most places in a front-pack, on leash, or bike carrier.
This is just a little too far for tiny little legs to hoof it there and back, and when Adam is not here, I can't squeeze both of them into one front-pack.
Adam has always called our girls "the ambassadors of peace and goodwill" because of the smiling attention they draw from everyone, wherever we go.
This cold spring day was no exception, and people came out from behind the counter at both stops to pet and coo at them.
It's a tiny town. Everyone knows them and loves them.
They really do make everyone feel a little bit happier.
I had the camera with me and snapped a few photos while on our errand.
Is there anything more cheering than a pet that loves you?

Who doesn't love a cute dog?

 We love you, guys---You're the best~

January 19, 2014

Fun, free, and neat construction project on a winter day~

A very big part of my life is my 18thc. house and very early antiques, and they have been for many years. I have worked on restoring my period home for over 16 years now, and been a dealer of antiques as well as a collector for many, many more years than that. This blog was to have featured these loves more prominently, and in the future it will, with more posts relating to our DIY and collecting/salvaging adventures.
I have also always had little money to spend on antiques, home decor, etc., and have long been a bargain hunter with champagne taste on a beer budget. I actually enjoy it, because I get a lot of satisfaction from waiting and planning for something I've wanted and getting a fantastic piece for a bargain as a result of my own efforts at antique hunting and my knowledge from long years of studying history and early pieces.  I have also loved my many years of salvaging and building or making other things for a little money or for free and then having them become a cherished addition to my home.
Yesterday Adam and I made a wall shelf for above the fireplace in our keeping room using 250 year old boards salvaged for free from the old cape on Nichols road that was torn down recently.
The boards we used had original feathered or beveled edges, and we planned and constructed the wall shelf to show these at the front of the piece. The color and patina are completely original; we added NO stain, sealer, etc.
Total cost: 0
We had a fun morning making this together, and it is now mounted on the chimney breast, and holds a few of our 17thc. treasures. I am sharing some of the pictures here but you can see all of them right now on the TOUR PAGE of our website.
Probably the best compliment we have received was from our friend John, who has been a restoration contractor specializing in working on early homes for over 30 years. He peered at it up close and said he would never in a million years think that our shelf was anything less than at least 250 years old!

Another little project I did by myself this week was to remove the linsey woolsey canopy from atop our 17thc. English tester bed, and now you can really see the gorgeous paneled tester. (The canopy had been on the reproduction 18thc. bed I had for years before Adam and I found our 17thc. original).

Using old brass curtain rods and a few cup hooks I had in the attic, I made up my own somewhat clever (I thought), way to re-hang the heavy tapestry bed curtains in a subtle way that enhances the original dark wood tester of our bed.

  Take an updated pictorial tour of our home HERE

 You can see all the photos of our period home, our projects, antiques for sale, etc. on our WEBSITE~

January 12, 2014

The annual Colonial Twelfth Night Ball Gallery~

Come attend the ball with us~ The ball photo gallery is now up HERE on our WEBSITE~
*(Please note~Our galleries are only up for a short time. We change them periodically to reflect our "17th and 18thc. life and adventures".)


January 7, 2014

"Adam's tea party"

 My Lavender Cookies with Rosewater Icing---An old fashioned teatime sweet~(I have given this recipe in a past post on this blog).
When Adam first started at his new job, a few of the ladies in his department saw photos of us at tea in our 18thc. duds on the walls of his cubicle. This started a discussion about the British, tea, the royals, reenacting and Downton Abbey, among other 'period' shows. It turned out that a handful of these ladies were positively addicted to royal-watching, and tea parties, and all things Brit.
One mentioned that rosewater seemed to be an ingredient much used in tea treats of the past, and how no one cooked like that now.  Adam chimed in with "Oh, yes, my wife does! You should taste her Lavender Cookies with Rosewater Icing, that she makes for our 18thc. English tea picnics!" He then volunteered me to make some, which he offered to bring into work, saying they could all have some with tea one day on their breaks. One thing lead to another and soon someone else suggested a short, "Downton Abbey Tea Party" during lunch one day after the holidays.
That day was yesterday. The handful of ladies and Adam decided to wear something just a little reminiscent or worthy of an old-time Tea, and each would bring something---little sandwiches or a plate of treats. On Sunday, Adam and I had fun making a batch of the lavender cookies and frosting them with my rosewater icing. I put them on a pewter platter with a few dried flowers as decoration on the side. Yesterday morning Adam put on his older, 3 button tweed jacket and wore a tie and a pocket handkerchief.  (This jacket looked most like a tweed Scottish or English one.)
For half an hour yesterday, this small group had a ball brightening a cold winter day at their own 'Times past Tea'. A piece of fabric from the company's collection served as a tablecloth on a conference table. Someone brought a teapot, someone else fancy cups and saucers. There were several kinds of tea sandwiches. Adam said my old fashioned cookies were the hit of the party---Even the maintenance man happened by, and Adam offered him one. He loved them so much, he took a few, and asked for a few to take home to his wife. Adam said it was funny to then see this guy hinting for the recipe!
People from other departments were evidently peeking into the room, eyeing the goings on and food enviously.
Here are a few photos Adam took so I could share a bit of the party~
Adam wore his old tweed jacket for the group's impromptu "Downton Abbey" tea party at work
A lovely time was had by all---at a conference table they decorated.

Yesterday I was at home immersed in a my own project from a different century. Everyone who has been reading my blog knows all about how we love our old favorite, the Brit historical series 'Tales From The Green Valley', and how lately we have seen all 6 episodes and the Christmas Special of a new BBC series about life on a Tudor farm in 1500, and that I gave us the companion book, 'Tudor Monastery Farm' for Christmas.
Most of you also know that I am an antique dealer, and have collected antiques all my life. Adam and I love the very early English and American antiques of the 16th and 17th centuries most of all, and we like to think our little old house is time traveler's delight, most of our furnishings dating to that far-away time.
Our things were lovingly collected over years and years with patience, sacrifice, diligent searching, and a little luck---I didn't want a house full of "repros", or an almost "instant Pilgrim look" that I see so often now out there. 
As a widow for many years, I had little money, and most of my best "finds" went to the homes of my customers.
Adam and I have always had a limited and tight budget, and have relied on our knowledge of history, of the period antiques we love, and on our persistence and commitment to finding 'bargains'---wonderful things priced far, far below their actual value.  Often it meant selling 4 of my things to buy one better one.
We also pride ourselves that we had the patience to wait for pieces we wanted, sometimes for years, until we could afford them, rather than fill up our home with mediocre things or 'fakes' in an effort to have an instant home, or to create a "look". Too many people can't stand a 'hole' in their house, and must fill up every corner as quickly as possible, rather than make do and wait for a piece that is an investment, and something they will love for years.
I remember once when I owned a rare set of 18thc. country bannister back chairs, but no early table. Rather than buy some cheap copy or something else to fill up the void, I carefully placed my prized pair of pewter candlesticks on the floor with the chairs around them, as they would be if the proper size table was there. I apologized to no one. I lived with it, anticipating the table of my dreams, which I knew I would find, and for a bargain, in time.
One thing I have seen lately over and over among a few collectors who seem to relatively recently have been bitten by the seductive "Pilgrim" era bug, is that they all seem to fill their homes with an abundance of 'fake' foods, too many baskets, and just way too much 'stuff', 'artfully' displayed on seemingly every surface, (not to mention almost every available foot of floor space as well) resulting in a look that is just that'---a 'look.'  It is neither authentic or real, but tends to turn their homes into insipid showroom vignettes you'd see at a shop selling reproduction antique furniture,  or a hodgepodge mess of how they think people then lived. They also don't seem to take some of the unique physical features of their own particular home into consideration when collecting and decorating. Now, I have even heard some say "Well I saw things like that done at Plimoth Plantation, Jamestown, etc.". Those places are museums! They are stage sets to give visitors a little taste of the lives of our ancestors. Your homes are NOT museums, and that is the big difference.
We LIVE in our home. We are comfortable, and most of all we want our friends to feel comfortable coming to see us, and to actually have a place to sit, and a table surface on which to enjoy some real, homemade food! The most beautiful homes done in a 17thc. style are those that are done with taste, authenticity, and restraint, and where the owners have had the patience and creativity to furnish with the actual antiques of the period. These homes do honor to a time long past and people long gone. 
(See this FORMER POST~)

That having been said, I am not averse to having one or 2 'faux' items of period-looking foods for display in an appropriate place where it would be IF you have a spot for them, because obviously the 'real things' tend to spoil, mold, or rot.
I will NEVER however, set up phony vignettes that makes my home look 'artificial', nor will I copy the "Pilgrim" formula-decor I am now seeing in several people's homes---all of whom, by the way seem to be clones of each other, instead of showing off a bit of the individual owner's personality.
  I loved the Tudor bread---the "Monk's bread" that I saw in the 'Tudor Monastery Farm' series and the book, as well in a show on English food, past and present.  I did decide to make ONE ARTIFICIAL LOAF of Tudor bread for display on a plate on our latest terrific 'bargain find'---an actual Tudor-period refectory table in our living room.  The loaf won't remain there all the time, but it's a nice touch for the holidays or some other occasion, and it won't spoil or develop mold.
The loaf turned out magnificently, if I do say so. I made a basic 'salt dough'---4 c. flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour), 1 c. salt, and 2 c. water--THAT'S ALL. (***I recommend you DO NOT use a 'regular' bread dough recipe, as it will spoil eventually.)
I kneaded my salt-dough and formed it into a round loaf. I pinched it all around the bottom of the circle, as was done in Tudor times. I used a large sharp knife to cut a cross shape into the top of the bread. I then took ground nutmeg, which has the nice dark brown color, and dusted it into the + cut on top, and patted it into the finger-mark pinching all around the bottom.  I sprinkled just a dusting of flour on the top.
I baked it at a low temp for a long time---You just have to look and feel it and keep baking until you determine it is done. Bake at least an hour. I baked mine for several, at a low temp.
By the way, I had every single thing I needed to make this already in my pantry and attic.
After it cooled, I sprayed the top with a type of 'Sprayment'---that aerosol glue, and pressed a bit of raw, steel- cut oatmeal onto the top.  I then spray coated the entire loaf top and bottom with FLAT FINISH clear sealer. (***Don't use anything with a 'shine' or gloss finish---It would look 'fake').
My indestructible loaf looks delicious, and exactly like those shown in the series and pictured in the book.
  I reserved my book back in early summer last year, and gave it to us for Christmas. We loved the series too~

Steel-cut oats, not modern processed

Here my faux Tudor loaf is just ready to go into the oven~ One of the signature features of authentic Tudor bread is the hand-pinched border around the bottom. Don't forget to do that~

A sneak peek...
...at the part of the incredible original top of our 400 year old table. The aprons are simply carved, and it has a box stretcher base.
Take a TOUR of our period home~

Just out of the oven...
...And all finished. I've photographed it on one of our reproduction hand made Tudor plates that are exact copies of those found on the wreck of the 'Mary Rose'.  
We watched this fantastic series years ago as well, and I thought you might enjoy this episode of the hilarious 'Supersizers Go..."

Visit our period home and take a tour or our house and gardens HERE~

January 4, 2014

Friday night in the deep freeze

It is "wicked cold heah", as some locals would say.

It is and has been well below zero. Heating fuel is astronomical, and so we are not warm. It is horrendous and mind-boggling that it has cost over $400. to heat a small, old-but-pretty-well -insulated-house for a scant month, and that is with the thermostat at no more than 63, and most of the time much lower than that. I have never seen it so bad---We normally do not get long periods of weather this cold at a stretch.
We are cold all the time---You spend money for the fuel you expect to last for a couple months at least, and you are not even warm---You simply can't afford to crank up the heat to a comfy 65 or 66. Everyone I have talked to in New England and the midwest is complaining of the same thing.

Sparkling snow is a couple feet deep around the houses in the neighborhood with piles up to, or covering a bit of the windows of some. Intricate designs in frost and ice decorate the old panes of our window glass. Deep winter is here and we are in the midst of a rare and bitter deep freeze.

We are wearing layers of fleece and heavy wool socks as always. I can't enjoy the sun, if shining, because I have closed the interior wood shutters in the rooms that have them, in an effort to conserve every drop of fuel. Morale was pretty low yesterday, and I decided I would suprise Adam with a lovely roast chicken dinner cooked in the fireplace. I used the bedroom hearth as we would eat in there, keeping only that room really warm, and be able to watch the TV as well later. I went up to the attic and brought down my 'tin kitchen', or reflector oven, as they are called---designed and made for hearth cooking, this one was made especially for me over 25 years ago by a craftsman in Michigan when I still lived in the midwest.
I have always cooked Thanksgiving turkey in the fireplace, not having done one in the oven in over 25 years as well. I love hearth cooking, and have done it for many years.
I built a "ripping fire" in the fireplace about 2:30 in the afternoon. By 3:30, a good bed of coals lay under the 18thc. andirons, and I kept adding split logs of oak, maintaining a nice even fire.
Ahhhhh......It was so cozy and warm, and so elemental---I was transported back to other long-gone days of our ancestors who had no such creature comforts such as indoor plumbing or any central heat at all, against the chill of a New England winter.

I made roast chicken seasoned on the outside with my own special herb mixture, and stuffed with onion chunks. With the divine smoky drippings, I made a yummy homemade chicken gravy. I made mashed potatoes and homemade fresh cranberry orange relish.
The day before I had made a homemade French apple cream cake, and last evening while the little bird was roasting, I whipped up the most wonderful and easy caramel sauce. For dessert we had the apple cake with the warm caramel sauce drizzled over it.

The bedroom was lit only with a few candles, and the glow from the fireplace. The dinner was fantastic. We shut out the cold and dark, and spent Friday night in our 1686 bed with it's heavy  tapestry curtains, the dogs at the foot, but eyeing the chicken hopefully, and enjoying our hearth-cooked feast.

I served my French Apple Cake with homemade warm caramel sauce~

We laughed until we cried watching old Tim Sample videos on Youtube for the rest of the evening.

*(Update-Jan. 2014~ Sadly, the new job is not what we had hoped and the only way we were able to have this Christmas was because Adam was able to work a lot of temporary overtime. With the outrageous amount for insurance taken out of every paycheck, things are as bad or worse now than before, and we are not making a bare living wage, and are now not able to afford both fuel and food. This is an inexcusable travesty---The hunt for a job paying a living wage goes on...)

January 1, 2014

The Colonial Twelfth Night Ball~

...January 10th, 2014 at the historic Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts~

"The Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute

Cordially invites you and your guests to our

Twelfth Night Ball

at the Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts

Friday, January 10, 2014
8:00-11:00 pm

Help us ring in the New Year at the historic Wayside Inn!
The Twelfth Night Ball is the perfect occasion.
Dress in your finest and contra-dance to the music of the Colonial Minstrels, called by Jacob Bloom.
Refreshments will be served."

Getting ready...

My faux fur muff with a bow I made for it to match my gown. I have it pinned on the inside. I change the bows to match my gowns~
 I used paints and water and hand dyed the ostrich feather to exactly match my gown several years ago.
COMING AFTER JAN. 11th, 2014~
See it HERE on our website~
*(Our galleries are only up for a short time. We change them periodically to reflect our "17th/18th century life and adventures~)