Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ballgown mock up

Thank you so much to K Krewer, Carolann Schmitt and Beth Chamberlain for sharing photos with me on the bertha. I've decided to go with the split bertha for no particular reason than I think it will be easier to do...lazy, I know.

Here is the completed mock up; please keep in mind it is only basted together so nothing is really laying right on the form and nothing is hemmed. It does meet in the back, I just didn't pin it close enough. I'll need to try it on me with the corset in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Help with colors

I'm having a heck of a time deciding on the ribbon for this fabric. Obviously, I don't have access to custom matching ribbon so I'm trying to find something but can't decide on color, solid, woven?

So, here is the fabric and the inspiration. Any suggestions would be welcome, especially on ribbon color!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Had a great day with my husband's family. One of my presents was sorta kinda living history related: Cooking in American, 1840-1945 along with the ingredients for one of the recipes. Anyone for fried squirrel? No, I didn't get squirrel road kill; I have ingredients for a bean dish. But the squirrel is one of the recipes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ballgown progress

I have the bodice mock up done. I've compared it to pieces I know fit and it fits the dummy. Once I have the sleeves and the bertha mock up done and the whole thing put together I'll try it on me with the corset.
I used a couple of different patterns; Simplicity 2881 for the front. I really don't like the back of that one so took the pattern from my conference dress and modified it. Seemed to work fine.

Here a picture of the fabric.I found some great fabric for the tucker. The painting appears to have a bit of a pattern in the piece of the tucker in the front. So I found this.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Moving on...

My ballgown fabric arrived yesterday. A little more pink than I expected but still nice. Since the San Antonio ball was canceled I have a bit more time and will plan to take it Harrisburg. After Christmas the construction will begin.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unauthorized use

Today I came across a blog that not only used quite a bit from my website but also a picture of me taken by a friend. These were posted without my knowledge, permission, or credit given. It is a very mainstream group and it really bothers me that a photo of me is being used in connection with this site, especially in discussing "costumed interpretation."

I want to be very clear that I am in no way associated with this group nor do I endorse their standards of authenticity.

I have contacted the blog owner but as yet have received no response. I suppose I should see it as flattering. But jeez have the courtesy to ask!

Ball canceled

The ball in San Antonio has been canceled. Major bummer. I'm still going to make the ball gown so I'll have it for the conference in March. There is another ball in January but I'm leaving shortly after that for a trip to California so it might be a bit much to get things together.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winedale Christmas

Sorry, no pictures. Didn't expect to have an opportunity. This was a nice little festival event. I was stationed at the McGregor House. I love this house! Built in 1861, Greek revival and well restored. I wish I had my camera to show the inside. The size and lay out of the house reminded me a bit of the Prairie House at George Ranch; although, the McGregor is definitely Greek Revival. It has some wonderful stenciling on the ceilings. Also rode in a stage coach, which was great fun and I think much more comfortable than they were in the 19th century.

There were a few "docentisms", a few bad prop choices and seriously bad costuming. I was not dressed in hoops as I expected to be at a different station so felt rather out of place in my homespun and petticoats. The other docents kept saying I could be the lady of the house and I trid to explain I was not dress appropriately for that to which the reply was "no one will know the difference anyway." While I know this is true I still felt I would be cheating the public with incorrect information. So I spent the afternoon wandering around the house, watching that things weren't sat on that shouldn't be, answering questions about bedding, flooring, etc. I let the ladies who were obviously very proud of their position as "hostesses" do the talking about the house and families who lived there and tried not to cringe when the "they were shorter back then" stories came up.

The site is working on education modules and may be interested in having some living history there. It's a wonderful site and would make a great "playground. " So we'll see what comes of it.

So, living history break until February and the Lace and Sabors Ball in San Antonio, then Harrisburg and gearing up for Henkel Square in May.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hearth Cooking December 4, 2010

On December 4 a few of us in Texas gathered at Henkel Square in Round Top for a hearth cooking workshop.
The instructor was Hal Simon. Hal has nearly 20 years experience in historic cooking and served as the curator of a living history museum in Texas for over a decade where he managed both open hearth and wood stove cooking programs. Hal is very knowledgeable and freely shares this knowledge. We were very lucky to have him for our workshop.

The weekend began on Friday; some of the participants came for some distance so we stayed over at Henkel Square to be ready Saturday morning bright and early. I decided to stay in one of the Zapp-Von Rosenburg stranger rooms. These little rooms are surprisingly comfortable.

Vicki Betts had a hearth crane made for "her" little cabin at the site. We were very disappointed to find out that it didn't fit by just a few inches. We had planned to use the hearth in her cabin with the crane. So we now changed over to the Muckelroy kitchen sans crane. However Scotty, the site manager, offered to grind down the little bit needed so the crane will be available for other events.

In the evening we went to dinner at Scotty's restaurant in town, which is really good. After we went to the church to utilize the electricity to peruse over Godey's 1862, CDVs, and other pictures of original garments. We decided to call it a fairly early night so that we would be ready for Saturday.

Hal arrived early Saturday, unloaded equipment, and started the fire. Hal provided great handouts. Not only did we have the recipes for the day but he also included an extensive bibliography, a listing of vegetables and fruits that were grown and available in Texas, weights and measures equivalents (IE: 1 lb. of wheat flour equals 1 quart), recipe comparison between period text and modern redaction, internet resources, period table setting diagrams and photos of the use of hearths for cooking. In addition he and Vicki brought several reproductions of period cookbooks and other books on hearth cooking.

First, Hal went over the handouts and made some interesting points. In the redaction section he talked about being careful when using a modern redaction as sometimes the modern chef might make some changes in the "translation" which will actually create a different dish than what the period recipe was for. In the measurements section information was provided such as "a common tumbler holds 8oz." or "a common teacup holds 6oz." Hal double checked these using period reproductions and they were spot on.

Our lunch was to be onion soup and Gaspacho-Spanish or bread salad. Both were very good. The onion soup was divine and as the onions were browned in 2 sticks of butter, it had a wonderful buttery taste.

After eating we prepared the bread pudding as it had to sit a bit before cooking. Then on to the forced meat balls (that's Forced, with an F). This required the dicing and pounding of beef and suet together.

Once the herbs were added the meat was formed into balls, rolled in bread crumbs and pan fried. The potato balls were basically the same but with mashed potatoes. At the same time this was going on cabbage was being sliced and dressing made for warm slaw.

We had a bit of a problem with the bread pudding as the dutch oven we had was too shallow for the pudding dish. We found an oven on site that was deep enough but it had no lid so we improvised. But the lid was too thin and caused the top of the pudding to burn. Oh, but it was still so good. We did not put on the cream as it was too warm by this time to froth the cream. The pudding had suet in it! Beef fat in a dessert! It was the strangest sensation to bite into this sweet pudding with fruit and get a piece of the suet. The textures just didn't match :). It was delicious though and can only imagine how it would have been with sweet cream.

Hal had intended to also cook biscuits and a roast or mutton; however, by this time everyone was full and tired so we called it complete. Now remember this workshop was on December 4; the week before the weather was wintery barely getting out of the 50s during the day and down to the 30s at night. But on December 4 it was almost 80 degrees. You can imagine with such a large fire, only a couple of windows that didn't open all the way and the heat outside, we were all very warm. Poor Hal was soaked. The first comment from visitors was the heat, then the smell of the food. This workshop really brought to life what was required in the 1860s to produce a meal. Obviously the ordinary person did not cook such a large meal or perhaps not as fancy but still the work, time and discomfort involved was amazing. We were at this practically all day long; when would a person get the rest of their chores done? Take care of the children, etc. ? These types of workshops really put a new dimension to Living History.

Since we ended earlier than expected Vicki decided to head on home but Penny, Elin and I stayed on site for the night. We spent the evening with wine, grapes, cheese, cookies and conversation. Then, guess what arrives...a norther! Gotta love Texas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First step

While I wait for my fabric, I have started making the tassels. I wanted silk, but finding silk floss in town is not to be done, so I opted for cotton floss. It doesn't have the flexibility and is rather stiff. Once the tassel is tied I separate each strand to give it more volume.
I intend to alternate colors but waiting for the fabric to match.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Found the ballgown inspiration. Yes, it is a dress we are familiar with and it is 1850s but I really think the fabric will fit this well.

Ballgown update

Well the yellow is a flop. I've redone it so many times that it just isn't going to work at this point so I'm starting over with a new fabric.

Yes, it is shantung so it is slubby but I just love the print. And since it is also a faille, like the yellow, it should take the pleats very well.

Anyway, I like the print and think it will make a lovely ballgown. Now to find another style as I don't think the original will work very well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fort McKavett 2010 Texas State Troops Living History

November 12-14.
This was a great weekend. Fort McKavett is about 2.5-3 hours from Austin on the edge of the hill country. The drive, as my GPS devise took me, goes through Llano, Mason, Hext, Art, and several other small towns barely more than 2-3 houses. Saw some great looking cemeteries but could not stop this time to take pictures.

I arrived at the site and met up with Cody Mobley. He showed me my accommodations for the weekend and I started moving in. I was assigned to the old bakery building. When the fort was active, 2 soldiers baked 5,000 loaves of bread a day and stored it in the storehouse, now in ruins, next to the bakery. I loved the lay out with the room semi-divided with a partial stone wall. The dirt floor did make things a bit dusty though. The building is also a bit far from the bathroom facilities. Cody offered to bring over one of the port-a-potties behind the bakery but I refused the offer thinking it would not be an issue. Well at 40 degrees at 2:00 in the morning it seemed a much bigger issue :). Thank goodness for the chamber pot.

Once I was set up I headed out for the Fort McKavett cemetery. The cemetery is not on fort property but was used by the post for troop burials. This is a nice little cemetery with gravestones from the 1850s and still in use.

Upon returning to the Fort I found some of the others had arrived. All total there were 7 troops and me for the weekend. We spent part of the evening at the neatest little "bar" about 100 yards from the Fort. It's called the Trading Post. They carry a few staples, have a TV, pool tables, chips and serve sodas and beer. It's a quirky little place and I really liked it. We returned to the fort and spent the rest of the evening visiting.

The bakery is an interesting place to sleep. I knew it was going to be cold that night so moved the fire box to the back part of the building to have the heat. But there is no chimney, so the building pretty much remained smokey the whole weekend. It will be some time I think before I lose the smoke smell in my hair :). I slept on the same iron bedsteads they have in the barracks with wooden slats and a hay mattress. I don't think I would ever say this, but rope beds are really comfortable :). I did sleep pretty well though after I got used to the sounds of the fire and the building. The building has a large glassless shuttered window on one side that we opened for ventilation. It also, I think, served as an open invitation to critters. There was a skein of twine on the floor and when I got up in the morning I noticed that is was pulled out almost to the opposite wall; looks like the raccoons wanted to party :).

In the morning I watched a flock of about 20 wild turkeys march by. The morning was chilly and a bit hazy; it looked like fall. Once I was dressed and put together I took some fruit to the barracks where the men were up and cooking coffee. The men were called to formation and given the general orders for the day. The general order for November 8, 1863 was an inventory of clothing and their condition. The troops also received letters, rations and were paid. Once dismissed the men returned to the barracks to read their letters and inspect their clothes.

My impression was of a civilian squatter that also served as the fort sutler. Cody has made some packets of tobacco, matches, fish hooks, stamps and some soap. I had fruit, paper, envelopes, and pickles. I wasn't prepared to be a sutler but it turned out well. I also received a letter! It appears that my brother-in-law was very unhappy with the area he had immigrated to from Germany. He was particularly upset with the confiscating of part of his crop by the army and that he did not leave Prussia for this. As a postscript to the letter a gentleman wrote that my deceased husband's brother was fine. It appears that when the army came to take his crop he shot a soldier and ran off to Mexico!

Later we put a pot of beans on my fire so I could watch them; these would serve as dinner, breakfast and lunch for the rest of the weekend. Since the men had been issued rations some came in looking for spices or requesting I cook their meat for them. I tried to explain that I was very low on supplies and with the blockade had nothing in the way of spices nor anyway to cook the meat other than boiling. They went off very disappointed. However, they returned later having concocted a stew and asked to hang the mucket on the fire. Others came in to buy what little I had, like the much needed soap and of course the tobacco and matches.

The men then went off for target practice and I napped. Upon their return they came back to purchase more items, mostly food this time. The rest of the day and evening was spent visiting and relaxing.

The next morning the men fixed breakfast for themselves--left over potatoes, meat and beans and cabbage. Many of the men had traveled quite a distance to the event so left soon after breakfast was done. I packed up later that morning and Cody showed me around the site and we toured the interpreted buildings. Part of the site collection includes some original Berlin work men's slippers, a pair of ladies' slippers, a banion, and an original carpet bag. Very cool stuff.

Even though the event was small, it was fun, relaxing and we had several opportunities for first person interaction. I really need to do better research on the fort and the civilian population though.

Additional pictures of the event, site and details of the artifacts can be found at Photobucket and on the Fort McKavett Facebook page.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Event Ready?

Next weekend I will be attending the living history days at Fort McKavett. The impression is the fort, 1863, occupied by Texas State Troops and some civilian squatters. I've not done something like this before, so am researching and such. I will have very few if any pictures, but the site has a photographer lined up and will post photos on their page. I'll post a link when available.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to the ball gown

I'm planning to attend a ball in San Antonio in February and thought I'd resurrect the yellow ballgown.

I wasn't really happy with it when I put it down. So time to retry; I may end up doing something completely different :). Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Texian Market Days 2010 - 1860s

Back from TMD at George Ranch. Gulf coast area, not so much hot but HUMID!! Thank goodness there was a breeze all day, but at night the breeze would stop for a bit and get stuffy. So you throw off the covers, the breeze would start again and you would reach for the covers again. But that was the only downside of the weekend.

What a great event! I arrived about 6:00 and Vicki Betts and Caitlin Cassin were already at the house. We stay in the 1860s Prairie House on site upstairs. Views of the rooms can be found at my post from last year's event. Caitlin is new to the hobby and this was her first event. Caitlin is from the area and took us to Larry's for dinner. A great Tex-Mex restaurant. The food was great!

When we returned to the site after dinner was sat out on the porch and listened to the bagpipes coming from the 1830s area. It sounded like they were having a wonderful dance. The moon was full this weekend and it was a beautiful evening.

Matt Driggers, the site staff member with oversite of the 1860s house had found a new bed for "my" room. A big four poster with a horse hair mattress. It really was quite comfortable. He checked the beds to be sure there were no mice and no repeat of last year :).

Saturday morning was cool but a bit humid; we prepared for the visitors when the park opened at 9:00. There were a lot of visitors. As usual with our skirts we didn't leave the parlor as it was hard to maneuver with all the people. We spent the morning sewing an apron for Caitlin, Vicki sewed on a pair of drawers, we read aloud and talked with visitors.

There were two military activities during the day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This year the Yankees once again invaded our home and forced us out of our house, then the Rebs came to our rescue. We watched from inside the house.

After the morning activities, Caitlin and I walked around the park. We were stopped at least every 100 feet or so for photos. The creek, which is full of alligators looked so pretty and peaceful.

After the afternoon skirmish we finished our sewing projects and lounged. The event closed to the public at 5:00. We changed into modern clothes as the park always provides the volunteers dinner and we didn't want to be corseted for that :). Dinner was barbecue with all the fixin'. It was very good.

Following dinner the Dr. E.T. Bushrod Medicine Show and the Tanner Family Minstrels gave an adult version of their show. Unfortunately I left my camera at the house!! It was a good time, bad jokes, great music and lots of laughs.

The stereo owls returned about 7:00 the next morning, hooting to each other down the chimneys. But we were awake anyway and set about preparing to leave as the event is only a one day event.

TMD is really a good time. The site treats us so well and makes sure we have everything we need; they provide wood and food and really appreciate our participation. Can't wait for next year!

Additional photos are here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hood's Brigade Monument rededication

On October 15 I attended the rededication of the Hood's Brigade Monument that stands on the Texas Capitol grounds in Austin. It was a nice ceremony. Additional pictures are here.

Off to TMD

This weekend is the annual Texan Market Days at George Ranch in Richmond Texas. We'll be stay at and populating the 1860's Prairie House for the weekend. The weather promises to be warm and humid so I couldn't decide which dress to take. So I'm taking the plaid silk and the new homespun and we'll see on Saturday what the weather decides.

TMD is a one day event usually with lots of public. A new friend will be joining us so there will probably be lots of talk about the hobby. There will be two "battles" that day where the Yankees take over the house and the Rebs rescue us. Always a crowd pleaser and fun for us if not completely accurate for Texas.

Pictures will be posted after I return.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hearth cooking class

My friend, Hal Simon, has agreed to present a hearth cooking class here in Texas. Interested? More info at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Books and Chamber Pot

I got a new chamber pot! Pictures here.

Another book on German Texans, Die Kettner Briefe. Very good, a lot of good information about life in Texas 1850s to 1870s.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Background Research

I've been reading a couple of books on the Fayette County/Round Top area. The first I just finished was on Nassau Plantation, Nassau Plantation: The Evolution of a Texas German Slave Plantation. I found the book fascinating. The stories about families I knew about and/or are connected with Round Top is great background information for the Henkel Square events besides just being great stories on the immigration of Germans to the area.

The other book I've had for awhile, Ancestral Voices. This is transcriptions of several letters from the Von Rosenberg family from the Round Top/Fayette County area. I had read some parts, mostly those dealing with the 1860s but have now started from the beginning.

Both books offer great insights into the lives of the German immigrants to Texas.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


In my last post I failed to mention the lovely letters I received at Boonesfield. One from a sister and another from a dear friend.

Then upon returning home another wonderful letter was waiting for me from Round Top.

Exchanging letters between living history events is so much fun. It offers a wonderful connection and adds so much to the experience.