Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"When I Was Alone and Had Time to Reflect..." (or a First Person Immersion Event- Afterthoughts and Intimate Confessions...)

This post has been long in the making.  Mostly because it was end of semester earlier this month, but also because I have something pretty personal that I'll be sharing with you all.  It's personal and maybe a little bit uncomfortable, and it's taken me a bit to feel brave enough to post it.

So to ease into the topic, first, I'd like to reflect on some other things from my weekend and then I'll get to the really personal bits (with an option for you all to skip it if you wish- because I care about you and your level of comfort reading my posts.)

General Thoughts and Reflections on the Immersion Experience

For the sake of not repeating a lot of the same reflections, check out Catherine's reflection post. She basically said everything I would have on the accounts of women and the domestic sphere.

One thing I would like to see in the future is maybe a longer event. That would be something, now wouldn't it? A week long immersion event. And yet, I don't know if I would be able to stay immersed for that long and not be completely exhausted.

Because I was completely exhausted when I got home. Partly, I think this was due to the fact that I was interpreting a young woman rather different from myself and this was more challenging. I had to think differently, act differently, and be natural doing it. I didn't want to end up a caricature. While I am generally a well read and outspoken woman, I was carefully trying not to let my 21st century education get in the way of her 18th century mind. I think some of this mental fatigue would be eased by becoming more comfortable with the persona, but I think there will always be some amount present in these situations.

I was pretty happy with myself in terms of maintaining immersion through the weekend- both in the sense of my persona and the items I used. I think this made the experience fairly rich and rewarding for me and it is certainly one I would like to repeat.

However, I have a small confession to make of a rather indelicate and intimate nature. I'm giving you fair warning that you may want to just skip ahead if you are not prepared to enter into a not very much talked about territory. Skip this next bit if you are at all squeamish about woman bits.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"...An Action Worth Recording."

A most verbose accounting of 36 hours in the life of Miss Christina Irwin (with an unfortunate lack of images to accompany) 

December 24th

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. Aunt and Uncle are come from their tavern in the Welch mountains while Mother and Father are away tending to my sister who is due to deliver her first child any day now. I am glad for the company of my Mother's family as if they had not come my sister and I would have been compelled to travel with my parents for the birth. It is not that Miriam and I would not have enjoyed seeing our sister and the new babe, but our sister's home is not quite so suited to the number of inhabitants as would be pressed upon her with our arrival.

Therefore, Aunt and Uncle have come for Christmas time while Mother and Father have gone 'til twelfth night.

The weather has been prodigious cold of late and the ground is blanketed with snow resembling a patched coverlet- holes of green and brown worn through the white flannel. Perhaps more snow will come tomorrow to offer mending. Until then, I am to bed. I have said my goodnights and said my prayers, and now 'tis time to snuff the candle well and say good even to my bed.

December 25

I awoke this morning first to the indelicate call of my bladder (the scandal!). After ignoring it (as I am wont to do) and returning to slumber I awoke secondly to my dearest Aunt rousing us from rest. There was frost on the windows and sleep in my eyes, but Miriam and I arose and dressed with morning chores in mind. Thankfully, breakfast had already been started. In honor of the season, I swept the floor instead of leaving it to Miriam. I can be a kindly sister when I wish it.

After some porridge for breakfast my sister and I dressed for the day. Both in our blue gowns. Miriam's being more of a periwinkle while mine was more of an indigo. We tidied the kitchen and helped Aunt with the dishes and were preparing for a walk into town when there was a knock upon the door. I couldn't imagine that someone might have been calling with news of my sister and her babe. Had all gone well? Uncle announced that he saw soldiers coming up the road and that this could very well be them.

Uncle could not beat me to the door. Soldiers were even more exciting than my sister's new baby!
There were four soldiers at the door, for the most part youngish in appearance. They were led by the eldest amongst them- a shorter man with dark hair and kind but mischievous eyes. I would find out later in the day that not only was he the most senior in age of the foursome but also in rank (which was unfortunate as it was not his handsomeness which was objectionable, but rather his age.) There was one or two pleasing specimens in attendance, however, and Miriam and I decided for which of them we would set our caps when Uncle sent us into the larder to gather the vegetables and return with a dram of whiskey for each man. I wish I had dressed in a better gown for this morning, as I would have liked to have made a finer impression on one of the gentleman soldiers in particular. I did try to politely encourage him with subtle nods. Only time will tell if he was receptive  to my interest.

As all good things must eventually end so did this visit. However, seeing as Miriam and I had just been on our way for a walk and so kindly offered to show the gentleman to their next destination. I will admit to something naughty as this point, dearest reader. I did instigate a bit of mischief myself as we sent them on their way. The family who occupied the farm just down the road outside of town had last spring done me a grievous injury by repeating ill spirited  words regarding my character that dissuaded a potential suitor from deeming me a suitable choice for courtship. In reflection, while there may have been some truth to the words (that I was not maturely enough situated for marriage, too flighty to be suitable, a notorious gossip and flirt) it was not well done of them to repeat these things to others when they were not better acquainted with my situation. This bad deed did find me again later in the even; but I am committed to chronicling this day in the order it happened so must leave this scene for its own part.

The soldiers carried on towards the farm house while Miriam and I returned home. Refreshed from our walk and newly excited with the prospect of seeing the soldiers again (the corporal did ask me to call upon Mrs. Smith in whose home they were staying if I should wish to aid the cause by mending some items in sore need of repair) we decided we should begin to freshen our appearance. Thus, we dressed our hair prettily and freshly powdered it before donning new ribbons with our caps. Shortly after this, I paid a call on Mrs. Smith regarding the mending and extended the invitation for her and her two daughters to visit us later in the afternoon for refreshments. Although they are Friends and do not observe Christmas I thought it would be nice to spend some time with the ladies as they are nearer the age of my sister and myself than most in our town.

As Mr. Smith was to make a visit to see my Uncle he was kind enough to walk with me back to my home. A more understanding man does not exist, in my mind. Upon hearing the plight thrust upon me at the fault of my father Mr. Smith and I were in league to catch the eye of a certain soldier from earlier this morning. You would perhaps find yourself sympathetic to my plight, dear reader, if I would but share it with you. Here stand the facts of the situation which has caused me such distress and left me in desperation to find a kind young man to take me to wife.

My father, bless him, is a good man. Being a good man he wishes his daughters to be married with homes and children of our own. Truly I should like a husband of my own. I should enjoy nothing more than to spend the remainder of my days with a man whom I love and respect. My father, however, has plans to marry me to our neighbor Mr. Jones (a man whose pungent odor, if not excessive  years makes him an ill candidate for my affections.) 

Well, Mr. Smith was kind enough to hatch a plot with me which might bring the young gentleman into my company. Mr. Smith agreed to, nay suggested, that he could accidentally leave his mittens behind and send the young soldier to retrieve them. Mr. Smith could outdo any mama at trying to match her daughter up with a handsome man.

Well, Mr. Smith visited with Uncle and then we sat down to dinner. Aunt had prepared a wonderful soup. Unfortunately the topic of conversation turned to a sour note as Aunt took me to task for being too forward in my behavior earlier this morning. She and my uncle tried to convince me of the merits of an arranged match but were unsuccessful. Our dinner was not quite finished when a knock (a most timely knock, might I add) sounded at the door.

What followed was a flurry of activity and commotion as guest after guest arrived over the next hour at least. First a group of soldiers come to compensate my uncle for our earlier contributions. Then Mr. Martin to retrieve Mr. Smith's gloves. Then the Smith ladies. It was all most exciting. I did try to take my aunt's concerns to heart. Perhaps most significant for me was the moment when, upon handing Mr. Martin his shrub, our fingers ever so briefly touched. I did orchestrate this to be sure, but it was a welcome chance which I hope did not go unnoticed by the gentleman as well. I was happy also to show Mrs. Smith's eldest daughter, Ella, some new taffeta recently had for a bonnet. She and I take a particular interest in fashion so I knew she would appreciate the economy with which I acquired the length.

Mrs. Smith invited us to her home later in the evening for a social visit, perhaps to take their minds off of the soldiers being there. This fact was even more incentive for me to press my aunt to accept. After all of our company had left, we cleaned up the table and tidied the home. Then Miriam and I went to change for our visit to the Smiths. I wanted to be sure we presented ourselves to our best advantage, so I wore a gown cut in the latest fashion of a beautiful spotted, flower'd cotton and Miriam wore my second nicest yellow striped cotton. Thankfully, we are at a point in our growth where we may share our gowns with little adjustment needed. She looked handsome, indeed.

We all walked together to the Smiths as it was already dark and Aunt settled herself in with the Mrs. Smith and her daughters while we quietly slipped into the back room with Uncle where all of the gentleman were. What a lovely time was had. The corporal arranged it such that Mr. Martin was seated next to myself (clever man, indeed, regardless of his age!) The evening was filled with songs and merriment and was overall very pleasant indeed. Uncle overindulged in rum and if Aunt could have seen his machinations to engage for myself the affections of Mr. Martin perhaps she would not have taken me to task so during our dinner. He was so tippled he could barely make the walk back home. But we said our farewells and made the walk nonetheless, with Uncle leaning on Aunt's arm all the way.

He went directly to bed while Aunt, Miriam, and I stayed awake to recall the events of the evening. I even lit a candle to record the events of today before I could forget all of the exciting details. I am to bed momentarily but couldn't help but note that this was probably the most excitement Milltown has seen since the conflict began. Also the most gentlemen!

The hour is late and I must to rest before the sun rises. I can only hope tomorrow might have some excitement in store as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"In Readiness for the Expedition..." (...or a First Person Immersion Event- Preparation)

There is nothing like preparing for a first person immersion event which you will be attending stag (meaning without my usual group of folks with whom I camp) to illustrate what you are missing from your kit. I have been fairly lucky that the group with which I typically camp works cooperatively very well. Meaning I don't have tons of cookware- mainly because Mrs. Fox does the cooking and has tons of cookware. She enjoys it, I don't as much. Instead I sew her clothes. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Finished pomatum, almond cakes wrapped in linen, and my
jar of sugar.
I have many of these relationships with the folks in our group and it works to advantage for all of us. However, when it's time to attend an event out of our normal sphere where it's pretty much just me- well, those things are notably absent from my living history storage shelves. (Yes, these are a real thing- mostly in the basement but also in my sewing room and other random parts of my home. See below.)

One small section of my storage.
Don't judge.

Thankfully, the things which I knew I would need I was able to borrow from the fabulous folks I am blessed to call friends. For me, this included a brazier, extra blankets (Nat wasn't coming, and I get cold at night), tinder box, and (of course) food. My friend Stuart pretty much helped me out with everything but the food (including a lap writing desk and other neat things which he collects). The food was made possible by Alix helping me come up with things which I could make or collect in the rather short preparation time I had available (basically less than a week.) This along with coordinating with my housemates (who were the best housemates I could have wished! We made a lovely family!) made for plenty of food and none of us left hungry.

The rest of the things I needed, I prepared myself the week before the event. Many of these things were items I needed to make/remake anyhow, but I was a little anxious of time and getting them finished for the event.

I needed fresh powder, and I needed to make some more pomatum but put it into a pomatum pot this time, instead of my ball jar. I also needed to make some waxed linen (not enough time to get bladders) to cover my crocks.

Fresh jar of pomatum. Yum.
Measuring my starch and grinding up some cuttlefish.

Sifted and scented!

Almond cake... YUM. It actually turned out pretty nice.
The preparation for this event was cathartic in some ways, allowing me to finally get around to changing out some things I had been meaning to for some time. It also helped to point out some areas of need for us. For instance, I ran out of crocks for food storage. We definitely need more. However, I had plenty of pitchers and actually ended up using a pitcher as an impromptu storage crock because I needed the space.

As we were actually staying in an historic home, the other thing I realized was that I don't really need historical transportation storage for my clothes. Lugging trunks and whatnot isn't really necessary with an event like this. The young girl I was interpreting lived in the home and probably never really traveled outside of her town. All of her things would have fit nicely into the storage in her room and not in seven trunks and a portmanteau. This doesn't negate my still wanting some portmanteaus, mind you, but I don't think they are needed in this context. 

I packed my clothing into my (very modern and awesomely collapsible) Thirty One bags and you know what? It was pretty great. I was able to unpack and fold up my bags and leave them in the car/in the storage closet with no signs that I was not a native inhabitant of that house. In another context a portable chest of drawers or even a portmanteau would work, but for me this time it was nice to keep my furniture carrying weight down and still have wardrobe choices available. 

I would have liked some pegs, but we made do with
bed rails and drawers.
Aside from the physical prepping for the event, I don't want to forget to mention the mental preparation. The young girl whom I was portraying for this scenario had but a few lines which made mention of her in Mr. Martin's journal, leaving me to form deductions regarding her character from what few details I had. This led me to scouring other sources for mention of similar young ladies so that I might draw from them something to be known of her, but also drawing from the vast expanse of the human experience. Overall, she was a flighty thing with not too much deep thought of the troubles around her apart from the fact that they inhibited her own experience and desires. Which, I actually think is fair. 

Preparing for this experience really caused me to focus not on those items of fact from the period which "we should know" but rather the ones which we shouldn't. So many of us, even today, have but a vague understanding of the political atmosphere and a very narrow scope of fields in which we are truly knowledgeable. I think it is important that we do not forget that people of the past were probably much the same way. A young twenty-something in a small town with a mean education may not be particularly tuned in with why things are the way they are, only that she dislikes the effects of things as they are. Her personality might also change how she approaches the world around her. So much affects the people we are and to what we pay attention.

This can be liberating in first person. I don't have to know super important battle details by rote. I might have heard of such and such a battle or such and such a person- but perhaps not in detail. How much would I truly know of army life? Probably little, but I might be rather inquisitive of the soldiers to find out. I think sometimes we make first person more than it is by feeling the need to know too much. It is key to know what it is we do not know.

In all, I felt relatively well prepared for the event. I think everyone's hard work paid off and I can't wait to share with you the details of my weekend. Alas, as this post is much too long already I will save those for tomorrow.

To encourage you to read my forthcoming exploits, (or avoid them as you may choose) things will get rather *ahem* intimate in my next post as I delve into my day as an 18th century young lady in Milltown, PA and leave all modern amenities behind. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

An Event in Which "Dame Fortune Had Been Kind..." (...or a First Person Immersion Event- Introduction)

If you've been following my updates on facebook, you know that I posted some last minute projects for "something cool coming up." Well, that something happened and now you get to hear all about it! Last weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a first person immersion event at a local site which kindly hosts a number of living history events in my area. While the site itself is primarily an early 1840s site, our group was actually portraying a portion of the memoirs of Joseph Plump Martin (which is somewhat fitting, as his memoirs were first published in 1830- somewhat full circle, eh?)

Martin was a soldier in the American War for Independence and his recollections are considered a pretty cool find in regards to contemporary accounts of the average soldier during the war. They were thought lost for some time until a first edition copy popped up in a museum donation and Voila! lots of happy historians.

Anyhow, our goal was to recreate some of the people and interactions from the winter of 77/78 based on Mr. Martin's writings. Oh- and to stay in first person for the duration of the event, which went live at 9 p.m. Friday evening and officially ended at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

That's right. All first person. All the time. Potential for disaster- definitely present. But, happily, things turned out pretty well, and I think everyone had a really good experience. I'll be penning a few posts in regards to a variety of aspects relating to this event (preparing for full immersion, the experience itself, reflections afterwards, etc.) as I think it would be far too much for one post alone.

I will say that my experience was a positive one and that I would certainly undertake an event of this nature again. I leave you, dearest readers, with a small glimpse of my chest of drawers on Friday evening and the promise of more to come.

Powder, cap, puff, brushes, housewife, stockings, shaker,
bum, neck handkerchief, and shift are just a few of the
items populating the chest awaiting their use
the next morning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Must Travel, to Learn...

For me, this often means physically travelling to workshops, conferences, and historical sites relating to my wish to better portray history. These last two weekends I have done just that, attending a B&T polonaise workshop (of which I have zero personal pictures- we were very industrious and I just didn't think to snap a shot! Check out their facebook page for pictures of the class.) and the Colonial Williamsburg Wigmaker's conference (for which I also have a sad few pictures to show.)

Both experiences we valuable to me and I learned so much, met some really great new people, and spent time with friends whom I don't get to see in person very often. That alone made both trips priceless.

I was fortunate enough to see some wonderful items pulled from storage relating to the wigmaker's trade and am looking forward to applying some of the techniques, tips, and tidbits I gathered from the various presenters.

Samantha from The Couture Courtesan did an amazing presentation on ear irons which, even though it's not my primary period, was truthfully one of my favorite talks of the weekend. I hope she publishes soon!

Friday evening was the opening reception, and guests were encouraged to attend in "our finery." I wasn't sure if I was actually going to dress in my historical clothes for this (more to bring on the plane) but ultimately I decided why not. I wore my (not quite finished) Italian gown and made up a new wig to blend with my own hair.

Overall, I was happy with the look, but of course there are little things I'd like to fix- you know, like finishing the gown and cuff hems and playing with the hair style a bit more. But, no blog post is complete without pictures, so here are the few I was able to manage of myself for my future reference and for your entertainment. =)

Using a flat iron to set papillote

Curls set and ready for frizzing/powder.

Front selfie.

Side selfie.

Hair close up 1.

Hair close up 2.

I always learn so much when I got to these types of events and can't wait for my next opportunity. On another note- I just found out today that my topic proposal was accepted and I will be traveling to St. Charles, IL at the end of January/beginning of February for Military History Fest to give a talk on getting started as a living historian. More on that to come, I promise!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Dress Form and Other Things...

So the school year has begun, meaning my long stretches of radio silence have, too. Once I finish the bulk of my master's courses this summer I hope for that to change. Until then, I have created a Facebook page where I'm much better about updating on projects, workshops, etc. on a much, much more regular basis.

I'm also considering a couple of new dress forms, in the manner of my 1812 one. Now that I'm entering the 1780s with some of my interpreting, I'd really like to create a form with my 1780's pair of stays. I also have some ideas for better arms this go around. More to come on that front probably around semester and holiday breaks.

Until then, I'll be spending the rest of this week getting ready to leave Thursday night for the Polonaise workshop and the Head for Fashion conference the weekend after that. Blog posts to follow, at some point, but instant Facebook updates for those of you like me who like the more instant gratification. =)

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Lard That Binds... (Or My First 18th c. Pomatum)

As you saw in my previous post Mrs. Fox dressed my hair Sunday last and we tested out my "new" pomatum and powder. It worked pretty well, all things considered, and I'll be making up a new batch this week as I seem to have left my large tin in my friend's cooler Sunday evening. Whoops!

The back of my dressed hair
I was introduced to the art of big hair at last spring's Burnley and Trowbridge workshop and since that point I've been fascinated with wanting to improve my 18th century hair. I've been scouring all available resources for primary documents and thankfully the internet is full of them, some can still  be purchased online, and I may be able to find more once I have access to my library at work.

But here's the skinny on my foray into the fat underbelly of pomatum. (Okay- I confess that whole sentence was pretty awful, but I just couldn't help myself...)

First things first, I needed to pick a receipt from all of those sources I had been browsing. There were tons of options. Pomatum was so common and scents could be chosen by the maker based on any number of sweet flowers (lavender, orange blossom, whatever you wanted really). I knew that I already have a particular fondness for clove and citrus, so I used oil of clove and lemon for my pomatum. I'd like to try scenting the pomatum in the 18th c. manner with flowers sometime, I'm just not there yet.

Not having every single ingredient for any one pomatum receipt- I improvised. I used the basic amounts of lard and mutton suet from a pomatum receipt in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies and substituted lemon oil for bergamot and thyme. The three ingredients I didn't have on hand included alkanet root, beef marrow, and virgin wax.

On a side note, although the blog lists the pomatum receipt indicating use for hair, I'm wondering if it's actually supposed to be a lip salve. The alkanet root is what makes me question. I haven't seen it used in an explicitly "hair only" pomatum but is frequently used in lip salves. There are definitely red pomatums in other sources. For example, The Toilette de Flora  says "white" pomatum says can be used "in the same manner as other pomatums" while the instructions for "red" pomatum are a little more general in just saying to "set it by for use."

The New London Toilette lists a red pomatum with alkanet root with instructions to be "...made up into a paste and rubbed over the face..." to give it a reddish color. So take that for what it is.

Either way, it seems that pomatum in general is made up of mostly lard with a variety of other ingredients being thrown in for good measure (or good fragrance), so I felt okay using this ratio as the base for just a simple pomatum for my hair. We're constantly being reminded in the manuals, though, to not mix anything noxious to the hair into our pomatums and powders. We're way too smart for that, ladies!

Anyhow, here's what I did:

Measured out my lard. You can see how soft the lard is on my spoon. Once it was thawed I was able to scoop it out pretty reasonably into my dish.
 Lard in my bowl and on my spoon.
 The mutton was a bit harder. I ended up "cutting" it with a butter knife (more like scraping and stabbing- semantics!) and it took longer to melt.

Not as soft as the lard...

 Once I had everything measured out, I set to slowly melting it on a very low heat.

It was slow... very slow... but we made it eventually. You can see the mutton
chunks in there.
Once I was done melting, I added my clove and lemon oil to my liking and then poured into my containers for storage.
Left: three four oz ball jars for overflow (and to give to friends.)
Right: a large candle tin to store the majority of my pomatum.

I forgot to take a picture of it once it cooled, but it basically looked like the lard in the beginning. The scent does mask most of what there is of the "lard smell", especially once it's in your hair. It goes on really well and the scent stays for 5-6 days- the clove lingers longer than did the lemon. Overall, I can't wait to try the process again.

I have ordered my virgin wax and a few other ingredients and I am ready for round two. I am feeling a little more confident now that I have a bit of experience under my belt, and I'll be sure to post again with my second attempts.

Until then, I will leave you with my list of alternative literary lard loving punned titles that were almost chosen for this post. Enjoy and feel free to add your own in the comments. =)

P.S. No promises that these are PC, but hopefully you'll find them somewhat humorous.

Lard of the Rings
Lard in August
The Pigslayer
Journey to the Center of the Pig
Lard Times

I would entertain song lyrics, also...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer Afternoon

Last weekend was spent in Kenosha, WI at an event that is one of my favorites of the year. It is set right on the beach of Lake Michigan and always has some beautiful weather (including the occasional summer storm on the lake). It's an event at which we always have fun as we are able to play with some of our friends and not take ourselves terribly seriously.

Our traditional beach picture. Mrs. Fox is in Regency to
accommodate her baby bump. 

This year's fun consisted of a duel on the beach on Saturday and a trade agreement gone wrong at the Black Horse on Sunday. While I was able to watch my husband in the duel,  I regrettably missed Sunday's scenario due to the fact that Mrs. Fox was dressing my hair.

I was delighted to try out my new pomatum and powder (which I made the Wednesday before the event- post coming soon!). So far, I'm very much loving the combo. It wears very well and leaves my hair feeling great.


Side- at first I wasn't sure about
the dip between the front and
back, but then I remembered the
print of the camp laundry from our
workshop and you see a similar thing
going on beneath the cap of the
woman standing up. 


One last exciting thing that came out of last weekend (teaser!) was the beginnings of a new project within Engaging History (check back to the EH blog for more on that soon). So much for which to be excited!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All's Fair: LBCC 1772 Cold Cream (or Pomatum for the Complexion )

In preparation for this review, I have been using the LBCC 1772 Orange Flower Cold Cream for the past six weeks. While some of you may be familiar with cold cream and its uses, I've found for many people the concept of cold cream is a somewhat vague notion of "something my grandmother used in her day." So, before I continue with my review, let's talk a little bit about cold cream. 

Dating back to ancient Greece, cold cream has been around in some variety or another for a very long time. At its core, it's a blend of water and oil. Its simplicity also makes it a very versatile product. It has been used for everything from shaving cream to body lotion. Traditionally, it's used by women as a skin moisturizer or make-up remover or even as leave on deep conditioning mask. 

I don't really do deep conditioning and don't wear a ton of make-up, but I did decide to use it as my daily facial moisturizer. Actually, I also ended up using it a few times as a body moisturizer for my legs and arms. Here's what I found:

Photo courtesy of LBCC. I was going to take my
own, but I've used mine pretty well so it's not as
photogenic as a new jar!

Cost: $18.00

Product Description: A cold cream based on the 1772 Toilette de Flora receipt of the same name. According to the website it is thinner than the 1901 style cream and is a great moisturizer/historical make up remover.

Uses: I used it as a facial moisturizer after showering for six weeks. I also used it occasionally as body lotion.

Pros: It's a nice sized container. You might think that it's small and won't last very long, but after six weeks of daily use I've only used about 1/4th of what's in there. A little goes a very long way. Also, it was nice when traveling to throw in one container for my face and body, instead of a tube of moisturizer and a bottle of lotion. I really enjoyed the scent (orange flower).

Seriously. I use about this much each day for my face.
Maybe a little less.

Cons: I got nothin'. The container worked for me. I even dropped it a handful of times on my tile floor and it was fine. No negative reactions to ingredients. 

How well does it work: I couldn't really document this product in photographs, but I can tell you what I experienced. I have normal-ish skin with a somewhat oilier "T-zone". Overall, my face feels very soft and supple. Softer even than with my moisturizer I used before. My face typically breaks out somewhat in the summertime (extra heat=extra sweat and all that) but this summer I haven't had a breakout nearly as extreme as usual. In fact, I've gotten maybe two little zits total (not the many small bunches near my hair line like normal.) 
Yep. Here's my face sans everything.
No sleep, no make up, and (thankfully)
no zits!

Modern Counterpart: Hmm... I've never used today's cold creams before, so I don't know that I could say how it stacks up (that's a hint to any of you out there who use modern cold cream to try this one and give an in depth report! lol.)

Recommended for: Daily moisturizing. Guys can use it, too, and the citrus smell makes it less girly than a rose cold cream! Score! I didn't use it as a make up remover or mask but it could be used for that as well. 

In Conclusion: I can tell you that I definitely plan on continuing to use this product in place of my modern moisturizer and lotion. For a broader perspective, I'd be interested in the experiences of someone who has really oily skin using the product, as mine is more combination. Aside from that, I really loved this one and like that it's helped simplify a shelf in my bathroom, too!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Life, Papillottes, and a Video

Life seems to be sneaking off with a lot of my time lately. Between library remodel, three master's courses, and an emergency trip to South Carolina to be with family (my grandmother passed away last month) things have been a little more hectic for me than usual. Needless to say, I am about five blog posts behind (I've yet to post on my early 19th c. gown workshop, my recently completed Italian gown workshop, two new "All's Fair" product reviews, and my recent girls trip to Williamsburg! EEk) but I am determined to catch up.

To hold you over until I get the other posts finished, I bring you a post on my most recent hairsperiment: 18th/19th century curling implements. Get ready for some photo madness brought to you by Catalyst Design and Photography (check them out on facebook)!*

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Years of Napoleon at the Macktown Living History Center. It was a lovely event, apart from some wardrobe malfunctions on my part- pretty much ignore my bodice front as the gathering strings broke (pins to the rescue!) and my workshop gown was attacked by my English Mastiff and has to be mended.

But, as always, good overshadowed bad and we were very happy when our friend Alicia from LBCC joined us for the day. To make things even better, she brought along one of her stellar finds. An iron for making curls. The process and equipment are described in Diderot's Arts de L'Habillement.

Left  Image from Diderot showing two styles of irons for curling.
Right The original iron used on my hair. (photo courtesy of LBCC)
Always up for some historical experimentation, Alicia decided to test it out on my more than willing head.
Okay- so maybe I was a little nervous...
The process: We decided to try a bit in the back first, just to make sure it didn't burn my hair off or something. Better safe than sorry, right? We took a small chunk of my hair near my nape, pomaded it, papered it up, and then the heat was on! Luckily, my hair did not go up in a blaze of glory (although, even if it had I feel it would have been worth it... for science!)

In fact, once Alicia got the hang of it, we were able to make some pretty stellar curls. Granted, we were kind of slow to start (I think if you got really good at this technique, it could go a lot faster) but overall not bad.

If you want to see the whole process live, check out the video via the LBCC youtube channel.
Test curl in the back. Mistress Titter
is holding the rest of my mane to keep it
out of the way. 

Pomading and prepping the curl.

Rolling, rolling, rolling the curl. 

She only burnt my head once! But
really, it was no worse than any
iron today (and we had burn salve!)

Test curls done, technique improved,
and ready for the next set. 

The results: We ended up with a fabulous end product. They were maybe a little long for this period, but since I typically do 18th c. I keep my hair on the longer side to make those hairstyles easier.

By the time we were finished and I got to see myself in a mirror, I felt...well... pretty. The curls were very bouncy and made me feel like I had a little more pep. I don't know about you, but I think there's something to be said for having someone doll you up every once in awhile.

In all my curly glory. Special thanks to
Tonya Staggs for the mini turban
workshop and Turbanspiration.
Check out her PREZI if you'd like more
info regarding turbans during the regency.
The aftermath: Mind you, my hair doesn't typically take curl very well, but these curls lasted for three days with very little relaxing before I had to wash them out for a 21st century function. This was with no care to prevent them from relaxing, either. I just slept on them like normal. I think if you actually tried to preserve them they could easily last much longer.
Morning of day 2 curls. Relaxed a bit, but
I didn't take any preventative measures.
(Photo credit: me)

Day 3. I pulled one out of my messy
bun so you could see it. A lot looser
now but still pretty curly. =)
(Photo credit: me)

It's always fun experimenting with history and finding things that just work really well. I think I would definitely use a modern flat iron to recreate this process for whenever I want really curly hair. It worked so well and it was nice to have some curls for a change. It could also be really good for special occasion hairstyles and up-dos.

I will leave you with probably my favorite curl inspired picture of the weekend, taken when we were getting ready to pack out Sunday evening and I needed to tame the curls.

Because we can do it!

*Thanks again to Catalyst Design and Photography for consistently taking such great photos of us. They make us look fab!  All photos are credited to Catalyst unless otherwise noted. Check them out. =)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

All's Fair: LBCC A Fine Burn Salve

Last Saturday I was honored to attend a graduation party for a former student. As it was in the high 80s I wore an appropriate sundress to keep cool, since most of these parties are outside. It was also fabulously sunny out; While I remembered my sunglasses, I definitely forgot the sunblock. My fair Irish complexion, needless to say, was more than a little displeased at this breech in conduct and made its disgruntlement known.

While luckily not a disabling burn,
it definitely was enough to hurt!
About an hour after I returned home, the pain set in and I knew I would have to act quickly if I didn't want this to end badly. That's when I remembered I had picked up some Burn Salve for just such an occasion! I decided since my shoulders were pretty equally burnt that I would treat one shoulder with plain old aloe vera and treat the other with the burn salve. 

Cost: $10.00
Product Description: From Etsy:
1oz tin
Lavender, Tea Tree oil, Calendula and Aloe

Great for kids and keeping in your camp and around the fire.

...All natural products will help heal and soothe your burns ...Use this lovely salve on your skin when you get burnt, either from the hot sun, cooking fire, or for those scrapes and cuts that all kids get. This recipe is a combo of various historical recipes I have been collecting over the years. It comes in 1 oz tins. ...This Historical Salve has Calendula and Lavender, which not only is an antiseptic, but it will help PREVENT Scarring. In addition, this salve will help heal not only burns, but skin irritations and other conditions including wounds, insect bites, rashes, scrapes, abrasions, cuts, inflammations. It is suitable for the sensitive of skin.

Uses: Sunburns, burns, insect bites, rashes, scrapes, abrasions, cuts, inflammations.

Pros: It actually treated the pain of the sunburn much better than the aloe vera and had some pretty immediate results. It lasted longer between applications so I didn't have to apply as many times. This was nice because by Day 2 I was back to work and didn't have time to stop and reapply AV every hour. It also helped the burn heal more quickly and abated the reddening of the burn area much faster. In fact, even now after five days the AV side still has a pinkish tinge that the salve side does not.

Cons: I need something better to call the "con" section, because this isn't really a con but something to keep in mind. The aloe vera soaks into your skin after a bit and "dries" if you will. The burn salve takes much longer to do this. You rub it in, but it leaves more of a coating on your skin than the aloe vera does. I find this makes my skin feel less dry and itchy, but is something to bear in mind when choosing your clothes.

How well does it work: Pretty darn well. See pics and comments below: (In case you are wondering, YES- I am wearing tube tops in these pics- just cropped it out so the different colors wouldn't throw the photos too much! I also tried to be careful of lighting, but Day 4 had a bad storm so I  had to turn on the artificial ones so it's a touch yellow.)

1 day after burn. Left side (of photo) treated with Aloe Vera
right side with burn salve. You can see the right side is already
slightly less red than the left.

Day 2. Left side (of photo) treated with Aloe Veraright side with burn salve. Right side is lightening up.

Day 3. Left side (of photo) treated with Aloe Veraright side with burn salve. Left side is still pretty red.
Right side is even lighter.

Day 4- Left side (of photo) treated with Aloe Vera
right side with burn salve.Note the obvious difference between the left and right
in this pic. It's even more pronounced in person.
Today would be Day 5- and I forgot to take a picture this morning because honestly, this is the first day the Aloe Vera side hasn't hurt. The Salve Side quit hurting after less than a day. By day two I was almost ready to give up on the experiment and put the salve on both sides... but for science I persevered! I haven't started peeling on either side yet, but I will update with photos if I do.

Modern Counterpart: I guess aloe vera or an after sun treatment. I've also used vinegar on a sunburn to remove the sting of the burn with much success. I could see myself using the vinegar first and then applying the salve.

Recommended for: Everyone. It is safe for children, convenient to carry, and a little bit goes a very long way.

In Conclusion: While this particular product is not a recreation of a single, specific historical receipt, it is based on a number of historical receipts that Alicia (owner of LBCC) has been collecting for some time and is made in the historical manner. This means that this is one of the few products from LBCC that doesn't have an exacting provenance but is based on research into a quantity of similar historical receipts and practices. I will definitely use it again and am actually thinking of getting some for my fairer friends who may get a bit sun kissed this summer. It might be a touch more expensive than AV alone, however, the fact that it lasts longer and (more importantly) treats the pain better makes it worth it in my book.

Friday, May 30, 2014

An 18th Century Hair Day

This past weekend Nat and I headed out to Vincennes, IN for our first official event as members of the Kings Own Royal Regiment, Grenadier Co. Unfortunately, we weren't able to leave Friday night as planned, but we were able to get there for most of Saturday and all of Sunday. I thought that the event would be a great chance to put some of the skills I learned in the cap/hair workshop to work!

I already had some lemon blossom pomade from LBCC ready to go (I'm working on a couple of others for me to test out this summer) but unfortunately I didn't have any hair powder. (LBCC has lavender hair powder available that is nice- but I'm just not a lavender girl. It happens.) So, after rumaging through the the Toilette de Flora, my notes from class, and talking with Alicia, I made a quick trip to the grocery store to get some make do powder materials. Talk about last minute, right?

I already have a powder puff for finishing, but I picked up a shaker to dispense the powder while I'm actually pomading/powdering. I wasn't sure how successful I was going to be doing this on myself, but no time like the present! After whipping up my make do powder, I set to work.
My hair- one lock already powdered,
one lock just pomaded.

Mostly finished, just one section left undone

All done! Very full and a little lighter than usual.

My tin of pomade after I was done... I think I need
a bigger tin! 
 It took me a bit longer to do my own hair than it did when Abby did it, but it was manageable. I slept on it Friday night so it would be ready to go. After leaving a little behind schedule and a 5+ hour drive, we arrived just in time to watch the battle tactics demonstration and then changed into our historical clothing for the evening.

I didn't really have the energy to attempt big hair for the evening, but Sunday morning it was go big or go home. I hadn't finished my workshop cap yet, but I had a cap that could accommodate modestly high hair that I brought along for just this reason. The pomade/powder made my hair very manageable when I put in my hair roller- but holy high hair volume, Batman! Between the pomade/powder and the roller, my hair was too large for my cap to fit! (Not to mention way larger than when we had practiced with the rollers in class.)

I decided that the pomade/powder must work wonders for my hair volume and maybe I could go without a roller. So, instead, I took a spare piece of wool and made a very small "roller" about as wide as a 1/2 inch dowel rod. I used that to start rolling my hair up and voila! It worked really well. My P/Ped hair without a stuffed roller was about the height my naked hair had been with a roller. A little bit of playing with my silk ribbon bow and my cap was settled onto my head, firmly secured with straight pins. 

Sunday afternoon. You can see my
"Sunday Casual Not Too Big But
Still Big" hair do underneath my cap.
My husband just had to get in on the big
hair action! =P
I did some sausage curls on the bottom back of my head but totally forgot to take pictures. I also dressed my friend Kate's hair (and rather prettily, if I do say so myself) but the pictures are on her camera. I'll have to see if she can send me one to post here. I was probably proudest of the back of her hair.

It was fun engaging the public with my hair (and I did- so many people wanted to touch it and know if it was my real hair) and I think it sparked a lot of interest and thought into the 18th century concept of hair care vs. our modern one. I can't wait to delve more into this subject as I prepare for my all 18th century hair care regimen for this summer.

I also can't wait to practice my big hair more and try out more styles on myself. This just opens up so many fun interpretive options with which I want to play and have some 18th century hair days.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One Hairy Weekend

Recently, I was fortunate enough to find myself at the B&T cap and hair workshop and what fun! Sarah and Abby of the Margaret Hunter Shop led us through the finer details of not only 18th century cap construction and hair, but of reading and interpreting caps in prints and paintings. We were learning not just how to make a specific style/pattern of cap, but how the various pieces and treatments of a cap work together to create the final product. This would hopefully help us feel more confident in our abilities to see a cap in an image and then recreate for our heads.

I always appreciate the approach the presenters take at these workshops, teaching us skills that we can take with us and apply rather than teaching us simply how to read directions and follow a pattern. Not only did we learn about cap styles, but we learned about what has to happen underneath those caps to make them so fabulous.
So, before we could get to making our caps, we had to take care of the hair underneath. We made rollers for our hair to give it some of that height so typical to the later 18th century.

Alix and I with our rollers in and ready to measure for our caps!

Once we had our rollers done and roughly placed (for measurement's sake rather than beauty!) we could continue on to some bigger decisions: cap styles. The ladies from the shop had brought along a few styles of caps that we could try on to get an idea of how certain bands, wings, and cowls would look on ourselves. It was like playing dressup in a most grown up fashion.

Huge wings!
This cap was almost universally
After some contemplating and discussion of which features we wanted for our own caps, we set to work diligently rolling hems and whipping gathers. Saturday's homework was to get as far as we could assembling our caps and contemplate trimmings.

By Sunday morning, we had made significant progress on our caps and were able to discuss a variety of trimmings for caps, as well as get a pomatum/powder demo to illustrate potential uses of what was dubbed "the doughnut"- a gigantic doughnut like roll we'd all been curiously eyeing during the weekend. It must have also been my lucky day, because Abby decided to pomade and powder my hair for the demo.
I have to say, I really enjoyed both the process and the result! 1- It felt like I was getting a head massage as she worked the pomade through my hair. 2- My hair was hugely voluminous when she was finished. I had the most well behaved sloppy buns for a week after this. Anyhow- after prepping my hair, we got to see what the doughnut was all about.

Pulling the hair up over
 the doughnut

The back 

Finished front
It was a-maz-ing. I feel like I can never really have an excuse not to dress my hair ever again. It took about ten minutes and it's the best historical hair I've ever had! I am soooo making one of these for myself. (Maybe a few in different sizes?) Once Abby was done we took the opportunity to try on Sarah's cap from "The Morning Ramble". I felt like a fashion plate come to life.

Eventually, though, it was time to go home. The doughnut had to be returned (although I would have loved to take that hair-do through airport security!) I gave my hair a quick brushing and threw it into a bun. When I got home, instead of washing it right away, I just let it do it's thing. I brushed it in the morning and before bed and that was about it. And you know what? It was fine. My scalp felt nice, my hair wasn't greasy, and nobody really even noticed except to say that I looked a little blonde.
My hair a few days after pomade/powder treatment.

In fact, I'm really intrigued by 18th century hair care, and I think this summer I want to do a little experiment. I'd like to go 8 weeks using only 18th century hair care methods and products. I want to see what happens. What does it feel like after prolonged use? What happens to my scalp/hair? How does it do in the heat? I already don't use normal shampoo (I'm a baking soda and vinegar rinse girl) so that aspect doesn't bother me. I just need to gather some resources to pin down a typical 18th century hair care regimen, assemble the materials, and apply to my head.

I'll definitely share my findings as I go and results when I'm finished. What fun! B&T workshops always leave me inspired!