Semi-DIY Chatelaine

When writing this post, I initially started writing about how a problem facing many historical costumers is carrying all of our bits and bobs when many dresses come without pockets, and how finding appropriately period purses can be difficult. And I was going to talk about how that’s what prompted me to want a chatelaine, which was basically a multi-tool for 19th century women… but then I had to admit to myself that my desire for a chatelaine really had nothing to do with needing to carry stuff with me, and everything to do with it just looking really cool.

So what is a chatelaine? Basically it’s a hook or pin that women would attach to their belt/waistband. It would have several chains hanging from it, and dangling from the chains would be an assortment of useful items– pencils, watches, perfume vials, buttonhooks, needle cases, notebooks, coin purses… basically anything a woman might want to have handy.

Of course, these items weren’t strictly utilitarian– many chatelaines were made of silver, gorgeously embellished, and just generally decorative. Here are some of my favorites, mostly from the 1880s-1890s:

Image result for silver chatelaine
Image result for silver chatelaine
Image result for silver chatelaine

So, with all of this beautiful inspiration, is it any wonder I wanted one for myself?

The problem, of course, is that antique chatelaines with any attachments at all tend to sell for no less than $200, and easily reaching $2,000 depending on condition and complexity. I wasn’t about to spend that much, so I had to improvise.

Continue reading

Historical Spectacles

Okay, this isn’t an “I made this” post so much as an “I found this” post. It’s about eyeglasses. That is, reasonably historical-looking eyeglasses for those of us who are visually challenged but don’t want to wear contacts all the time. If you’re looking for an inexpensive source for glasses that look pretty decent for dates after 1800 or so, try these:

sku-810014 eyeglasses front view

I found them at Zenni Optical, and after a lot of comparison shopping at similar discount-glasses sites I determined that they were the best-priced pair I could find. The basic prescription glasses, with standard coatings and thickness, cost me under $12 (plus another $5 in shipping). They come in gold and silver, as well as a few less historical-looking colors.

I also picked up this pair (which I don’t like as much on my face because they’re kind of big, but which would still work). They were only $3 more and also come in other colors.

sku-450014 eyeglasses front view

(I will note that both of these pairs have plastic nosepads, which are not historically accurate, but in general this is about as close as you’re going to get without actually seeking out reproduction frames.)

Get some the next time you feel the urge to stare disapprovingly over your spectacles at someone!

No Knead Pizza Dough

I’ll admit, I usually buy my pizza dough in bags from the grocery store. It’s just so much easier than making it from scratch, and it’s immediately ready to use with no kneading or rising required. But sometimes the stars align and you have a bunch of pizza toppings wasting away in the refrigerator and no dough in sight, so it’s time to make your own.

I’m still lazy enough to want to avoid kneading, though, so I chose a no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey that develops gluten through a long rise instead. I mixed up my dough in the morning and left it on the counter all day– when I got back from work in the evening it hadn’t quite doubled (surprising since it was pretty warm in my house) but it was soft and silky, and easy to work with.

Continue reading

Chocolate Pumpkin Marble Cake with Pumpkin-Ginger Cream

It’s fall, which in baking terms means pumpkin and spices and all things warm and cozy! That being said, while I’m perfectly happy to bake standard pumpkin muffins at home, when it comes to parties I always have to try something more interesting. That’s why, for a recent potluck, I came up with this recipe, which combines pumpkin and ginger and all those other spicy fall flavors with chocolate– and it was a great combination!

That being said, while I increased the original cake recipe by 50% to make a taller cake (big crowd expected), in retrospect I think this was a mistake– the cake-to-frosting ratio was off. I’ve reduced the cake amounts back down for this post, so your cake will not turn out as tall as the one in the photo– this will be a good thing! I’m kind of tempted to try to make this into cupcakes next time so I can really pile on the frosting– you should try it!

Continue reading

Red Velvet Cinnamon Roll Zombie Guts!

I was casting about for an idea of what to bring to a Halloween potluck when I came across a video showing someone unrolling some canned cinnamon roll dough, arranging the coils of dough in a pan to look like intestines, and then topping the dough with cherry pie filling to look like blood. It looked delightfully creepy, but since I’m not really a fan of canned cinnamon rolls I decided to go a step further and make the dough myself.

A little searching online turned up this fabulous recipe for a similar dough made with red velvet cake mix– brilliant idea! Unfortunately for me it didn’t turn out quite as planned– the dough was very soft and sticky,* and after I rolled it up with the filling it refused to unroll so I could form the intestine-coils. I ended up just pulling the dough apart and plunking it into the pan– I didn’t expect it to turn out well, but by the time it puffed up in the oven it looked pretty great, particularly with the addition of some edible eyeballs (canned lychees). Nevertheless, I’ve adjusted the flour/water ratio below so you’ll hopefully get dough that’s easier to handle!

Continue reading

In need of Gala inspiration…

As you may recall, for me the costuming highlight of the past two years has been attending Costume College– not just for the opportunity to meet up with like-minded costumers and learn new things, but because it provides a venue/excuse for me to make and wear some fabulous costumes that would otherwise languish in my imagination. The Saturday night Gala, especially, is the pinnacle of the weekend costume-wise, and I’ve always had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to make and wear.

Costume College Gala 2018– My Fair Lady embassy ballgown
Costume College Gala 2019- Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent

Not this year. The themes for 2020 have just been released– the Gala will be Titanic-themed– and I’m stuck. While I would have jumped at the chance back in high school when the Titanic movie first came out (and still think the costumes are lovely), in the intervening years it seems like everyone has already made their own versions of the costumes, so a reproduction of a movie outfit would be unoriginal at best. And while I could always just make something Edwardian in style and go with that, I just can’t seem to get excited about it without some kind of inspiration.

Looking back at my two previous Gala outfits (and many of my other favorite costumes), I tend towards very detailed reproductions of instantly recognizable but seldom-made gowns– heck, the Katniss dress was my first foray into blogging, and definitely fit the bill. I think that having a specific point of reference helps me stay on track in terms of figuring out what comes next in a complicated costume, and it’s nice to be able to feel that I’ve gotten things “right” at the end. On the other hand, I feel like I’d like to be able to break out of the box next year by making something original… I just don’t know if I like the Titanic theme enough to use it as my inspiration.

Complicating matters is the fact that I have a bunch of fabric in my stash that I really ought to get around to using, so I feel kind of compelled to at least try to make a Gala gown out of some of it… if only I could figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it!

So what say you, readers? Do I try to find some Edwardian inspiration to go with the Titanic theme after all? Do I dig into my stash (which really leans Victorian in terms of fabric) and try to be virtuous? Do I hold on and hope that a new film or TV series comes out with fabulous costumes I can reproduce in time for next year? Or do I sit here and waffle over what to do until it’s too late and I have to re-wear something from a previous Gala (not the worst fate in the world, but not nearly as much fun)?

Chocolate Chip Tahini Oatmeal Cookies

I was looking at recipes the other day when I came across a recipe for tahini-oatmeal cookies– it billed itself as being vegan, gluten-free, and whole-grain, which ordinarily wouldn’t be in its favor, but it occurred to me that I probably had some leftover tahini in the fridge, so I decided to give it a shot. Sure enough, I had about an inch of tahini left in my jar– just enough to eke out the 1/3 cup necessary for the recipe– plus a few spoonfuls of almond flour leftover from my aquafaba macarons, so it was clearly fate!

Since there was no additional fat in the recipe the dough went together quickly, though it didn’t spread at all in the oven so the resulting cookies ended up a bit too doughy to qualify as “cookies” in my book. I think next time I’ll flatten them out a bit more and hope they crisp up around the edges. I do appreciate the tahini flavor, though, which (as I’ve said before) goes excellently with dark chocolate, and is helped along by a healthy dose of salt. Oddly enough, the combination of tahini and oats reminds me a bit of walnuts, which would also go excellently in these cookies if you so desired.

Continue reading