October 30, 2007

How we slept out in the cold....

Sunday afternoon we left for our first ever camping trip together. A string of events had pushed our departure back to Sunday mid-afternoon, so we were eager to get to our campsite and set up our tent. Then one of our front tires shredded about an hour out of town. After a little finagling Allen got the baby (emergency) spare on, and we limped on towards Walmart to find a new tire. Sunday afternoon where else you going to go? We arrived at Walmart around 6:00. They finally find us a tire that fits. Then they finally decide to actually put it on the car. Something over an hour later we pull out of a (now mostly dark) parking lot and turn left just hoping we can figure out how to get to the park from there. Maps don't work. A sign pointing left with the words "to Mt Cheaha St Park" does. We bump along through rural Alabama for awhile before we come to the park. A little more bumping and we come to a campground with a gate and a one lane road leading out of it. We decide to head onward. We finally arrive at a sign with the blessed words "camper registration" emblazoned on it only to find no one there and no night drop. Instead a sign instructs us to wait for the ranger on security patrol. Fortunately that's not a very long wait. We toddle along according to his instructions only to find that the ridge top he recommended for tent campers is very dark.Very. And this is our first time. We keep going until we find a lit area in what turned out to be the trailer area of the campground. At the time we didn't care. There was a bathhouse across the street and a light on a pole a few yards away. Since it was by now completely dark we settled for visibility and began to lay out our tent. I will say that except for the fact that tent pegs that bend and get caught on a hundred small rocks so that you can't bang them in the ground are a temptation to profanity that no good Christian girl (or guy) should have to face in the dark at 40-50 odd degrees, the tent went up very smoothly.

Allen set up the guylines and hacked at a few (fallen) branches for a fire later, and I mixed up some breakfast hash (since by that point we weren't waiting a couple hours for a proper supper to cook) to scramble up in my dutch oven. Lesson one about dutch ovens. Let them warm up a mite before putting food in them. Everything stuck that night I didn't. Nothing stuck the next morning when I did. It was good though all the same. Not but that we probably would have eaten it if it wasn't very good. We were pretty hungry by then. We couldn't figure out the camp stove that night, so tea had to wait for the morning. We did, however, get a decent fire going. Thank you Dad for all the times you showed us how to build campfires!

Then we turned our faces towards the drafty nylon cave that was to be our night's shelter. Did I mention it was cold? The low that night was in the upper 40's. Also it was very, very windy. We had the side of our tent momentarily reaching out to embrace us more than once that night. Praise God though that everything held. Also praise God that one of us thought to bring our little space heater with us. I know; I know. That's cheating. You have to remember that for the past maybe 14 yrs I hadn't been out in anything other than an RV, and before that it was a pop-up. Drafty tents in late October just weren't part of my upbringing. Or Allen's. So we turned the space heater on our heads and covered up with several blankets and managed to pass a tolerably comfortable night. It was still chilly and the wind was louder than an RV generator, but we did fine. Next time though I hope we remember to bring our pillows :D

The next day was absolutely gorgeous. While I started some hash Allen heated up some water for tea on the camp stove. There's something very soul satisfying about walking down a camp road through the woods with a mug of hot tea in hand and an oven on the coals back at the campground. The leaves had just started to come out in brilliance. All around you could see green woods punctuated by scarlet leaves or dappled with yellow ones. If the weather is nice we just might give this a go again in the next week or two and try camping on the ridge top. There's one site in particular with the most magnificent view imaginable in a camp site. However, it's pretty wide open, so I don't think I'd hazard it unless the wind is rather calmer than it was Sunday night.

Anyway, that is the story of how we slept out in the cold and had a really good time.

October 27, 2007


One birthday to celebrate (cake and lunch courtesy of yours truly) + getting ready for out first tent camping trip + cleaning up the apartment = very tired

Add in staying up later and getting up earlier than usual and you get one very tired girl...and guy. Allen is helping me with dishes and laundry.

October 24, 2007

A soft Autumn day

A cool, wet spell has brought some soft Autumn days upon us. I wish I had large windows overlooking damp trees that I could fling open to the tangy fall air and a wood stove so that I could feel the crisp air mix and melt into crackling wood warmth. I would mix up a big pot of cider and make donuts and sit in front of the fire and read with the sweet, cool breath of Autumn on my face and a glowing fire at my toes. Unfortunately I don't have either a wide breadth of windows or a wood stove. I do, however, have all the makings for a beautiful cider and a kitchen full of potential. Ever since the weather turned cool I've been wanted to do a proper breakfast with eggs and sausage and all the trimmings, so that is what tonight's supper shall be. I'm planning to fix eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, homemade hash browns, hot spiced cider with rum, and perhaps even some donuts. Healthy person that I try to be I'm going to cut up some apples and cantaloupe to round out our meal. How's that for a little fall inspiration?

And thusly the feast concludes! Huzzah!

Every year they conclude the feast with a lottery of sorts to determine next year's monarch by seeing who finds the coin in the cookie. Only this year no one found it, and they had to put a marked coin in a bowl with the exact number of coins as participants in it.


...and here I be with the good Captain Gregory -thrice gracious monarch of next year's feast. Huzzah for the king! Huzzah!

(I can't wait to go back next year. I'm going to try and get Allen and his brothers to come with us too.)

Huzzah! The pictures continue! Huzzah!

And verily we were entertained with Dance,Song,Swordplay,Juggling,and Storytelling. (Alas that I haven't good pictures of it all!)

-an SCA singer

-verily he was a man of strength!

-and agility!

-a storyteller

October 23, 2007

One more thing...

You can't see it in any of the pictures, but my hair is actually all the way down to the waist of my dress. Pretty neat I thought.

Let the pictures commence! Huzzah!

Herein shalt be discovered that which hath so long occupied the maid Natalie. And verily thee may discover for thyself what merit her work doth mayhap contain.


The feasting hall

Here's a not so awesome picture taken at the feast.


Back home -at 2:00am after a very long car ride.

I almost forgot to mention that at the beginning of the feast some people went around recruiting for a "surprise" fashion show (no one who wasn't in it was supposed to know), and yours truly was one of the participants!

A few notes on my ensemble

The guards on the sleeves and skirt hem were typical of Florentine dress in the 1500's and (in my case) handily covered some machine stitched hems. I'm not sure if the placement of the guards on the upper portion of my sleeve would be correct or not, but when I found out that I'd cut the sleeves too short I figured I had to have something to cover up the new seam. The sleeves tie onto the dress at the top shoulder with the ribbons. They simply pass through small loops made with lacing cord that I tacked onto the inside of the sleeves and shoulders.

The skirt is simply gathered with the back of the skirt being slightly fuller than the front. The skirt itself is simply a rectangular piece of linen 120" long, cut along the selvage, gathered, and sewn up the front. The bodice is interlined with a hemp corded lining. You can see what that looks like below.


The bodice is spiral laced, and for the rings I just used the loop part from a package of ring and bar type fasteners that I got at Michael's. I still feel like I need to resew the front part since the sides don't remain parallel when laced tightly enough for support. The bodice pattern itself is a modification of a commercial pattern (McCall's I think). I took out all the extra shaping seams (over the bust and in the back) and just used the center back, side, and front to provide the shaping. I also readjusted the shoulder's outwards slightly and fiddled with the neckline front and back.

The chemise is made according to Jennifer Thompson's pattern, and would be very nice actually if I hadn't inadvertently cut the back piece too short thereby messing up the neckline. As is, it's actually rather small, and I'll likely make a new one at some point if I'm going to be wearing it very much.

I'm wearing a snood I found a while back at a vintage clothing store. I actually came up with a good way to keep it on my head. First I put on a skinny elastic heandband. Then I clipped some barrettes over the hair band on either side of the center of my head ie ( -b--|--b-). On top of all that I slipped a modern,invisible hair net -making sure that I looped the front over the edges of the clips. Then I just put my snood on over that, again catching the front edge under the barrettes. It stayed put very well. Apparently the Florentine women wore a band around the forehead to keep their's in place, but I didn't have time to contrive one before we went. This worked very well though.

Other than that I'm wearing a necklace I got from my grandmother and some black chinese mary janes with grey knee socks.

October 21, 2007

Huzzah! Huzzah!

Well despite having to rip out all my lacing rings so I could take about 1/2 inch of either side of my bodice and having to figure out a way to piece out my sleeves to make them longer and staying up till four o'clock Saturday morning only to get up six hours later to finish my dress just in time to iron it, get dressed (mostly), and dash out the door I did in fact finish my dress! Ok, so there's probably tweaking to come. It's wearable. Next week I'm devoting to posting all those picture that I keep promising to post and never do. So look forward to more pictures and less verbiage in the immediate future.

Here's a short list to pique your curiosity:

Captain Gregory
The ladder that would not fall
A Pawn King's Castle
Pirates in the Sky
.....there will also be clouds.

October 19, 2007

getting close....

I nearly done. All I have to do is hem the skirt and sleeves, add the lacing rings, thread my lacing cord/ribbon for the bodice and sleeves, and tack down the bodice lining. I think that's all. I also want to try and make a small little pouch purse to carry things in when I go to the feast, but that's optional at this point. I'm going to try a little trick to avoid having to hem the whole thing by hand and attach some guards to the skirt and sleeves edges. They'll add a very correct decorative element and hopefully hide my machine stitches. Otherwise everything that would show has been hand stitched. I did get a little unperiod yesterday and use some double sided fusible tape to finish the front seam edges. It wouldn't been necessary if I'd sewn it up the right way first, but I'm new to french seams and front laced bodices, so we'll call it good. You'd also laugh if you saw the hem to my camicia, but since no one can see it I'm not worried. I'll put a decent hem in it later if it really bothers me. For now I'm off to my lacing rings.

October 16, 2007

stitching away...

Well, I've got everything cut out except the sleeves which I'll wait to do until last so I can accurately fit them to the bodice. The skirt is sewn up except for hemming it and attaching it to the bodice. I'm a little disappointed with the skirt because despite making it a full 120" wide it really doesn't look as full as I expected. Hopefully it will look better with the chemise underneath it. Right now though I'm working on making the corded interlining. It will add a lot of time to the project (when I don't have a whole lot of time anyway), but I'd rather take more time to do something that will look nice than wish I'd done it when it's too late. According to Jennifer Thompson's website (which has been an absolute Godsend to me)there's no documented proof that this is a period technique, but it does give the correct silhouette. Since I'm not sure about my abilities to make simple linen lay the way the portraits show, I'm going with the cording. Just pray that the bodice actually lines up right when it comes time to lace it all up.

October 15, 2007

mixed emotions

I have a few friends at church who recently had their first babies. One family had a little girl and another a little boy. I found out that one of the women is planning on going back to work full time in a few months. I really hope I'm not looking down my nose at her, but I admit that I have a hard time hearing that. Somewhere between political theory and Romantic literature I decided that more than college or a career I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Then I thought that time had arrived, but it hadn't. Sometimes I wasn't sure if I was up for the task, but it's the direction I wanted to go. Now seeing other people seemingly ready to pass up the very experience that I desire...it's kind of tough. However, the woman who recently had the little girl told me that she was going to be working between 1-2 days a week (along with another woman who recently had a baby), and they were looking for someone to keep their babies. Given that I don't have a lot of recent experience with babies, I think it'd be wonderful if I could keep one or both babies at least sometimes. I really do have the time on my hands, and I would love to help. Even though it might hurt a bit I can't help thinking it would do me good to spend some time in this way. We'll see what the Lord has in store though.

dress update

Well, I've gotten my chemise cut out an mostly sewn up. Somehow I didn't cut it out quite right (a fact I didn't realize until I'd sewn it all together with french seams), but it only really affected the back neckline. It should be fine. I still have to finish the neck line and hem it, but I intend to leave that until I get my bodice made just to make sure everything lines up. Speaking of which I made two mock-ups of my bodice today, and I think I've just about got it right. I started with a side lacing costume pattern which I ended up switching to a front lacing pattern simply because it's hard enough to fit a self supporting bodice on yourself anyway without trying to fit the sides while you're still in the bodice. It took a lot of finangling and a lot of "Here, Allen can you pin this here. No, here. Ok, now can you repin it this way." before I got something approaching satisfactory. Even though I had to do a fair bit of retracing I'm glad I went ahead and bought a cheap pattern to work from since it gave me the shape for the back and gave me my basic forms to work with. Eventually maybe I'll be able to draft my own patterns but for now I'll stick to modifying what I have. Tomorrow I'll make one last mock-up to check my latest adjustments and start cutting the dress out of my linen.

October 13, 2007

How do you decorate?

I've been thinking about the things I've compiled in the last year of marriage and the different categories they fall into.

Here are some of the things I've collected and enjoy:

Metal and metal work objects like my sconces and brass candlesticks

Earthenware dishes

cheap glass tea candle votives

What do you have in your house?

More scraps of decorating.....

My darling husband just put up a few of my more recent acquisitions. I now how two small star shaped wrought iron candle sconces flanking the mirror above the mantel and another metal piece in the shape of a coat rack hanging up beside the bookcase in the entry way. The sconces I found at Linen's and Things for $10. I've been on the lookout for something like that, and at $10 for the pair I think I found a deal.

One day I promise to post some pictures. Now though I need to get started on some soup. Allen's younger brother is coming over for supper, and we're having Pasta Soup and cornbread with cheese and crackers for nibbles. For dessert I'm planning on having lemon curd with whipped cream (maybe some chocolate too -we'll see). There's also cider if they want some. Since I'm feeling rather festive I might just make this into a feast of no occasion with candles and such. I love being able to have Allen's family over.

October 12, 2007

So much more to this than I thought....

So I start my humble little blog because I get a kick out of having a place to just record some of the things I'm thinking or doing or seeing. Then people started reading my blog, and I started reading some of their blogs. Now I discover there's this whole world of blog rings, carnivals, contests, and awards that I never knew existed! I'm beginning to see that serious blogging requires some serious work. I sense a new world ahead just waiting to be explored. After my dress is done though. Absolutely not getting into any of that now. Seriously. I mean it too.

October 11, 2007

Not quite Jim'n Nick's: BBQ Chicken with onions

My husband and I really enjoy bbq, and for my birthday he ordered me several bottles of sauce from a chain in Tennessee that made some of the best bbq sauces I've ever had. So I decided to see what I could do with a little chicken and my crockpot. The result is something delightfully reminiscent of a pulled chicken bbq sandwich with a side of onion rings. I did say reminiscent. If you want to taste the real deal you'll just have to hightail it to Alabama and get yourself some Jim'n Nick's. If you can't though this chicken should answer a few of your cravings. Also, it's just plain good.


1 1/2lb Chicken thighs
2med Onions sliced and separated into rings
4-5 slices bacon chopped into 1-2in pieces
BBQ sauce
olive oil
braggs amino acids


I boiled my chicken pieces briefly in water seasoned with braggs, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and a few herbs. I honestly don't know if the seasonings made that much difference. I mainly wanted to get the excess fat off them so it wouldn't all end up in my crockpot. I really think it's your choice. While the chicken was boiling I sliced my onion rings and tossed them in the bottom of the crockpot with a little olive oil, salt, and braggs. Mix about half the bacon with your onion slices. Remove chicken from water (if boiling) and coat liberally with bbq sauce, mixing in the rest of the bacon as you do. Arrange the chicken pieces on top of the onion rings, and set your crockpot to cook on low for at least 6hrs. Since there was so much liquid I used a couple of slotted spoons to remove my chicken and onions to a bowl before serving.

I served this dish with baked sweet potatoes and our typical steamed broccoli and carrots. Since I was feeling a little more creative I went ahead and whipped up a special topping for our potatoes. To do this I melted 1 stick of butter together with a little sucanat (dehydrated cane juice), 1/8tsp Vanilla extract, and a handful of finely chopped pecans. Yummy.

Praise for Pandora

Even though I'm a tad miffed that you can't search by subject or genre Pandora is pretty sweet. For those of you who don't know what it is, Pandora is an on-line music site where you can make your own personal radio station by "seeding" songs and artists. Pandora then plays songs that have the qualities exemplified by those songs/artists. You can refine your station by giving various songs either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. So far I'm really enjoying it. You can make several stations, but my favorite one by far I seeded with Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Il Divo, Adrea Boccelli, and several others. I get the most wonderful mix of broadway, opera/classical, pop. They've even managed to dig up a couple of songs I really enjoyed but hadn't heard in months or years. If you care to sample my taste in music you're welcome to visit my stations. I'd love to hear about what kind of music you like. I'm always on the lookout for more good artists.

October 10, 2007

A plague upon my whims!

I've been up to my ears in a writing contest for an on-line game I play periodically. I've never really been the contest sort, but I've spent the better part of last night and this morning hammering out an entry THAT ISN'T DUE UNTIL THE END OF THE MONTH! It's great fun, but I really need to be having fun on some of my other projects -like that Ren dress I need to make that has to be made in ten days. Why can't I be excited about things in the order I should be excited about them? Speaking of which I need to get excited about some chicken or heaven only knows what we'll be having for dinner tonight.

October 8, 2007

my culinary sidekick

I'm so glad that Debbie and Grandmom introduced me to really good steamed vegetables. Otherwise I'd be languishing in salad land or really badly prepared broccoli land. Nothing wrong with a good salad except the fact that I'm not the kind of person who enjoys eating salad two meals a day seven days a week. Three or four times a week is fine by me. Steamed broccoli though is wonderful. I'm not talking about limp, anemic broccoli that's had it's very soul steamed out it. That stuff is about as tasty as wet buttered cardboard. I'm talking about broccoli steamed lightly, served bright green and still a trifle firm to the fork, and made better still by an accompaniment of herbed butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. This is broccoli dressed up and asking for a date, and it's a great counterbalance to a meat and potato hash like the one below. For variation I've also steamed it up with some carrots and/or squash for even more color loaded nutrient impact. I try to cook up enough so that Allen and I can fill half our plates with steamed veggies. If it wasn't for this I don't think Allen and I would eat as healthily as we do now. So if anyone out there thinks that putting veggies with a meal is too much work, try steamed up a little broccoli. I didn't even really like broccoli once upon a time, and now I eat it quite frequently.

Corned Beef Hash

This is an old favorite of mine that I remember Mom and Grandma making for lunch sometimes. There were plenty of times when a plateful of hash seemed like culinary heaven to me. It's great for times when you want an easy meat and potatoes meal, but since I'm really trying to hit the veggies more I steamed up a quick side of broccoli to go with it. My mom made it with canned corn beef. However, since Allen doesn't care for canned meat I made this hash up with a pound of corned beef from the deli counter.

Ingredients: (measurements approximate)

1lb Corned Beef well chopped/shredded
4 lg potatoes diced
2 med onions diced
2c beef broth
2tb butter


Place meat, onions, and potatoes in a large pan with the broth. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and add in about a tablespoon of minced garlic. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 30min or until the veggies are done and the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in butter. Adjust seasonings to taste if necessary, and serve with green veggies.

We're Home!

Over the next few days I'll be uploading some pictures of our trip. We really had a lovely time, but it's very good to be home and just be the two of us again after spending most of the week with family. We're still figuring out how to fit all the different relationships together -wife, husband, son, daughter(-in-law), brother, sister(-in-law). One of Allen's brothers mentioned to me, "Instead of being one of seven, you're now half of one." It's a very simple statement, but it captures something that I needed to hear. When I'm in a busy family situation like that it's all too easy for me to feel like just another voice in the crowd and not like half of a separate but related team.

Anyway, pictures to come. First I need to unpack (and find the camera cord) and get ready for church group tonight.

October 1, 2007

This sounds like fun....

Trina and her wonderful team of bloggers over at All that is Good have decided to do a book month for October. I really can't wait to see what books they come up with. In honor of their month I'm planning on taking some time myself to comment on a few books that I really enjoy. I'll probably start with the list I gave them and throw in a few other random comments as I go. This will all have to wait until next week though because tomorrow we are off to the BEACH!