July 17, 2014

'The great 17thc. outdoor beehive bakeoven-building experience'---A summertime adventure to remember~


We decided to build our own period-correct (17thc. style) cob bake oven in our back garden similar to one at Plimoth Plantation~
This project was not about money; it was about keeping the 'old ways' alive by making something with your own 2 hands, and investing hours and days or weeks in something worthwhile to enjoy and to remember, and to recreate a little bit of the past of our ancestors.
The biggest allure of the project was not only anticipation of wonderful homemade food we'll make in it, but the fact that we did every bit of it ourselves, and with materials we already had, had salvaged, or dug up ourselves,---Just like the first-comers at Plimoth. 
We have used our own resources, as well as all of our own best efforts.
We're pretty proud of what we have done, especially since we had never done anything like this before.
It was great to learn new skills but most of all it was like taking a trip back in time to recreate something our pilgrim ancestors made. 


We've had a blast building our oven~ 

*(The step-by-step photos from our
have been taken down now
but see us bake pizza in our oven! Photos are now up on our website~
***( Our galleries are up for a limited time. They change periodically to reflect our 17th/18thc. life and adventures).

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~

I can't write the blog any more, at least not now---Too much heart break in too little time~
*(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. It has turned out to be a nightmare with not paying even close to a bare living wage. The new owners broke contracts, and now though they must work overtime, no one is paid for it. With the outrageous amount for insurance taken out of every paycheck, things are as bad or worse now than before, and are now not able to afford both fuel and food. This is an inexcusable travesty---We are both devastated. The hunt for a job paying a living wage goes on...)


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.

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 reserve these items mainly for display at the holidays.
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 actual 16th/17thc. 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 so nicely, if I do say so. I made a basic 'salt dough'---I recommend you DO NOT use a 'regular' bread dough recipe, as it will spoil eventually.)
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~

A sneak peek...


...at the part of the incredible original top of our own c. 400 year old table. The aprons are simply carved, and it has a box stretcher base.  You can see this, and our restored 18thc. home and gardens by clicking the link at the end of this post.
 I've photographed my faux bread 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.  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, and even so the fuel is gone in a month. 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. It has turned out to be a nightmare with not paying even close to a bare living wage. The new owners broke contracts, and now though they must work overtime, no one is paid for it. With the outrageous amount for insurance taken out of every paycheck, things are as bad or worse now than before, and are now not able to afford both fuel and food. This is an inexcusable travesty---We are both devastated. 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~)

December 26, 2013

Breakfast IN pj's and Tiffany, and more of our wonderful Christmas~

 Even after gifts were opened, Deladis couldn't stop checking for more~
This holiday really did surpass our expectations, in all the best possible ways. We had a Christmas chock full of new memories. It was so wonderful, it really did help to banish all the sad, miserable ones of the past few years.
Our promise to each other last year to dress in 18thc. clothing and spend Christmas day, 2013 at an old inn was the best idea we could have had. Yesterday was perfect, and was so much like Christmas day in Colonial Williamsburg on our belated honeymoon there at Christmas, 2007. We couldn't stop smiling.
Adam got home early Christmas Eve. I had the lobster chowder and the homebaked apple hearth bread already made. The dogs were crazy all day jumping around and hopping up on 2 legs to look at the little pile of presents in the 17thc. cradle in our bedroom. I was gob-smacked to see that they seemed to know what was going on, and were just like a couple of children on a sugar high ready to pounce on what Santa brought! I kept telling them we'd "open presents when daddy gets home---Not now, but soon". They sat on the couch in the den with their 'angel wings' on and cocked their heads and looked at me solemnly, giving me the definite feeling they understood every word.
About 4:30, dad was home and showered, and I had lit a fire. The presents were piled on our bed, and the dogs, especially Deladis, were frantic and hyper. Del had whipped herself into such a frenzy that she was panting, and Sasha was doing the 'yorkie honk'. I had to keep rescuing every gift from Del's clawing and chewing! We gave them their presents, and they were off the wall at everything they opened, leaping all over the bed and going crazy when they saw treats. First came the nice warm fleece 'dog pj's' with fashionable cupcake motif.
Below, Del waits in her 'house' for daddy to get home early on Christmas eve.

They like the new 'jammies', but they weren't as popular as Marrow Bones and chew sticks~

Del went crazy with a widewale corduroy 'moose' toy that had 'squeakers' in each limb and the belly, and 'rattles' in the antlers.

There were curly rawhide chews, hair bows, and a big bag of Marrow Bones for our 'kids'. By this time they were exhausted and fairly calm and just laid on the bed watching us open our gifts.

A few years ago a friend had given us a stay at the wonderful 300 year old Concord Inn during the Concord Lexington reenactment as an anniversary present.  Adam had a nice chronograph watch that he'd had for many years and loved, but regrettably it went missing on the trip. We couldn't afford to replace it with our job loss and situation back then. This year I did a lot of research and reading of reviews, and my 'big' gift to Adam was a fantastic and beautiful on-huge-sale chronograph watch to replace it. He opened it last, and actually had tears in  his eyes. I started to cry when I saw the pure joy on his face.
While I dished up our special Christmas Eve dinner, he sized the band and left it to charge on a lamp upstairs, but he kept running up to look at it.
Last summer I ordered a gift for both of us. A craftsman overseas hand makes wooden plates in the same manner as, and that are exact replicas of those used on Henry VIII's warship, the Mary Rose. He made 2 of them for us, and we received them just before Christmas. I didn't even peek, wrapping the box as soon as it came. The plates are stunning, and just what we wanted. We used them to eat our lobster and cheddar omelette's on Christmas morning! Maybe next year we'll get 2 more.

2 'out-of-round' handmade treen plates are exact copies of those that were used and went down with the Tudor ship, the Mary Rose.

Recently we were lucky to be able to watch the fantastic Brit series 'Tudor Monastery Farm'. If you loved 'Tales From The Green Valley' as much as we did, you'll love this too. Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn are costumed presenters as they both were in the 'Green Valley' series.
***(Tales From The Green Valley is and always will be, my most favorite series, and I hope that someday Adam and I can visit the fantastic 17thc. farm on the Welsh border).
***Update, Jan. 2 2014~We've now seen all 6 episodes of 'Tudor Monastery Farm', and their special Christmas episode! (This series is new, and on Brit TV, and cannot be purchased on dvd.) There is a companion book to the series, now out.
Last summer I put my name on a waiting list for the book, and that too was a Christmas gift this year. We started reading some of it together Christmas morning and it really is a great book.

My dear friend Ken, from Passion for the Past blog wrote a post months ago and talked about another wonderful book, 'The Last Muster'---photos of some of the revolutionary war generation who lived long enough to have their images immortalized in a photograph. I gave this book to Adam for Christmas as well.
I had heard about a 1968 film version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' that featured Diana Rig, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench, among other now-famous Brit stars. They were all unknown at the time, and though made on a low budget then, the film has won many awards and was the discovery vehicle for these actresses and actors. I bought a special dvd of the film with high sound quality for us for Christmas, and we have just watched half, and plan to see the rest tonight. It is wonderful~

The dogs were worn out from too much "Christmas excitement"~

There were also a few 'reenactment' goodies for both of us under our tree. I got an 18thc. style linen 'tradesman's apron' for Adam, and I received a long-wanted and very handy 'market wallet' handmade from natural linen. 
I saw a lot of ladies at the last reenactment with 'market wallets' slung over their shoulders. Men like them too.
Adam had already given me the primitive bookrest he had made from 18thc. wood, and we love and have long collected early antiques. We recently lucked into a very old beeskep, and got it as a Christmas present. It now has a home in our buttery.

Another rare and quite wonderful little gift I found for us was the most beautiful Christmas music played by E. Power Bigg and the Columbia Chamber Orchestra. These are very old Christmas carols played in a very haunting and appealing 'Renaissance'-sounding style. Mr. Biggs died in 1977, and this music was only on an LP album. I found one small company that has transferred the album to cd, with marvelous sound quality. They are the only ones selling it. I bought the cd for us. My most favorite song on it is 'The Coventry Carol', which you can hear below.

We plan to listen to the cd in the car on the way down to the Twelfth Night Ball soon!

My 'big' gift was so spectacular I can't yet believe it---Adam had done some research and managed to find a "pre-loved and pre-owned" TIFFANY silver heart toggle necklace. He wanted me to have a really special present. (Everything he has every given me is special though)~
The owner had kept it in pristine 'new' condition, and it gleamed, nestled in it's original Tiffany bags! He secretly took it to a jewelers and had my monogram put on one side in lovely 'Olde English' script, and "My Pea" on the reverse side.
I have a silver heart toggle bracelet (costume copy of course) that I've had for years, and although I have and wear almost no jewelry, I have admired and loved that Tiffany necklace for years. Needless to say I am gob-smacked and in awe, and still kind of floating in a cloud knowing I am now the owner of an actual TIFFANY necklace. Most of all I am touched by the inscriptions and monogram. 
I ate breakfast on Christmas morning wearing polka dot flannel pj's (in 'Tiffany blue' of course), wool socks, and wearing my Tiffany necklace!

The necklace is perfect and pristine~I'll try and take some better photos soon~

 Oh my...
Holy cow, Adam, Thank you! 
The fact that you searched and found this and personalized it just for me means the world to me~

Christmas morning breakfast~
I made lobster and Vermont cheddar omelettes and a winter fruit salad. We ate them on our authentic replica, handmade Tudor treen plates. They were delicious~

Upstairs we have a rear skylight in our guest room. On Christmas morning, the trees wore an icy coat, and sparkled like diamonds in the sun. I grabbed the camera and took these pictures looking up out of the skylight...

Christmas day was sunny and very cold. Here icicles hang from our window garlands...

Late in the day we got dressed and drove the 45 minutes to the 18thc. inn near the White Mountains where we had our dinner. It was a beautiful drive and the dinner was the glorious finale to our truly perfect and much appreciated Christmas 2013. There was complimentary eggnog, tea, coffee, and a crystal bowl full of chocolates as well as platters of cookies available to us for munching if we desired, as we waited for the time to come for dinner. We decided to go sit in the cozy little tavern. I never in my life had a martini, but I had been reading recently about Key Lime martinis. Key lime pie is my most favorite, and I decided to try a Key Lime martini then and there on Christmas night at the beautiful inn.
In order to reach the inn, we turned off the highway and immediately crossed a river in this covered bridge.

The inn was warm and welcoming and we soon met some lovely people and were chatting with other guests spending their Christmas there. In awhile they were all taking our pictures with their cell phones and asking for our card and some made plans to be in touch with us. We even met a lovely couple from Scotland on a dream trip to New England.
Dinner was fabulous---beyond all expectations.  I had the beef tenderloin. I have cooked and had beef tenderloin many times in my life---(including my famous Beef Wellington from a recipe given to me by a gentleman from England years ago)---but this was just superlative and melted in your mouth like butter---really spectacular. The mashed potatoes were the best I have ever had. I don't know how they made them. Adam had the prime rib, which was equally world class. We both chose the creme brulee for dessert. Neither of us left one bite on our plates!
(*There were a few little changes to the menu when we got there. The chicken dish was something else that looked even better, and had shrimp in it, and there were different and decadent desserts, shown here.  Everything was just phenomenal~ The price for the dinner was a truly reasonable $35. per person, and that included everything and a lovely starter salad not listed, and tea served with your dessert choice. Only appetizers were extra, and we could never have eaten those and the fabulous dinner too.)
(A choice of dessert is also included in the reasonable fixed price of Christmas dinner~)



The colonial plaques on the wall in the taproom. I made Adam pose with them~
 My first martini. I have wanted to try a Key Lime martini ever since I heard about them. This was fantastic!
 I'll definitely be having this again!

 Cheers, everyone! I hope you all had a very happy Christmas.
We made the best memories this Christmas, and that's the most important thing. We have decided to make an '18th century Christmas' at this inn an annual event for us. We're going to make our dinner reservation for next year~ 
This Christmas was perfect to me. I will never forget it~

*(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. It has turned out to be a nightmare with not even close to a bare living wage. The new owners broke contracts, and now though they must work overtime, no one is paid for it. With the outrageous amount for insurance taken out of every paycheck, things are as bad or worse now than before, and are now not able to afford both fuel and food. This is an inexcusable travesty---We are both devastated. The hunt for a job paying a living wage goes on...)