Monday, February 25, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge # 4

The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #4 is the Embellish challenge.  For me, embellishment is not something I think about very often for my costumes.  I tend to wear middle to lower class outfits made out of sturdy materials which I can wash in my washer with ease.  If I have to dry clean something, it's never going to be worn.  Part of that reason is because I'm cheap and lazy.  The other part of that reason is because many of the outfits I make are worn for some working purpose.  For instance, all of my Renaissance Faire garb is made with the possibility that I might be wearing the outfit around the joust horses from time to time.  And let me tell you, horses can get you Very dirty, Very quickly!  I remember I used to have some really pretty white chemises and frilled shirts.  They are all stained brown and green from the horses and also from the sunscreen I wear to take care of my skin.  I also vividly remember a scene wherein my very nice lady's dress I wore for performances was picked up by my mount, Abraham, and flung back and forth in the air as a toy.  So it is impossible to maintain nice things in that arena, or in the stable.  Even now that I've moved on to retail at faire I still don't have any expectation of keeping anything nice.  Fancy fabric can get damaged during set up and tear down as well as when playing games with kids.  It's just not worth it to have to worry all the time about the pretty things on my outfit which may get ripped or damaged.

All of that said though, since I have been working at Pendragon here and there, I have become more comfortable with Small amounts of embellishment on my clothes.  And so this challenge was a challenge to myself to come up with something simple and pretty and Durable.  And did I mention simple?

In the end, my project was so simple I kind of feel like I cheated.  It took almost no time to complete and I totally copied the idea from Pendragon (who I'm sure did not invent the idea either it's so simple).  Oh well.  It was a good exercise for me to think outside of my box.  Now to put it to the test of surviving at Faire.  And surviving my laundromat.

The Challenge:  Challenge #4 Embellish

Fabric:  Metallic woven ribbon trim sewn on linen fabric.

Pattern:  None, I just sewed the ribbon to the already existing collar and cuffs on the shirt

Year:  Tudor period 

Notions:  The ribbon

How historically accurate is it?  From my knowledge, blackwork is historically accurate here - this ribbon is not.  However, the shirt is completely accurate being made from linen and made from the Tudor Tailor book.

Hours to complete:  Took me all of 5 minutes.

Total cost: $4

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

American Duchess Gibson Edwardian Shoes

American Duchess's new Edwardian shoes are almost here!  Pre-order is taking place now.  And don't forget she is now carrying leather shoe paints so you can decorate these babies however you wish.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cat Food Epiphany

Last night I prepared a lovely dinner made from fresh, local, free range chicken.  It is the first time I have ever tried my hand at butterflying a whole chicken.  I didn't do a half bad job considering I didn't have any kitchen shears and my knives are not as sharp as they should be when attempting to cut through bone.

I almost threw away the backbone, but my Poopsie cat can smell raw chicken like I can smell home made Scrabble (Texas Trash) in the oven - from a mile away!  My normally reserved and shy boy cat turned into a playful, flirty, adorable kitten right there at the smell and sight of that raw chicken.  So I gave him the back bone.  He went Crazy over it!  Of course, once that back bone hit the floor Nabisco and Roz came over to investigate.  I ended up stealing the carcass back and cutting it in half so Nabisco wouldn't incite a riot.  And initially I kept Roz away since she's got these unidentified allergies and I've been told to keep her away from chicken.  But eventually she stole Nabisco's carcass right out from under her and once she had it, I couldn't really take it away.  She was Growling at me!

After their decadent snack, those silly cats were so cute all night last night!  It was as if I was covered in catnip.  They were all over me purring and rubbing their faces and stepping all over one another to cuddle with me.  I expect that with Roz and Nabisco from time to time, but this is very out of the ordinary for the Poopsie cat.

Luckily Roz's face didn't blow up last night or this morning.  She was quite bright eyed and still full of silly energy, in fact.  So in light of Roz not having a reaction to the chicken I turned to my Google Fu to see if there was something to this difference in free range chicken rather than regular chicken.  What I found was something that should have been rather OBVIOUS to me considering how much exp[erimenting I have done with diet adjustments for health issues both in cats and dogs:

Well, DUH!  I don't know why I didn't think of that before!  So now I have another rabbit hole to find my way through.  The Stella and Chewy's dehydrated lamb I use may be grass fed, but I need to double check that.  If their chicken is free range, my solution is clear.  Dehydrated and even raw chicken is cheaper than the lamb.   I just have to decide whether I want to feed raw as a supplement or as a complete meal.  And that means I'll need to go back and refresh my memory on the latest raw diet data.  I don't mind feeding raw, I just have to have something they'll eat that I can free feed on the weekends when I start working faires and cons again this Spring.  That is the tough part!

Offensively Good Broiled Chicken

Last night I was on a mission to satisfy my craving for brown and wild rice with some veggies and chicken.  I didn't have a specific recipe, but I had a basic taste profile in mind. I had purchased everything but the chicken already at a regular grocery store, but since I have pledged to eat as much of my meat and dairy as possible locally produced I stopped by Green Grocer on my way home from work for the chicken.  I was originally planning on using chicken pieces and sauteing the whole dish, but Green Grocer only has whole chickens right now.  They are expecting their chicken suppliers to offer divided chicken meat at some point, but they are not sure when.  Even though I was not looking to cut up a whole chicken myself, after speaking with a very helpful lady who works at Green Grocer about my planned dinner, I decided to go ahead and just get a small whole fryer chicken.

And I sure am glad I changed my mind!  In our discussion about what I was planning for the chicken, the Green Grocer clerk mentioned Julia Child's Broiled Butterflied Chicken recipe and how that would be perfect for what I wanted.  She was Right!  That local grass fed little chicken was obscenely good broiled!  And I didn't even use good butter.  I used Earth Balance margarine because I still have a half a tub left of that to use up.  Also, it cooked surprisingly fast.

The broiled chicken was so moist and flavorful.  My only quibble is that I should have left it in for another 5 minutes.  I'm not very good at gauging whether chicken is cooked through or not and somehow I still don't own a meat thermometer.  Since I once got really sick from under cooked chicken I have a long track record of overcompensating for that and over cooking.  This being the first time to try this broiling method, I'm surprised that I almost got it right without a thermometer.  I was just a hair off.  My chicken was perfect on top, flavorful and juicy, but the bottom was just a tad under cooked.  I probably would have caught that had I used a meat thermometer to check the temperature.

This is what my beautiful chicken dinner looked like once it was completely finished.
I still have some tweaking to do for the veggies to be perfect.  It's missing a spice, probably more worchestershire, or an addition of soy and fresh garlic.  But as a whole this recipe is absolutely a keeper!  It's a healthy meal in under an hour.  And not too bad on the wallet either considering I used local grass fed chicken.  That fryer was around 2 lbs and just under $10.  I'm just cooking for me, so I can eat on this meal for 4-5 days.  Veggies are cheap and I cheated on the rice and used par boiled, which was still pretty cheap.  I normally wouldn't use par boiled, but I didn't have time to make rice ahead at all this weekend and my time is Very limited for cooking after work.


1 medium yellow squash
1 medium zuchinni
1/2 package sliced mushrooms
1/2 bag fresh green beans
1 2 lb fryer chicken
3 Tbs butter (divided)
3 Tbs olive oil (divided)
1 Tbs worchestershire sauce
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups cooked brown rice
poultry seasoning

Pre-heat broiler and butterfly chicken.  If chicken is wet from washing, pat dry.  If chicken was refrigerated, let it sit out to room temp (from comments on this broiler method, this helps the chicken cook more evenly).

Rub chicken with the 2/3 of the butter and then season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Follow instructions for Broiled Butterflied Chicken.  If the chicken is lean and there isn't much fat to baste with, drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the skin about halfway through the cooking process and turn the chicken over to smear the olive oil and juices back onto the skin.

About halfway through the chicken broiling, put the veggies in the skillet and saute to desired doneness.  Add in cooked rice and stir until rice is warmed.

Once chicken is done, place on top of veggies and rice and let sit.  Drizzle the juice from the chicken pan over the whole dish.  Serve after chicken has had time to rest.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Nabisco and the Dog Bone

This morning as I was getting ready for work I kept hearing a strange crunching sound.  Bones was huddled up in a blanket across the room so I knew it wasn't him chewing on a bone next to me.  Besides, this was a higher pitched crunching sound like that from smaller teeth.  I looked up to find the sound and it was Nabisco!  My little Niblet was gnawing away on Bones' knuckle bone!  This could, of course, be an alternate explanation to the tooth break mystery.  Maybe she didn't snag it on my clothes she was trying to remove from the hanger.  Maybe she broke it on a stinking dog bone!

The black and white cat is Luna.  Sometimes she thinks she wants to play, but my torti girls don't want to play with her and it always seems to end up in a fight.  This time she was lucky.  She's still up for adoption through Texas Pawprints by the way.  Feel free to e-mail me if you are interested.  She is a Very sweet cat!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sherwood Forest Faire Opening Weekend 2013

Since the first day Sherwood Forest Faire opened I have been dying to get to take a trip down to the Austin area to attend.  I had heard so many things about what kind of faire it was expected to be and then I heard so many rave reviews once the first season finished.  The only bummer was that half the faire run overlapped Scarborough Renaissance Festival (Scarby).  And March is always a Very busy time for me as there are several cons and festivals I participate in happening all throughout the month.  Not to mention March is my last minute preparations month for Scarby.  I was pretty convinced I would never get to attend Sherwood.  Then they moved the season up so that Sherwood concluded just before Scarby began.  And at that point my only problem was getting over camping in the cold.  I am Not a fan of cold!  And I'm no where Near prepared for it.  Lucky for me, this weekend turned out to be rather moderate.  We were expecting a deluge of rain, so the camp site was light, but we had an Amazing time anyways.  The rain gods smiled upon us and didn't really let us have it until the wee hours of the morning when everyone had pretty much decided to go to bed anyways.  The rain gods were also kind enough to stop the rain just before time for everyone to start waking up, so really the worst part was if you were a light sleeper and then you were probably worried your tent was going to fly to OZ.  I am not a light sleeper.  I didn't hear a thing.  I very well Could have landed in OZ and stayed asleep for all I knew.  Good thing it was just a storm and not an act of magical travel to an alternate dimension via a funnel cloud.

Here I am in my basic wool medieval dress.  I made this years ago for a 12th Night feast I attended with some SCA friends.  It is from the La Fleur de Lyse Woman of Medieval Romanesque Period 1060-1150 pattern.  If I remember correctly I made a bunch of adjustments to the fit as I wanted it to be plain like the peasant dress, but more fitted like the lady dress.  Now that I have worn the dress a few times, I may actually go back and let out some of those seams because I think it would look better.  I also want to go ahead and put some sort of embellishment on it so I feel like wearing it more often.  I have a feeling it will get more wear at Sherwood now, so I just want to make sure I enjoy wearing it.  I prefer plainer, lower class garments to highly embellished fussy ones, but this is a little too plain.  Even for me.  I have to say that I LOVED wearing the turban the whole day!  Holy crap that was incredible not having to worry about what my crazy curly hair was doing in all that damp.  Not to mention it is in a strange short transitional stage right now.  

In another Rennie life I sometimes work with a joust company.  I was a lady rider for New Riders of the Golden Age for a few years.  Two years at Scarby and one year at Norman Medieval Faire.  I also worked the kiddy warhorse rides.  This year the joust troupe contracted to work at Sherwood.  I was really torn between working and making Sherwood a play faire.  In the end I opted to play at Sherwood this season.  I haven't been able to properly play with my Rennie friends in quite some time and so I decided that was more important this time.  But of course I got to chat with my old joust friends and smoosh horsey faces.  And marvel at how the horse I rode last time at Scarby has grown.  The horse in the red and gold above...that's Abraham.  He was just a baby joust horse when I rode him.  He has grown Quite a Bit!  And he's a full time jousting horse now.  I'm so proud!  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tea Review: David's Tea Guayusa

One of the sample teas I received with my first tea order from David's Tea was this Guayusa tea.  I don't mind admitting I was a little reluctant to try it.  I just had never heard of it and had nothing to expect.  Except what the label said.  Here is what David's Tea has to say about the Guayusa:

We are seriously passionate about guayusa around here, and we couldn't be more excited to spread the word.  Not only does it pack an incredible burst of energy, it's also deliciously smooth, never bitter and lightly sweet.  Plus it's steeped in over 2000 years of Amazonian tradition and legend.  

It's grassy all right!  In fact, the first time I tasted it I was reminded of one of my favorite smells in the world.  Fresh cut grass clippings.  The tea is just that simple.  I haven't decided yet whether it has an energy boost.  The light grassy flavor is slightly refreshing, but I'm not sure about energy boosting.

It's inexpensive enough that I would order a bag of this to have around for when I don't want a spicy black tea.  If it was an expensive tea, I probably wouldn't give it another thought, but the price is right and the taste is comforting.  I can no longer drink chamomile tea as it upsets my allergies and I am having a heck of a time finding another perfectly balance roobios since the World Market brand I liked so much is no longer made.  I think this will fit the bill just fine to replace those two light comfort teas.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pattern jigsaw

I spent most of my life despising jigsaw puzzles.  Yet this week I find myself happily spending hours each night piecing and scotch taping back together patterns.

One of my not so secret dirty secrets is that I'm horrible at putting things away properly.  Match that with a household of fur kids who love making a bed out of whatever I am paying attention to for a project and you have a recipe for tissue paper destruction.

I'd like to say that this is a lesson learned, but I know it's not.  There is a slight satisfaction in bringing a near destroyed object back to functionality.  So I am sure I'll have many more patterns to tape back together in my future.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chicken and Cabbage Soup

The best thing about cooking soups is that they allow you to experiment with the old school kind of cooking where you just throw things in and hope for the best.  That's the way my Granny cooked.  Though she could do that with pretty much any recipe and it worked.  And she had a "handful" measurement system that seemed to be the norm in old school cooking.  I'm not so sure I trust that my "handful" is the same as someone else's so I prefer actual measurements when it counts.  Soups though?  I'm all about throwing things in and hoping for the best!

This Chicken and Cabbage Soup is inspired by a recipe for Elzekaria soup I found once years back.  I can no longer find the recipe I used, but it was so basic that it was easily committed to memory:

*  soften onions in goose fat at the bottom of a stock pot
*  add minced garlic
*  add whole cored and cubed cabbage
*  stir to coat cabbage with fat
*  add canned or re-hydrated white beans
*  cover cabbage with water and boil
*  simmer until beans are cooked through

I never used goose fat.  If I was feeling vegetarian, I'd use veggie shortening or EVOO.  If I wanted animal fat in the mix, I'd use shortening or I'd cook some bacon in the pot before I put in the onions.  If the bottom of the stock pot got crusty with carmelized onion and bacon, I'd deglaze with a tiny bit of ACV.  Sometimes I'd throw some ACV in there anyways just because I was feeling a little like having a hit of sauerkraut flavor in the soup.  The recipe lended itself easily to alterations like that.

Because it was such a good base soup, it also had plenty of room for major alterations.  And that is where I came up with this experiment.

Chicken and Cabbage Soup

*  2 Tbs EVOO
*  1 small onion, frenched
*  1 package of sliced baby bella mushrooms
*  1 large carrot
*  2 cloves garlic
*  1 Tbs ACV
*  1 Tbs poultry seasoning
*  roughly 1 qt chicken stock (pure stock, no veggies added in)
*  roughly 3 cups shredded chicken
*  water

Heat EVOO in stockpot and add all veggies except garlic.  

Saute until onions and mushrooms begin to carmelize

Deglaze pot with ACV

Add chicken stock

Add water, but not so much that the cabbage won't fit when it is time to add it.

Add white beans

Add poultry seasoning

Bring to a boil and then simmer until beans are aldente.  Then add cabbage  If you used canned beans, you can add the cabbage immediately.

Add more water, or more chicken stock here.  Do what you think tastes best.  The lighter your chicken stock, the less added water you'll likely want.  Bring back to a boil and simmer until beans are completely cooked through.  If you used canned beans, cook until cabbage is cooked.

Also add shredded chicken.  Since the chicken will have already been cooked and you used chicken stock in the base, this will just be to reheat the meat.

Simmer as long as you want.  The longer you simmer all of this together, the better the flavors will be.  Better yet, cook it all to just done, cool it down and set it in the refrigerator overnight.  By the next day the soup will be Perfect!!!

This is what I mean by "how dark your chicken stock is."  This is the rest of my stock from boiling a chicken.  

When you boil a chicken for stock, you put just enough water in the pot to cover the chicken and boil until the meat falls off the bone.  This time I had a small chicken and I put a little more water than I should have in the pot.  Thus, I got a nearly clear broth.  I usually prefer my stock a tad stronger, but this is ok.  It's just not concentrated at all.  

As you can see, the soup base above is much darker than the broth I used.  That would mostly be due to the mushrooms in the stock, but the carrots had something to do with it too.  This is why I preferred to use stock without all the veggies added in for my soup base.  I was adding the veggies in after the fact.

Just look at that beautiful chicken pulled off the bone. 

 I mentioned that this chicken was a little small.  That is because I opted to use an organic, free range, locally sourced chicken.  My area has recently been blessed with a Green Grocer store.  It's a small neighborhood grocery that sources local meats and dairy and produce.  So, like a farmer's market, but they're putting the product on their shelves instead of the farmer having to be present.  Also, it's open 7 days a week at hours that pretty much anyone can find a minute to pop in.  That's my problem with farmers markets.  I'm extremely busy on the weekends and my work hours are the exact same as the one farmer's market I know of that is open on week days.  It is too far of a drive to visit on a lunch hour.  I want to eat local.  I'm DYING to eat local!  But my schedule makes it very hard.  This grocery solves that problem.  I am Ecstatic!

Tea Review: David's Tea Brazillionaire & Star Anise

I love tea.  It's one of my many cherished habits.  And I'm quite proud that I developed a taste for tea in lieu of coffee.  Coffee, at least the way we American's drink it, just seems so base.  Tea has style.  It doesn't hurt that this costuming hobby I have lends itself very well to tea parties.  Pretty dresses and pretty tea cups.  Yeah, there's definitely a correlation there!

A while back a distant friend on Facebook mentioned that she had developed a taste for tea on her visit to Europe and asked for recommendations of good tea here in the States.  Several people chimed in with their favorite teas, but a few people mentioned a Canadian company called David's Tea as a good source for loose leaf teas.  I clicked on a lot of the links given for other tea companies, but this one really piqued my interest.  You see, for every order made, they send you 3 samples of random other teas.  Well, frankly I thought that was just Brilliant!  Tea isn't cheap.  And because it can sometimes cost $8 - $15 for a package of loose leaf I tend to just pass on the ones that are pricey, yet sound really interesting.  I'd rather order from an American company, but I just really hate wasting money on something I'm never going to drink again if I don't like it.  And I'm picky, so that may very well be the case with any tea I order.  

How picky am I?  Well, I hate flowers.  Not the smell of flowers, the taste of flowers.  Flowers taste like soap to me.  I may love the smell of a good woodsy lavendar, but put it in my tea, or beer and my favorite drink will instantly be relegated to the "undrinkable" list.  There is a whole local brewery line that I can't drink because they put stinking flowers in pretty much all of their beer.  Many people like a flower taste profile in their drinks.  I do not.  I'm also picky about fruity flavors in my tea.  I can deal with fruit in cold tea, but I do not like fruit in my hot tea.  And let's face it, the whole point of me having a cup of tea is that cozy warm goodness, so I tend to stay away from fruit as well.  You can see, now, why I am wary of just buying a tea online sight unseen.

My first purchase from David's Tea was Ceylon Star.  The website has this to say about Ceylon Star:


Star anise is one of the most beautiful spices around...and also one of the most delicious.  It has a sweet, subtle licorice taste that we just can't resist.  And some say it has magical properties; keeping star anise around is said to bring you good luck, happy dreams, and even clairvoyance.  Most importantly, it makes for some seriously delicious tea.  Star anise and Ceylon black tea is a classic combination, but here we sweeten the deal even more with white chocolate, cocoa nibs, and coconut.  The result is sweet and creamy, with a hint of exotic spice.  Now that's star power.

David's Teas come packaged in a resealable foil pouch for freshness.  This is great, except for the case of this tea.  Getting the tea out of the pouch is a little troublesome due to the star anise.  In addition, most of the star anise is packaged on top of the leaves.  I found myself dumping out the top layer of star anise then scooping out some tea and then placing a star anise in the strainer and replacing the rest in the pouch.  This is one of those teas where you really do need a tea tin.  I ended up buying one when I made my second tea purchase.  Measuring the tea out was So Much Easier with a tea tin!

So how did it taste?  I gave it 4 out of 5 points.  I enjoyed it.  Mostly, you are tasting the star anise, but there is just a little hint of coconut in there.  The Ceylon tea was smooth and not over powering or bitter.  I would order it again.  Is it my favorite?  No.  But I will happily add it to my tea rotation.

For my second purchase I turned to Facebook myself to help narrow things down.  I had several teas I was interested in ranging from $6 - $12.  In the end I decided to go with the lower priced Brazillionaire so I could afford to order a tea tin for that Ceylon Star.  Also because my friend Brittney told me to and sometimes it's nice to just take somebody else's suggestion and go for it.  Good thing I took that suggestion.  I really like the Brazillionaire tea.  I like it slightly more so than the Ceylon Star, so I'm giving it a 4 1/4 score.  Here's what David's Tea says about the Brazillionaire:


Have you heard tales of the wealthy Brazilian eccentric?  According to local stories, he was completely obsessed with Brazil nuts, the source of his fortune.  He insisted on having them in every meal - even his afternoon tea!  Was it needless decadence, or a stroke of genius?  You'll have to taste it yourself to decide.  This fabulously opulent blend combines black tea with whole Brazil nuts, raisins and coconut.  Trust us - it tastes like a million bucks.

The tea is indeed a nutty flavored tea.  In fact, it's not just flavored, there are actually Brazil nuts in the tea.  The coconut and raisins are sparse in the mix, so the flavor is hinted at.  I was a little concerned about the raisin flavor, but I was wrong to worry.  I kind of wish I had purchased two tins though.  David's Tea was nice enough to include  an extra tea label for the Brazillionare to place on the tin.  Oh well, I'll likely order this again, so I'll just order two tins the next time I order something.  One of the samples was a tea that was in my list of possibilities last time, so I may already have my next tea order decided if I like the sample.