Other Pasttimes

Dear Constant Reader,

Besides making costumes, I also indulge in embroidery and other handwork. When I have time. Which, sadly, is not as often as I’d like. I have a big basket of unfinished projects, and every now and then I buckle down and complete one, as I did last night.

Ta da!
Trapunto tea cozy
A trapunto tea cozy!

A what?, you ask. Trapunto is an Italian quilting technique that involves extra stuffing in the design elements to get a dimensional effect. It’s very time consuming. This is the front, which was hand-quilted and stuffed. The back is a simpler version of this design, which was machine-quilted and has no trapunto work (it was never going to be finished if I had to do two sides by hand).

A tea cozy, for those poor unfortunate souls who have never been to a proper tea, is like a winter coat for your tea pot to keep the contents nice and warm. This is a traditional style of cozy that sits over the pot, like an over-sized hat.

cozyTo the right you can see a different style of cozy, which was knitted by my doting mother. One can pour the tea without taking the cozy off. Sometimes it’s known as a “bachelor’s cozy”, presumably because men are too busy or lazy to remove a cozy or that’s a woman’s job or some other Victorian nonsense.

One project down! Many more in progress. However, The Expo and other events loom close and I fear my embroidery time has come to an end for now.

M2

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Published in: on 4 January 2017 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Walnut Tea Cake

Dear Constant Reader,

For the last several years at The Expo I’ve been hosting a tea party on Sunday afternoon. I love it, except for the fact that the hotel has to do the catering. I decided it was time to throw a party at Stately Babydoll Manor where I could make all the goodies.


And so I did. We had:
4 kinds of tea: peach oolong, green, rooibos, and blooming
served with sugar cubes and molded flavored sugars (thanks, RuffleCon!), milk (regular or cashew), lemon.
3 sandwiches: pear-blue cheese-walnut, classic cucumber, tomato with basil
2 breads: vegan English muffins, sour cherry scones
served with sour cherry jam and butter
3 pastries: walnut tea cake, lemon cookies with fondant & piped icing, vegan chocolate mini-cupcakes with chocolate glaze

When I posted a picture of the walnut cake on Facebook, I was asked how it was, but I baked it Thursday and I didn’t taste it until Saturday. The answer, quite good. It’s a little plain, but moist, nutty, and just a little sweet. Goes very nicely with a cup of tea (and I assume coffee, but I never touch the stuff).

The recipe came from Ida Allen Bailey’s book Luscious Luncheons and Tasty Teas which was probably published sometime between 1920 and 1930. Mrs. Bailey was a prolific cookbook author and sort of the Martha Stewart of her day. The book is one of four gorgeous volumes* that were designed to hang, calendar style, on the wall. There are menus for each week of the year with a corresponding recipe or two.

Here’s the recipe for those who asked:

Nut Tea Cake
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (I toasted them)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Cream butter & sugar, work in nuts, salt, egg, add milk. Sift together flour and baking powder, beat and transfer to medium-sized oiled dripping pan (I used a 9×9 glass baking pan). Sift 1/3 cup sugar mixed with cinnamon over. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes.

M2
*Delicious Dinners, Satisfying Salads, and Dainty Desserts. I’m on a quest for the two I don’t own.

Published in: on 13 June 2016 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Expo 2016: Parties

Dear Constant Reader,

After the Main Event each year, The Expo holds a party at the hotel pool with music from The Waveriders. It’s a lot of fun, but very, very loud, between the music and the pool house acoustics. This year there was also a quieter option — the Game Room, overseen by the Game Warden, Scarlett Letter, with most of the games supplied by the invaluable Heather C.

I started out at the Pool Party, where it is traditional for the BeauTease to go-go to the surf music until late. You can’t really tell in this selfie, but I’m wearing 3 different leopard prints (scarf, bathing suit, and sarong). After a while of nibbling on cheese and watching my B.A.B.E. instructors frolic in the water, I realized I was completely exhausted. There would be no twisting the night away for me.

I dropped in on the Game Room which was indeed much quieter than the pool despite the rollicking game of Cards Against Humanity. It appeared that our copy of “Take It Off”, a vintage board game about a burlesque club (yes, really), was still in the storage room, ah well. No one seemed to miss it. I’ll write something up about it another time. It’s a hoot. But I was in bed long before either party shut down.

On Sunday afternoon I hosted a little tea party, with help from my hostesses, Corinne and Chelsea. I was so excited because the tea this year was provided by Jacqueline Hyde, which I just adore. I was delighted to addict a few more people with the pleasures of Bad Things (peach oolong) tea. And I got to wear my Stephanie Buscema mermaid dress with *two* crinolines. So fluffy! There are pictures out there somewhere…

As usual the food was terrific. The set-up, not so much. The staff brought in all the food when they were supposed to, but there was no sign of our tea equipment (hot water urns and tea pots). What we need to get started first is the tea! After they finally (with much prodding from me) brought in the hot water urns, I asked about the tea pots and was told that it wasn’t part of the order. Oh yes, it was. It’s been the same basic order for years now. Grrr.

At this point we were mere minutes from doors and there was already a line outside. I *hate* starting anything late, but how can we have a tea party without tea? Finally we got our pots and quickly got the tea started before opening the doors to the genteelly ravaging hoards. As I mentioned, the food was terrific — finger sandwiches, little muffins, and tiny cakes. I think the chef has fun with this event. It’s lovely to just relax for an hour or so before the final show and then strike.

And then it was time for the Sunday Showcases!

M2

Published in: on 8 March 2016 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Expo 2014: Tea Party

Dear Constant Reader,

One of the many things I do at The Expo is host an afternoon tea party. It’s a nice way to relax on Sunday afternoon after all the craziness of the weekend and recharge before the Sunday night shows. We have a variety of teas, finger sandwiches, scones, and little pastries. The food is provided by the hotel, of course, but we bring in the tea from generous sponsors.

Brigitte Bisoux is my co-hostess and in charge of finding said generous sponsors. This year MEM Tea Imports provided us with half a dozen different kinds of tea for the party and many little samples for the attendee goodie bags.

Our new sponsor was Runa: Clean Energy, which make a tea-like beverage from guayusa (it’s like mate). Not only did they provide us with 3 different flavors of teabags, they gave us cases & cases of their bottled beverage. The strike crew was very happy to have the boost later that night…

In fact Runa was so generous with the bottles, that we had quite a few left over. We’re selling them at B.A.B.E. and all the money will go to make next year’s tea party even better!

One of the things I wanted for this year’s party was decorations on the tables and Mimi Mischief was happy to make cute centerpieces with a Valentine’s theme.

Since both of my hostesses from last year desperately wanted to take Perle Noire’s class just before the party, I sought someone to help me set up the party. Blaze, The Red Rose of Texas, answered the call, tea apron at the ready. She was invaluable at getting the tea prepared and especially in keeping the pots refilled.

And here’s the whole staff, product placements in hand.

Just a few fashion notes: Brigitte is wearing yet another of her ridiculous hats and a vintage, reversible apron from my collection. Blaze is wearing a vintage hat, dress, and tea apron. I’m wearing a fascinator by Cristal Blu and an apron of my own creation. And no make-up — I was tired at this point and it really shows. Mimi is displaying one of her centerpieces.

M2

Published in: on 3 March 2014 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Expo: Tea Party

Dear Constant Reader,

On Sunday afternoon, after the conference is over, but before the evening’s show, I host a little tea party. This year my co-hostesses were Brigitte Bisoux and Mimi Mischief. I don’t think we took any photos which is a shame because we were freaking adorable with our full skirts and aprons. I made the aprons Brigitte & I wore out of fabric with a tiny print of wee teacups and they tied with pink satin sashes, but Mimi, a costuming student, wore one of her own creations.

The party was sponsored by Jacqueline Hyde Emporium, who provided all the tea and made it possible for us to have yummy little sandwiches, scones, and tiny cakes. Jacqueline herself had a family emergency and couldn’t attend, which made me so sad, as I’m sure people would have been snapping up tea from her right & left.

We served:

  • Royal Muse– Jasmine green tea
  • Nervous Beats — Coconut black tea (this was was incredibly popular. Not just coconut *flavored*; there were shreds of coconut in with the tea leaves.)
  • Bad Things — Peach oolong (my personal favorite)
  • Lust ‘N Love — Passion fruit and orange black tea
  • Strip Tea — Rooibos
  • It’s a nice way to relax and socialize after the intensity of the weekend and to get ready to enjoy The Newcomer’s Showcase.

    M2

    Published in: on 24 April 2013 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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    On Rabbits

    Dear Constant Reader,


    Please vote for The Boston Babydolls once a day every day! Voting closes on Friday!


    Last night I was tired and didn’t feel like cooking a feast for one. I decided to have high tea instead of supper. High tea is *not* the fancy meal with the dainty sandwiches and little cakes. That’s “afternoon tea” or (although nobody calls it so) “low tea”, because it’s taken at a low tea table. High tea is in the early evening, usually taken by those too tired and hungry to wait for the late hour of dinner. It’s high, like “It’s high time we had something to eat”. Also, because it’s eaten at a high dining table.

    High tea dishes are often hearty, but I tend to think of it as quick comfort food, often on toast.

    I made English rabbit. You’re probably familiar with Welsh rabbit. Some call it “rarebit”, but I’m in the “rabbit” camp. It’s the older term, and I’m all about the history. Besides, I think it’s charming and matches up nicely with Scotch Woodcock.*

    Welsh rabbit (or rarebit) is toast topped with cheese sauce and then broiled. Sort of like cheese fondue without the dipping part. I don’t care for it because the sauce is made with beer, which is not to my tastes.

    English rabbit is made with wine, thusly:

    Take 2 slices of bread and toast them very lightly. If they’re slightly stale, you can skip this. Put the bread on a baking tray and pour a little red wine over each slice. Just enough that it softens the bread, but not enough that it gets soggy. Dot the bread with a little butter and toast it again.

    In a saucepan, melt together some cheese, a little butter, a spoonful or two of sharp mustard, and some more wine. The proper cheese for this is a sharp cheddar, but we didn’t have much, so I used mostly mozzarella with a little cheddar for flavor. The sauce should be thick.

    Pour the sauce over the wine-toast and stick it all under the broiler until the cheese browns & bubbles. Eat with a mug of tea. And a big white cat purring by your side.**

    M2
    * Another high tea sort of dish — toast, spread with anchovy paste and topped with soft scrambled eggs. It’s something I would never eat, but I can appreciate the whimsy of the name.
    ** Optional, but optimal.

    Published in: on 12 March 2013 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Tea Time

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I’ve mentioned before my great love of tea. Let’s talk a little about that favorite topic today, particularly some on the items one needs to make tea.
    These are both tea. On the left is tea from a Lipton tea bag — I don’t drink it, I merely keep it on hand for tea-dying. It’s basically dust. On the left is some good quality loose tea. In this case, Earl Grey from MEM Teas (sponsor of my tea party last year at The Expo). Look at those lovely large leaves. That’s the one I want in my pot.

    This is a tea kettle. It’s used for boiling water. And the water should be boiling for black tea. There are different guidelines for green teas and for herbal infusions (they’re not tea, but that’s an epistle for another time). This particular kettle whistles, which is nice & cheery.

    This is a tea pot. It’s where the tea is brewed. This pot is ceramic, which I prefer over metal. I do have a silver tea service, but that may be a story for another time. Warm the pot first by swishing a little hot water around it and then pouring it out. Add your tea. Pour the boiling water on top of the tea and let steep for a few minutes (how long depends on the type of tea). Some say to use one spoonful of tea per cup and one for the pot. I find this makes a very strong brew and prefer less tea in my pot.

    This is a tea pot wearing a tea cozy to keep the contents warm. My mother knit the cozy for me. Isn’t it charming? This is called a bachelor tea cozy, because one does not have to remove the cozy to pour. Apparently Victorian bachelors were lazy. Other tea cozies look like quilted hats and cover the entire pot. There are some mighty whimsical tea cozies out there too.

    These are all ways of getting the tea in the pot, while keeping the leaves out of your teeth. From left to right:

    A tea filter or sachet. It’s like making your own teapot-sized tea bag. Scoop the loose tea into the bag and seal it shut. Easy!

    A tea spoon. Excellent for making a single cup. Fill with tea, close and stir into a cup of hot (and by hot, I mean boiling) water. There are also tea balls. Similar to the tea spoon, only it holds more tea. Use a little tea for one cup or a lot for a pot. Mine appears to be camera shy.

    A tea strainer. I love this one. Put the tea loose in the pot. Set the strainer across the mouth of a cup and pour through it. It will catch the leaves, leaving you with a clear cup with just enough tea leaves to read later. And the tea left in the pot doesn’t get bitter sitting on the leaves.

    Tea can be drunk with sugar and milk (never cream) or lemon. Never milk and lemon or you get a nasty curdled mess in your cup. Personally, I like just lemon, no sugar, which is why I prefer a lighter brew.

    I’ll be throwing a tea party again Sunday afternoon at The Expo. We’re still finalizing the details, but it looks like Jacqueline Hyde will be sponsoring the party and providing the tea!

    M2

    Published in: on 21 January 2013 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Today’s Friday Tip combines two of my favorite things — costuming and tea!

    You can use tea to dye white elastic so it is closer to your skin tone.

    Obviously you want to use black tea here. Your favorite herbal blend* is not going to have the same effect. Use a couple of cheap tea bags (the sort I’d never use to make anything I was going to drink) to brew up a strong cup and drop in your elastic. Make sure to stir the elastic around so it dyes evenly. Keep an eye on the color of the elastic as it’s soaking and remember that when wet it’s about 2 shades darker than when it dries.

    * not actually a tea, but that’s a message for another time.

    Published in: on 29 June 2012 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Scones

    Dear Constant Reader,

    You probably know by now that I’m terribly fond of tea, especially afternoon tea (That’s the one with the dainty sandwiches and tiny cakes. It’s not the same as high tea.). One of my favorite things, besides cucumber sandwiches and petits fours, is scones. My inspiration in all things culinary, the late Marian Walke, made fantastic scones and and I learned a few tips from her; however, this isn’t her recipe. For that you should get her cookbook War Fare. This is the batch I whipped up this morning.

    Currant Scones (makes about a dozen)

    2 cups flour
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
    3/4 cup currants
    3/4 cup milk

    Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a baking sheet (or grease a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet for easier clean up).

    Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

    Cut in the butter until the mixture is sort of crumbly.

    Add currants.

    Add enough milk to make a soft dough. If it gets too wet, add a little more flour. Don’t beat too vigorously. The ingredients should be just combined.

    Now you have a couple of options:
    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead just once or twice and pat into a disk about 3/4 inch thick.
    Cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter (or the rim of a glass).

    Or divide the dough in two, pat into disks as above, and cut each one into 6 wedges.

    My preferred method is to drop heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheet. It’s faster and requires less clean up.

    Bush the scones with milk or a beaten egg yolk thinned with a little water.

    Bake for 20-30 minutes until tops and bottoms are lightly browned. Serve warm, or at room temperature, with butter, jam, and/or clotted cream. They’re pretty good plain too.

    Notes:
    Marian recommended using half all purpose flour and half cake flour.

    You can add an egg for additional richness, but you’ll probably need to reduce the milk.

    I usually use almond milk, since we don’t tend to have cow’s milk. It makes no difference in the taste.

    After brushing the tops with liquid, you can sprinkle them with sanding sugar.

    You can prepare the dough in advance, before adding the milk, though everything in a ziptop bag and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for even longer. Bring the contents up to room temperature before proceeding.

    The next Boston Babydolls show is called A (Re)Movable Feast. Expect to see more cooking posts from me in the coming months.

    Published in: on 27 May 2012 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Expo: Parties

    Dear Constant Reader,

    The past weekend was The Great Burlesque Exposition of 2012. It’s awfully hard to come back to reality after such an amazing weekend, so I’m going to try to prolong the delight by telling you all about it in little bites.

    Todays bite is about parties! Every day of the Expo there’s a special event (besides the shows, classes, and exhibit hall). It’s hard being a glamour girl all day and night — we need a chance to unwind!

    Friday night is Naked Girls Reading where we get Naked Girls from all different chapters — this year we represented Boston, New York, and Toronto. You can read all about it at the NGR Boston blog.

    Saturday night there was a pool party with fabulous surf music from The Waveriders. Everyone was dancing or swimming or dancing while swimming (hi Babydolls!). We loved the surf version of “Bad Romance”!

    Sunday afternoon I hosted a tea party and got to wear my Easter bonnet and frilly apron. Big, big thank you to MEM Teas for providing the delightful Golden Green, Blue Flower Earl Grey, and Decorated Rooibos teas! (it’s really hard for me not to type “tease”)

    More about the Expo to come!

    Published in: on 10 April 2012 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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