Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Victorian Era

If some of you are new here and don't know the period of the Victorian Era I decided to post some information for you.

Queen Victoria
The Victorian period formally begins in 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) and ends in 1901 (the year of her death).  As a matter of expediency, these dates are sometimes modified slightly.  1830 is usually considered the end of the Romantic period in Britain, and thus makes a convenient starting date for Victorianism.  Similarly, since Queen Victoria’s death occurred so soon in the beginning of a new century, the end of the previous century provides a useful closing date for the period.
The common perception of the period is the Victorians are “prudish, hypocritical, stuffy, [and] narrow-minded”.  This perception is (as most periodic generalizations are) not universally accurate, and it is thus a grievous error to jump to the conclusion that a writer or artist fits that description merely because he or she wrote during the mid to late 19th century.  However, it is also true that this description applies to some large segments of Victorian English society, particularly amongst the middle-class, which at the time was increasing both in number and power.  Many members of this middle-class aspired to join the ranks of the nobles, and felt that acting “properly,” according to the conventions and values of the time, was an important step in that direction.
Another important aspect of this period is the large-scale expansion of British imperial power.  By 1830, the British empire had, of course, existed for centuries, and had already experienced many boons and setbacks.  Perhaps the most significant blow to its power occurred in the late 18th century with the successful revolt of its 13 American colonies, an event which would eventually result in the formation of the United States as we now know it.  During the 19th century, the British empire extensively expanded its colonial presence in many parts of Africa, in India, in the middle-east and in other parts of Asia.  This process has had many long-term effects, including the increased use of the English language outside of Europe and increased trade between Europe and distant regions.  It also, of course, produced some long-standing animosity in colonized regions.

Literature of the Victorian Period:

It is important to realize from the outset that the Victorian period is quite long.  Victoria’s reign lasted over 63 years, longer than any other British monarch.  The Victorian era lasted roughly twice as long as the Romantic period. Keeping in mind that even the relatively short Romantic period saw a wide variety of distinguishing characteristics, it is logical that much longer Victorian period includes even more variety.  Below are a few of the noteworthy characteristics which appear often enough to be worth mentioning, but certainly do not encompass the entirety of the period.
  • The drive for social advancement frequently appears in literature.  This drive may take many forms.  It may be primarily financial, as in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.  It may involve marrying above one’s station, as in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  It may also be intellectual or education-based.  Typically, any such attempt to improve one’s social standing must be accompanied by “proper” behavior (thus helping to provide the period with its stereotype).
  • The period saw the rise of a highly idealized notion of what is “English” or what constitutes an “Englishman.”  This notion is obviously tied very closely to the period’s models for proper behavior, and is also tied very closely to England’s imperial enterprises.  Many colonists and politicians saw it as their political (and sometimes religious) duty to “help” or “civilize” native populations in colonized regions.  It was thus important to have a model which provides a set of standards and codes of conduct, and the idealized notion of what is “English” often provided this model. 
  • Later Victorian writing saw the seeds of rebellion against such idealized notions and stereotypical codes of conduct.  These “proper” behaviors often served as subjects of satire; Oscar Wilde’s plays are an excellent example.  The later years of the Victorian period also saw the rise of aestheticism, the “art for art’s sake” movement, which directly contradicted the social and political goals of much earlier Victorian literature.  One of the fascinating ways of approaching the Victorian period is to examine the influence of these later developments on the Modernist Era which follows.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How To Make A Potpourri

How to press, dry flowers,make potpourri

Flowers are gorgeous on their own and many people who receive bouquets of delivered flowers try to hold on to the fresh blossoms until the last petal falls off. Although it can be nice to keep flowers on your kitchen table, as your dining room centerpiece or on your nightstand for as long as possible, there are other ways to preserve the stunning arrangements so you'll never have to say goodbye.

1. How to press flowers for use in your home

A great option for keeping flowers that are dear to you is to press them. This way, the bouquet your husband gave you on your first anniversary, or the flowers you got delivered to the hospital when your child was born, can live on with you and your family over time. PreservedGardens.com recently broke down the best methods for pressing flowers so you can try it at home with ease.

3. Press flowers into heavy books

Once you have picked the perfect flowers from your bouquet and have figured out how you want them laid out, it's time to begin pressing. For this procedure, place the flower or flowers between two sheets of paper inside a heavy book and leave at least 1/8 inch of pages between the pressings, then weigh the book down and wait a few weeks.

How to dry flowers

If you'd prefer to put your flowers to use, it may be smart to consider making fresh potpourri. DabneyHerbs.com reports flowers like hydrangeas, roses, rudebeckia and Queen Anne's Lace all work to make a unified and fabulous smell, but you can also use your nose to be more adventurous with your unique scent. Once you have the perfect combination, you'll need to place the blooms on a tray covered with paper towels. Keep the flowers in a warm, airy place and turn them over each day until they are dry. You can also hang flowers upside down in small bunches in similar conditions. Flowers are typically dry when they feel slightly brittle, the website reports. Make sure not to over-dry the buds as they will lose their fragrance.Garden Parade Bouquet

2. Prepping the blooms for pressing

In order to make the best pressed flowers possible, it's important to start the process when the flowers are at their freshest and when they are free from moisture, the website reports. It's optimal to start the pressing process as soon as you pick a flower from your yard or the day the blooms are delivered to your home - this allows them to keep the brightest colors. Next, try to imagine what certain flowers will look like pressed - you shouldn't have petals overlapping, unless it is intentional, for a specific artistic effect. Normally, the flowers should be laid completely flat.

4. Microwaving speeds up the pressing!

Another, more instant way to press flowers is to perform the same technique in the book method, but instead of waiting a few weeks, place the book with the flowers in the microwave and heat for short bursts of 30 seconds. Continue until the flowers are almost pressed and then put them back in the book and add another book on top for extra weight, then wait a few hours for the process to be completed.

Recipe for mixing scents for potpourri

When the flowers are perfectly dried, you'll need to put on your chemist hat as the next step in potpourri making has to do with mixing scented oils. In most instances, the flowers you've selected won't have enough fragrance to make potpourri on their own. Instead, you'll need to start blending in different oils with your dried flowers to create a lovely final product. Depending on your taste, you should look for oils that are floral, citrusy, herbal or spicy and pick a dominant scent you like best. Then find your second favorite and use it as your accent scent. Mix four drops of your dominant scent and one drop of your accent smell in with your flowers and then shut the concoction in an airtight glass jar for 24 hours. After the allotted time, open the jar and take a sniff of your creation. If you like it, you can start putting the potpourri in containers to be used around the home. If you're not pleased, simply try the process again using different oils and flowers. Link: http://www.teleflora.com/pressing-drying-flowers-making-potpourri.asp

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Gilded Age

"The Gilded age is what often comes to mind about the Victorian Era. Grand Mansions dotted the best neighborhoods. Life was simple yet grand"

Victorian life was very grand if you were among the priveleged elite or upper middle class. But most Victorian lived pretty much a simpler life without the embellishments.
Regardless of ones station in life however, one always strived to put one's best foot forward. Even modest victorian homes had what was known as the "Formal Parlor" usually at the front of the home it was accessed via the entryway or in the case of smaller homes "The parlor door". Many smaller cottage style homes had two doors, One where guests would arrive and the other which was the everyday door that deliveries and such would come to.
Parlors were kept pristine and were used for guests who "called". there was another room usually seperated by Pocket doors or draperies that was what was known as the "Day Parlor" this was the room where the family actually lived. It was furnished with more "everyday furniture". One did not use the "good parlor set" except for entertaining as the furnishings in the formal parlor were expensive by comparision and one wanted to keep them in suitable condition.
If one were middle class one might have a Parlor Organ, this was the "home entertainment center" of its day, they were affordable and had many shelves to display a variety of items. Pianos and meldoians were usually only found in the homes of the wealthy.
Children learned how to play the organ as it was considered proper for young ladies to be well rounded and educated in the finer things like art and music and later on the playing of the parlor organ was part of the "Courting Ritual" almost always under the watchful eye of an adult.
The evening dinner, especially when guests called, was an opportunity to show off "the good china" and ones collection of silver. Victorians had silver for every function  and one's station in life was determined by how elaborate their silver set was.
Kitchens were often seperate from the house in what was called the summer kitchen.  This is where the hard work was done by the lady of the household or the hired help if they were fortunate enough to have staff. The Victorian Kitchen was not the kitchen of today by any means. Perhaps a well pump, perhaps a icebox, the wood stove which made the room unbearably hot (remember no air conditioning in those days)
After dinner the gentlemen would retire to the "smoking room" to partake of a good cigar. the women would retreat to the formal or day parlor to discuss the current elegant happenings. No TV, No Computer......a different time ...a different place.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A guide to restoration planning and how to avoid "The Money Pit"

A guide to restoration planning and how to avoid "The Money Pit"
Historic Restoration Planning: Part 1 Assessment                                by Paul Willham

Restoring you home is much like losing weight; you have to keep at it. That is where developing a “plan of attack” is important when restoring your home. For most of us the purchase of an old house is an emotional experience. We see it, we love it, we see the “potential” and we buy it. Often those decisions are made while looking through “rose colored glasses” and years later we are asking ourselves “what were we thinking”?
The first step to restoration is assessment, you have to “really” look at your home. One of the most costly areas to restore are the things people never see. The electrical, plumbing and HVAC are critical systems that are the internal organs of your house and must be in sound condition or if several years old must be replaced. Most houses today need a 200 amp electrical service, in fact in many municipalities it is the code. Speaking of codes it is a good idea to visit your local permits and building department to find which “code’ they are using for plumbing, electrical and HVAC. You can purchase a copy of the code book or you can download it from an online source. If you are doing your own work this is your “bible” that will guide you on your way and if you are hiring someone it will establish part of the guidelines for the “scope of work” for bidding the job.
To do your general assessment you have several options. Many Old House websites have “checklists” that you can download. This can be a guide. For example if a water heater is more than 8 years old you should plan on replacing it. Knob and tube wiring does not meet code, carefully inspect plumbing in your basements for leaks. If you are adding more bathrooms as part of the restoration you may need larger supply lines. Speaking of basements, is your basement dry? If not is the source a flawed foundation or could it be something as simple as a drainage issues. What level of restoration will you be doing? The Secretary of the Interiors guidelines for Historic Restoration are a valuable tool . You can download these and print them out. You will need to do your homework and become as knowledgeable as possible so you avoid costly mistakes.
When doing your assessment it is a good idea to get a neighbor to join you. Someone who “Is not in love” with your home can be more objective. You may want to consider hiring a home inspector. A typical home inspection can run 250 to 500 dollars, however, be sure that your home inspector is familiar with old houses. You don’t want someone who inspects “tract homes’ to be inspecting your home. Another route is a Restoration Consultant who specializes in historic properties and can provide detail assessments and develop “scope of work” and “bid specifications” for your project.
Typically after you look at the “major” items like foundation, roof, HVAC, electrical and plumbing, you will then need to look at the “fun stuff”. How your home is laid out, what changes may have been made over the years. If you home was ever a rental, was it “cut up”. Just where are your primary plumbing and electrical runs. Where do I want my bathrooms. If you are removing bathrooms or kitchens, if you home was a rental, then you will also be removing plumbing lines in walls. If you are uncertain as to just how your home was laid out, the first step is to look around your neighborhood, are there similar houses? If so, meeting your neighbor can be a good thing. There is nothing like seeing a restored home or better yet a mostly original home to give you a clue as to the original layout. Many homes were built based on “pattern books” which are available through Dover Press, you can find them on Amazon.com or even EBAY.
Once you determine all the problems your old house has you need to do your own “self assessment”. What are my skills? Can I do my own plumbing for example, do I like to plaster or drywall. Will local building codes even allow me to do this? What will be my contribution to the project? If you really hate to do drywall and are not good at it then you will likely need to hire someone. Also you will need to look “realistically” at how much time per week can I devote to restoration work. Most of us have jobs, kids and responsibilities other than “working on the house”. How much can you spend and in what timeframe? Will this be a “phased restoration” as most are or do you plan a top to bottom full restoration where you leave and let the contractors have at it. For most of us we have to live in our homes while we restore. Finally you need to get an idea of what you home will be worth in “restored” condition. You local realtor may be able to help you on this and you should also look at your homeowners insurance to see if special “riders’ are required when restoration work is being done.
Historic restoration Planning: Part 2 putting your plan in Writing
In Part 1 we discussed the planning phase of writing a restoration plan; today we will talk about writing the plan, key components and creating an orderly flow of work.
A properly executed restoration plan will save you thousands in time and money. The biggest reason why most restorations go “over budget” is a lack of planning. There is a common desire to “get something done” often that will involve painting or wallpapering with no consideration to electrical or plumbing work that may be necessary and, you guessed it, you find your self tearing up a wall to do something at a later date which adds time and money to the overall restoration costs.
Generally speaking restoring a house is like building a new house, there is a logical order of things that must be done. The problem with restoration unlike building a new home is that because things are already there, you have to undo some things before you can restore.
If you did your homework as outlined in Part 1 you will develop Bid Specs and Scope of work so that on the items that you are contracting you are telling the contractor what you need rather than the other way around. For example an Electrical Scope of work might look as follows:
Electrical: Electrical to install a 200 Amp 40 circuit Breaker box with emergency shutoff, New weather head and Meter base to be located on the Northwest corner of the residence, Electrician will be responsible for running wiring in the “chase” areas provided by the homeowner. Each room will have outlets every six feet. Kitchen and bathroom outlets per drawing with GFCI protected circuits. Outdoor outlets on front and back of home per drawing. Contractor to be responsible for acquiring permit, and provide a copy of insurance and/or bonding. Final payment will be made after city inspection and final walk though with homeowner A good restoration plan will essentially provide a Timeline of activities and as a rule are in the following order:
Bid Specifications and Scope of work.
Roof: The key to a good restoration is a solid roof.
Demolition: Removing everything that is “in the way’, old partitions, plaster or drywall
Foundation: address any foundation issues
Mechanical: Plumbing, Electrical and HVAC
Exterior: Painting, tuck-pointing and wood repair.*
Interior: restoration and finish*
Update Insurance coverage
*Many prefer to do Interior before Exterior and it really depends on the circumstances. However if you do the Exterior Work First you will inspire you neighbors.
Punch lists: You should prepare a punch list for each room in the house that identifies the scope of work This will outline the things that you need to do in each room and will include the “details” such as installing outlet covers and switch covers and will look something like this:
Bedroom 2: Prime and paint room, strip and refinish woodwork, sand and refinish floor, Install chandelier, Switch and outlet covers, replace restored door hinges and handle. Install window locks, Paint old floor register and reinstall, Install closet system.
You should have this Punch /“to do” list for every space in the home and as you complete these items you should check them off. Also you should take pictures of every phase of the project, print them out and put them in a binder. When you get discouraged, and you will, pull the book out and look at the before pictures and realize just how far you have come!
Detailed planning with good budgeting (always build in an extra 30 percent) will result in a well restored home that you can be proud of. The plan will keep you focused and on track, and with the money you saved, you can take that vacation…you know that thing you used to do before you bought your old house.
Restorations that are well planned can save homeowners thousands. https://sites.google.com/site/thevictorianrestorer/home

Friday, January 3, 2014

Nutter Butter Snowmen

Nutter Butter Snowmen .. Thank you to Our Best Bites for sharing this post.
Tutorial Courtesy of The Universe  http://www.ourbestbites.com/2014/01/nutter-butter-snowmen-easy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ourbestbites%2FdjLu+%28Our+Best+Bites%29
You’ll need Nutter Butter cookies (I’m not aware of any similarly shaped allergy-friendly cookie, but those familiar with that world and those products might have some good ideas), white chocolate bark, mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, orange Tic Tacs, and, if you’re feeling especially awesome, Twizzler Pull ‘n’ Peel licorice.
Line a baking sheet (or, if you’re feeling ambitious, a table) with wax paper or aluminum foil. Melt the white chocolate bark and then dip a Nutter Butter in the white chocolate and place it on the prepared wax paper. You’ll want to work with about 5 cookies at a time; any more than that and the chocolate will start to harden before you can finish them and then you’ll be sad. At least I would be.
Carefully place 2 mini chocolate chips (pointy side up) on the “face” of the snowman as eyes and then about 5 to make a smiley face. Place 2 mini M&Ms on the snowman’s belly and the orange Tic Tac in for the nose.
Allow them to dry (you can work on more snowmen while the others dry) and then break a pretzel stick in half and use more melted white chocolate to stick the pretzels to the back of the snowmen (like arms). If you’re feeling REALLY awesome, you can tie about half of a pull ‘n’ peel strand around each snowman’s neck as a scarf.

Victorian Ornamentation: 1873-1901

SOMETHING QUITE INTERESTING: Victorian Ornamentation: 1873-1901

Etching of the north face, circa 1880, with Jefferson statue set up by President James Polk (The Pictorial History of the United States 1882
The south face, circa 1870, with the large conservatories on the west side (Library of Congress - moderately restored)
Floor plan of the White House before the 1902 remodeling (LOC top, bottom)

"Steamboat Gothic" and Tiffany Glass

In 1873, US Grant converted the White House to a high Victorian style called "pure Greek" by some but openly mocked by others as "steamboat gothic." Most of the rooms were given a large-scale geometric pattern from floor to ceiling in panels, and the Andrew Jackson chandeliers were replaced by more elaborate chandeliers.
This was further enhanced by Louis Comfort Tiffany with Tiffany glass windows, gaslight fixtures, and other ornamentation in the 1882. Densely-patterned wallpaper dominated in most rooms, and the East Room in particular was turned into something of an enormous parlor, with sofas, chairs, and potted plants all around.
Electric lights were introduced in 1891 (by Edison electrician Ike Hoover, who stayed on to eventually become chief usher) and replaced gaslights entirely in 1901. And the White House had its first hydraulic elevator installed in 1881, its first electric elevator in 1898.
Expansion plan of 1889
Throughout the Gilded Age, first families sought ways to enlarge the White House to remove the government offices from the family residence. First Lady Caroline Harrison, in particular, championed an extensive expansion plan that would have tripled the size of the mansion by adding virtual duplicates of the Residence on the east and west sides and moving the conservatories to the south side.
In his memoirs, Chief Usher Ike Hoover described what the ground floor when he first came to the White House in 1891 to install electrical lighting:
The floor was covered with damp and slimy brick; dust webs were everywhere. An old wooden heating trough hung the entire length of the ceiling of the long corridor. Everything was black and dirty. Rooms that are now parlors were then used for storage of wood and coal. In the kitchen of the original house, now an engine-room, could be seen the old open fireplaces once used for broiling the chickens and baking the hoecakes for the early Fathers of our country, the old cranes and spits still in place. Out the door to the rear there yet remained the old wine-vault, the meathouse, and the smokehouse.
When Mrs. Harrison's plan for a new executive mansion at the head of Sixteenth Street failed to gain support, Hoover wrote:
Mrs. Harrison set to work to improve the old place so as to make it habitable. Private bathrooms were installed; the bedroom floor was divided into suites; the kitchen was completely torn out and modernized. Electric lights and bells were installed for the first time. All the old floors—dirty, mouldy bricks—were torn up and replaced with cement and wood; the engine-room was reconstructed; a new area built around the entire house; the old conservatory rebuilt and many new greenhouses added. All the rooms were frescoed and painted, new furnishings were purchased, and in fact everything was done that was possible without destroying the plan of the old place. The change was so great that when the Clevelands came back a few years later, they hardly recognized the house which they had left only four years before.
The East Room, circa 1894, during the Benjamin Harrison administration (Benjamin Harrison Home)
Grover Cleveland's State Dining Room, with Tiffany glass, in 1890, looking southwest (Library of Congress - Frances Benjamin Johnston)
The old west staircase before the remodeling under Theodore Roosevelt, looking west, circa 1890
The Red Room with Tiffany decor for Arthur, circa 1883 (Library of Congress)
The Entrance Hall in 1882, with the new Tiffany glass screen
(White House Historical Association [Library of Congress] - Frances Benjamin Johnston)
The north face in mourning, following the assassination of President Garfield, 1881 (Library of Congress)
First floor plan of the White House around 1880
Second floor plan of the White House around 1880
Computer reconstruction of the Blue Room, circa 1886
(Nick Buccalo, The Drawing Studio magazine; featured in Nest magazine, fall 2000 — original flopped left-right)
The Green Room, circa 1883 (Library of Congress)
Green Room during the Hayes administration, circa 1876 (Marchand Collection)
Grant's high Victorian redecoration of the East Room in 1873 (White House Historical Association)
The Blue Room in the early 1870s (White House Historical Association)
The White House Kitchen, looking northeast, circa 1892;
in the upper left is the old kitchen in the Jackson era; upper right is Chester Arthur's Chef Hugo Ziemann (White House)
Dolly Johnson in the old White House Scullery, or "small kitchen," circa 1892, looking south (Library of Congress - Frances Benjamin Johnston)

My Life's Echo's: Snow Angels

My Life's Echo's: Snow Angels: Good day to all! I woke up to snow on the ground in Ohio. It is a great day to make snow angels! Have you ever made one or two? I grew up...