I’ve been spinning

I’ve gotten pretty hooked on distaff spinning. Here’s my latest batch after plying, still on the niddy-noddy:

I keep meaning to do a longer write up on spinning but never getting around to it. The short version is, spinning with a distaff is FUN! Plus, super historical.

You can find some good distaff tutorials on YouTube, which I highly suggest if you want to try it out. I also learned a ton from this excellent blog post.

It’s also given me an excuse to buy new craft supplies! Yay! ūüėā


Spice Mixes for an Auction, and an Announcement

When the Queen calls, you answer.

Her Majesty Sha’ya of An Tir laid a challenge on our Kingdom, and in particular upon the Laurels: produce a work to be auctioned off to benefit RAINN during the Knights Auction (all donations are sponsored by a Knight) at 12th Night.

I was moved — this is an incredible organization whose mission I believe in. I wanted to produce something worthy of auction. I found a sponsor, Sir Philip de Mantel, and proposed to put together a set of spice mixes for period cooking.

And I did make a set of spice mixes, a rather nice set if I do say so myself:




Most of these (4/6) were made using actual period recipes. The remaining two (powder douce and powder fort) are more “generic” spice blends that I have my own versions of. You can see I found cute bottles and a cute basket and even made little labels for them.

Here are the sources for each one, and their ingredients:

  • Powder Fort: Black pepper, cubeb, cassia cinnamon, mace, clove
  • Powder Douce: Sugar, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Duke‚Äôs Powder (Menagier, 14th c. French): Sugar, ginger, grains of paradise, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, galangal
  • Clar√©e Spices (Two Anglo-Norman Culinary… 13th/14th c English): Spikenard, cinnamon, ginger, mace, clove, nutmeg, fennel, anise, caraway, cardamom
  • Fine Spices 1 (Libro di Cucina, 14th/15th c. Italian): Black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, ginger, clove, saffron
  • Fine Spices 2 (Livre Fort, 16th c. French): Ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, nutmeg, clove, grains of paradise, galangal

Fun, right?

But here’s the thing: I didn’t feel like it was enough. I got it into my head that spices are okay, but you need recipes to know how to use them.

So, long story short, I kind of wrote a cookbook.

No, really:


That’s a screenshot of the cover. I wrote a cookbook, and I got a copy of it printed, and I put it and the spices together as one lot for the auction. The winning bidder currently owns the only copy of this cookbook in existence.

For now.

Yeah, soooo… I’ve given myself a year. I’m going to edit what I have and add more recipes to it if I can (my goal is 1 new tested recipe every 1-2 weeks), then I plan to release it for sale. I’m not planning a big run, and I’m planning to self-publish for a few reasons (although, um, if you work for a publishing house and want to talk me out of that and offer me $$$$ to change my mind and publish through you, let’s talk!)

To get you excited, here is the table of contents so far:

  • Preface¬†¬†¬† 4
  • Brief Notes on Some Ingredients¬†¬†¬† 5
    • On Salt¬†¬†¬† 5
    • On Spices¬†¬†¬† 5
    • On Verjus¬†¬†¬† 5
    • On Vinegar¬†¬†¬† 5
    • On Saba¬†¬†¬† 5
    • On Almond Milk¬†¬†¬† 6
    • On Rose Water¬†¬†¬† 6
  • Spice Mixes for All Manner of Dishes¬†¬†¬† 7
    • Powder Fort¬†¬†¬† 7
    • Powder Douce¬†¬†¬† 7
    • Clar√©e Spices¬†¬†¬† 8
    • Fine Spices 1¬†¬†¬† 8
    • Fine Spices 2¬†¬†¬† 8
  • Beverages¬†¬†¬† 9
    • Quick Mead¬†¬†¬† 9
    • Hippocras / Ypocras / Clar√©e / Piment (Spiced Wine)¬†¬†¬† 9
    • Oxymel / Posca (Vinegar/Honey Drink)¬†¬†¬† 10
    • Clar√©e D‚Äôeau / Clarea de Agua (Water with Honey and Spices)¬†¬†¬† 10
    • Rose Drink Concentrate¬†¬†¬† 10
  • Finger Foods, Nibbles, and Snacks¬†¬†¬† 11
    • Pescods (Peas in the pod)¬†¬†¬† 11
    • To Churn Your Own Butter¬†¬†¬† 11
    • Whole Pickled Onions¬†¬†¬† 11
    • Pickled Onion Rings¬†¬†¬† 12
    • Pickled Champignons (Mushrooms)¬†¬†¬† 12
    • Fried Livers with Saba¬†¬†¬† 13
    • Hais (Date and Nut Balls)¬†¬†¬† 13
  • Meats, Fishes, and Their Sauces¬†¬†¬† 14
    • Sour Grape Juice with Fried Summer Fish¬†¬†¬† 14
    • To Dresse a Crabbe (Crab with Butter and Verjus)¬†¬†¬† 14
    • Peiouns Ystewed (Stewed Pigeons)¬†¬†¬† 14
    • Grilled Quail with Lemon Sauce¬†¬†¬† 15
    • Good and Perfect Hens with Sumac¬†¬†¬† 16
    • Roasted Chicken with Orange Sauce¬†¬†¬† 16
    • Limonia (Chicken in Lemon Sauce)¬†¬†¬† 16
    • To Make Stekys of Venson or Bef (Steaks of Venison or Beef)¬†¬†¬† 17
    • Alows de Boef (Herbed Rolled Beef)¬†¬†¬† 17
    • Fresh Lamb Sausage with Cilantro Sauce¬†¬†¬† 18
    • Pork Loin with Peach Sauce¬†¬†¬† 19
    • Cormarye (Spiced Pork Loin)¬†¬†¬† 19
    • Salt Pork¬†¬†¬† 20
    • Mustard Sauce¬†¬†¬† 20
  • Egg and Pasta Dishes¬†¬†¬† 21
    • Erbolat (Medieval English Frittata)¬†¬†¬† 21
    • Sphoungata (Byzantine Omelettes)¬†¬†¬† 21
    • Cress√©e of Noodles (Heraldic Chequy Noodles)¬†¬†¬† 22
    • Cheese Gnocchi¬†¬†¬† 22
    • Makerouns (Baked Noodles with Cheese)¬†¬†¬† 23
  • Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes¬†¬†¬† 24
    • A Dish of Leeks¬†¬†¬† 24
    • Onion salad¬†¬†¬† 24
    • Asparagus¬†¬†¬† 24
    • Parsnips in Pottage¬†¬†¬† 25
    • Basic Green Salad¬†¬†¬† 25
    • Sprouts of Life¬†¬†¬† 25
    • Carrot Puree¬†¬†¬† 26
    • Chyches (Seasoned Chickpeas)¬†¬†¬† 26
    • Green Chickpeas¬†¬†¬† 26
    • Fresh Fava Beans¬†¬†¬† 27
    • A Dish of Rice¬†¬†¬† 27
    • Almond Porridge¬†¬†¬† 28
    • Oatcakes¬†¬†¬† 28
  • Pies of All Sorts¬†¬†¬† 29
    • Basic Self-Supporting Hot Water Pastry¬†¬†¬† 29
    • To Raise Coffins¬†¬†¬† 29
    • Coffins Another Way¬†¬†¬† 30
    • To Build a Large Coffin¬†¬†¬† 30
    • General Baking Instructions for Coffins¬†¬†¬† 31
    • Richer Hot Water Pastry for Molded Pies¬†¬†¬† 31
    • Paest Royall¬†¬†¬† 32
    • Short Paste for Tarts¬†¬†¬† 32
    • A Formula for Meat Pies¬†¬†¬† 33
    • Crustardes of Flessh (Birds in a Pie)¬†¬†¬† 33
    • Cheshire Pork Pie¬†¬†¬† 34
    • Simple Pork Pies¬†¬†¬† 35
    • Une Tourte (Greens Tart)¬†¬†¬† 35
    • Leche Frys of Fische Daye (Cheese Tart)¬†¬†¬† 36
    • Tarte of Apples¬†¬†¬† 37
    • To Bake Pippins (Elizabethan Apple Pie)¬†¬†¬† 37
    • Daryols (Mini Cream Custard Tarts)¬†¬†¬† 38
    • A Formula for Fruit Tarts¬†¬†¬† 38
  • Sweets and Desserts¬†¬†¬† 39
    • Dulcia Domestica (Candied Stuffed Dates)¬†¬†¬† 39
    • Payn Ragoun (Pine Nut Candy)¬†¬†¬† 39
    • Marzipan¬†¬†¬† 39
    • Nucato (Honey-Nut Candy)¬†¬†¬† 40
    • Suckets 1 (Candied Citron Peel)¬†¬†¬† 40
    • Suckets 2 (Candied Orange Peels)¬†¬†¬† 41
    • Pears in Confit (Poached Pears)¬†¬†¬† 41
    • Quince Paste¬†¬†¬† 42
    • Sweet Dessert Yogurt¬†¬†¬† 42
    • Gingerbrede¬†¬†¬† 43
    • Stamped Shortbread Cookies¬†¬†¬† 43
    • A Jellied Ypocras, or, Elizabethan Jelly Shots¬†¬†¬† 43
  • Assorted Useful Non-Edible Things to Make¬†¬†¬† 45
    • Herb Water¬†¬†¬† 45
    • Basic Lard Soap¬†¬†¬† 45
    • Tooth Powder¬†¬†¬† 46

Next addition will be a chapter on recreating medieval bread in a home kitchen (with a normal oven).

I look forward to posting updates as this project develops ūüôā

My Life Philosophy

Last year at Twelfth Night, I had just declared that I’d be entering KASC and was thinking about how I had to learn to be more serious. Then I spent the weekend charging around the hotel hanging toast in people’s showers and pouring cider through a glass funnel into the mouths of excited bystanders.¬†

And I figured myself out: I am a golden retriever, all full of love and enthusiasm and maybe a little slobber. I can’t help but be excited and bouncy. I love to meet people and learn about them and introduce them to other people and help them when I can. I am goofy, and I like warm hugs.

And these things are okay. In fact, they are better than okay, they’re great! Instead of trying to repress this aspect of my personality and make myself more serious, I began then to accept and¬†embrace it. As I see again and again, I’ve had so many incredible experiences as a result of being this open and enthusiastic.

I actually think my life might have changed with that understanding. Since then I’ve felt so much more loving and kind¬†toward myself; I think I finally crossed the threshold of radical self-acceptance. In the past year, I have come to finally see that while I am allowed to improve and change, I am also allowed to be enough exactly as I am in this moment. That’s a really nice feeling.

The¬†lesson in the heart of this that I hope I can hold on to always is that love makes us glow. When you’re passionate about something, you light up a room (yes YOU!) and are unstoppable (yes YOU!) Honestly, this is why I love the SCA: I get to see people doing things they love, and I get to do things I love, and there’s just so much squee-ing.

I charge everyone to¬†make more of those moments. Let’s let our lights shine when we talk about our research and projects. If you are working on a thing, come sit next to me and talk to me about it.

Also, let’s hug. Like, all the time. (Or as much as you can stand.)

More glass painting, and a new Pinterest board

I’ve continued my glass painting experiments:


I have to say, I’m quite pleased with this. The glass itself came from Crate & Barrel, who have a pretty good selection of glassware that looks passably historical:

Since the last time I posted about glass painting, I’ve switched paint brands. I got a set of Martha Stewart multi-surface craft paints. They are much cheaper than Pebeo and I personally like the colors better (especially this gold!). I am sure they are not as high quality as Pebeo paints, and time will tell how well they hold up. But they work very similarly in that you paint them on the glass, let them dry fully, and cure them in the oven.

I used a stencil for the quatrefoils, and I think I’m getting better with my stencil technique too:


Notice¬†that my paint is bubbly. I don’t know if that’s the paint or user error.

Otherwise, the big breakthrough since the last time I posted about glass painting is switching to using more dots than lines. With my skill level and the gloppy consistency of the paint, this has been a much better way to yield something that looks decent.


This particular design is inspired by some of the patterns on this Italian hanging lamp.

I have started a board on Pinterest for examples of period painted glass — check it out.¬†Unfortunately, most of the really beautiful figural paintings are utterly beyond me (at least for now!), but there are a few examples on there with simpler geometric designs that I’m inspired to try out.

This glass is going to be a volunteer thank you at An Tir’s Twelfth Night. Volunteer and you could¬†be the one to take it home ūüôā

Making Your Own Paints: A Beginner’s Guide

The paints I made (plus some modern gold paint for comparison)
Paints I’ve made¬†(plus some modern gold paint for comparison)

Pigments available to the medieval/renaissance illuminator included mineral and organic ones. The typical palette consisted of:

  • Black: from lamp soot, charred bone, other carbon sources (e.g. vine black, made from charred grape vines)
  • White: lead white; Cennini specifically mentions that other sources of white, such as chalk, have limited value to the artist
  • Browns: typically from various earth sources such as umber
  • Yellows: orpiment (arsenic sulphide), various ochres/earths, tin, saffron
  • Greens: verdigris (copper acetate produced via various chemical reactions), some earths, malachite (a mineral that also derives its color from copper)
  • Blues: lazurite (lapis lazuli, which yielded the expensive and desirable ultramarine blue), azurite, some copper compounds (including some forms of verdigris), indigo
  • Purple: turnsole
  • Reds: madder, minium (lead oxide), vermilion (cinnabar / mercuric sulphide), possibly kermes and cochineal

Continue reading “Making Your Own Paints: A Beginner’s Guide”

Recommended Reading: A Selected Scribal Bibliography

These are some of the books and other sources that I consulted for my scribal project for Kingdom Arts and Sciences, and that I recommended as part of the classes I taught recently. Take a look, hopefully you’ll find something helpful. I have put my¬†top picks in bold:

A page from a French book of hours from around 1400.
A French book of hours from around 1400. Pop quiz if you read the last post: what style is this?

Continue reading “Recommended Reading: A Selected Scribal Bibliography”

Major Styles of Manuscript Illumination: An Art Historical Survey

This is adapted from a handout from a class I taught at a Dragon‚Äôs Mist Arts and Sciences day in late April. The full handout is available in the Files section of this blog.

This is a broad overview of major styles in manuscript production in Western Europe. It is NOT a comprehensive list of every type of book art practiced in our time period, although I would love to put that together someday ūüôā This is intended as a guide for scribes, especially charter painters, to begin to recognize distinct styles and make their artwork fit more closely within a target style.

Continue reading “Major Styles of Manuscript Illumination: An Art Historical Survey”