Monthly Archives: June 2010

Does my blog have a Personality Type?

According to typealylzer, apparently so. I now have an alter ego schlepping around the internet.  That just tickles me!

ESFP – The Performer

“The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don’t like to plan ahead – they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.”

Well, that’s definitely true. 

“They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation – qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.”

Not sure my hubby would agree with that one, but I’ll take it!

The Science

The way it works is that  typealyzer grabs snippets of text and analyzes the communication style.  Fun, right?  In real life (is there such a thing anymore?) I’m an INFJ, but I love it that my blog’s different.  Makes me feel like I’m streching out of the introverts hermit zone.  Another upside?  Psychologically profiling other bloggers.  How creepy cool is that?

Red Lobsters, Robin Redbreasts, and Thief Takers

18th Century Word of the Day: Raw Lobsters and Robin Redbreasts

Are they:

A.  Edible, but questionably delicious

B.  Crustaceans, birds, or other animal kingdom variety

C.  Bow Street Runners

D.  All of the above

If you answered A, you are correct.  Well, technically its C (and moreover D) but murderers in eighteenth century London did have a predilection for biting of the noses of their victims during the act of strangulation.  Gruesome, aye?


Established in the 1750’s at No. 4 Bow Street, Raw Lobsters and Robin Redbreasts refer to Henry Fielding’s Bow Street Runners because as you might have guessed, they wore red.  Vests, that is.  As much as I’d love to show you a picture in color, I’m afraid we’re stuck with b&w.  You’ll just have to imagine how well they would’ve matched the crime scene.  I wonder if that was intentional.

Bow Street Runners, William Hogarth, Cruelty in Perfection

Bow Street


Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones and his half brother, John Fielding (below) founders of Bow Street Runners.

Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone

And, no, John Fielding is not a ninja warrior.  Great misfortune.  He’s actually blind and that is what the black band signifies.

If you’re curious about these two fellows and about Bow Street Runners in an eat popcorn and slurp on cola kind of way, rent City of Vice, a  Britsy mini-series that uses historical records as a basis for their tales.  This show does, however, contain flights of whimsy so just don’t nitpick.   It’ll ruin the whole sordid experience.

Queen of Fashion – Book Review

Queen of Fashion paints a vivid picture of a defiant queen, externally frivolous, sartorially political, and, as we all know, inevitably doomed.  A queen whose legendary fashions would sweep the fabric of change before France.

 Queen of Fashion by Caroline Weber

What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

Throughout her youth Marie Antoinette was a figure to be envied, despised, a foreign queen who acted more like a courtesan than a consort.  The words she never spoke (Let them eat cake!) are remembered with more vivacity than those chilling sentiments recorded in her letters (“I have seen everything, known everything, forgotten everything.” October 1789).

At the end of her life, her body wracked, hemorrhaging, her soul devoured, she would die a misunderstood queen, one that history would refuse to relinquish to the crackled pages of time.

More than any other day in her life, on October 16, 1793, she inspired a rare kind of divine awe in the populace.  As noted in Weber, “By most accounts, as the spectral white figure was escorted through the double hedgerow of navy- blue-coated soldiers who lined her path, the crowds reacted with stunned, leaden silence.”   Garbed in scraggly black mourning dress during her internment at the Conciergerie and denied those same widow’s weeds upon her death (as the privilege of mourning was associated with the aristocracy) she had one last statement up her sleeve.  In a move of fashion genius, she had saved a pristine white chemise in anticipation of her final parade .  . .

Marie Antoinette Taken to the Guillotine, William Hamilton, 1794

At the age of thirty-seven, her hair the angel white of the gaulles she wore while frolicking in the gardens of the Trianon, she proceeded to the guillotine, shorn of all royal refinement, but possessed of a final resistance: undeniable, unrelenting grace.

She went to her death as she lived her life, courageously, unwilling to confirm to the dictates of her gaolers, Versailles and later, ironically, her people.

Marie Antoinette , Joseph Ducreux, 1769

Ange ou demon?

Enemy of the Republic, royal conspirator and counterrevolutionary, that Austrian bitch or conversely, victim and bubble-headed consort, Marie Antoinette proves herself as neither.  She dusted flour in her poufs while her people starved; crippled the silk industry – a mainstay in the French luxury economy – by flaunting her preference for foreign fabrics.  She influenced Louis XVI, a soft hearted, bewildered king – a break in the imperious line his Bourbon ancestors – when consorts before her faded as forgotten queens.  Her exploits infamous far beyond France, she shadowed the already dissolute, depraved Court of Versailles in her scandals, becoming the sun itself.

January 1793:  Louis, ever faithful to her, ever weak, goes to his death wearing a coat a la cheveux de la Reine, the golden-red of his wife’s youthful hair.  The future king in an abolished monarchy, Louis Charles, her son, is ripped from her prison cell, placed in the hands of a drunkard, a fervent revolutionist bent on beating privileged sensibilities out of the boy.  Although the testimony in her trial is composed of hearsay, lies, and speculation, the memory of Madame Deficit, the Autrichienne who failed to metamorphose into a true, French royal, triumphs.

In my favorite chapter, the last entitled “White,” Weber draws her readers into this profound last vision of Marie Antoinette:  “White the simultaneous coexistence of all colors: revolutionary blue and red, royalist vilent and green.  White the color of the locks she saw the executioner slip into his pocket as her sheared her head to prepare her for her fate.  White the color of matrydom, of holy heaven of eternal life.”  And this eloquent, final prose: “White the color of a ghost too beautiful, or at least too willful, to die.  White the color of the pages which her story has been – and will be – written.  Again and again and again.”

Read it?

If, after ingesting biographies, memoirs, and blogs, Marie Antoinette still holds your imagination, your picture yet incomplete of this misunderstood queen, read Queen of Fashion.  Combining exhaustive scholarship and vast insight, Caroline Weber writes with a deft hand, reviving an icon in a flourish of silks and muslins and widow’s weeds.  Revisiting her story on a Weber’s fresh canvas, I like Marie Antoinette more and I like her less, but finally, if only a little, I think I understand her.

Book 1 of Enchanted by Josephine’s French Historicals Challenge completed!

Pretty Little Vases




Flowers pictured:  blizzard mock orange, morden blush rose, lady’s mantle, mexican evening primrose.


Spicy Cornmeal Cod, Lemony Aparagus Gnocchi

I’m hooked on this dry mix recipe for cod.  It’s eggless so you can make it in a pinch with thawed frozen fish and dry ingredients.  The only off-beat ingredient is gumbo file (fee-lay), commonly used in authentic Cajun cuisine.  It’s made from ground Sassafras leaves and has an distinctive, ususual flavor.  Some people think it smells like eucalyptus.  It can also be used as a thickener in stews and soups. 

Spicy Cornmeal Cod

1/2 to 1 cups cornmeal
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp pepper
1-2 tsps chipotle chile pepper (be careful.  spicy!)
1 tsp gumbo file (optional)
Lemon and olives for garnish

Mix dry ingredients together. Pat fish dry. Coat each filet evenly in mix. Saute fish on medium in olive oil until coating is golden brown and fish is flaky.  Add lemon slice and olives as garnish, if desired.

Lemony Asparagus Gnocchi topped with Chive Flowers sauteed in Garlic Tarragon Butter

A little tart, a little sweet, and very delicious

1 pkg gnocchi
1 bunch asparagus
1/2 lemon, juiced
10-15 chives, minced
pepper to taste
garlic tarragon butter (see directions)

Boil water and cook gnocchi for 2-3 minutes or as directed.  Meanwhile, saute chive flowers in a small amount of garlic tarragon butter for about 5 minutes.  In microwave or on stove top, steam asparagus, adding a small amount olive oil or a pat of garlic tarragon butter for flavor.  Cut up into 1/2 size pieces after asparagus tips are steamed.  In a bowl, toss lemon juice, pepper, chives, and asparagus. Add gnocchi and if preferred, another small pat of garlic tarragon butter to taste.

Garlic Tarragon Butter

4-7 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 to 1 stalk of tarragon
1 stick of butter at room temp

Mash together, shape into a ball or roll, and return to fridge until ready to use.  Will keep for at least a week.

To Patch or Not to Patch

The Allure of Beauty Patches

The 18th century can thank the Duchesse du Maine for bring patchy back. Although their popularity waned after the reign of Louis XIV, beauty patches would rise to the height of fashion in the 1760s, worn by both men and women to either hide their imperfections or flaunt their pristine white beauty.

A popular anonymously written poem makes this metaphor:

Her patches are of every cut
For pimples or for scars
Here’s all the wandering planet’s signs
And some of the fixed stars
Already gummed to make them stick
They need no other sky.

Some contemporaries of the trend remarked that migrating patches made constellations of the wearer’s face as the patches were shaped to resemble stars and celestial bodies. Other times the silk, velvet, or taffetta adhesives were cut into hearts, diamonds, or the more elaborate animals, insects, and figures (fyi: if one were poor, the patch might be made of mouse skin).

Like the fan, patches were worn to suggest a certain mood or state, with each placement having a name. Corner of the eyes was the passionate; middle of the cheek, the gallant; the nose, the impudent; near the lips, the coquette, and to masks scars or pimples, the concealer. 1  A patch on the forehead signified dignity, around her lips, kissable.  A bethrothed young woman wishing to announce her new status sported a heart on her left cheek.  Upon her marriage she switched the heart to the right. 

Can you guess this lady’s intent?   She’s passionate and kissable (and looking to land a man for the night!)

Portrait of a Lady – Thomas Gainsborough 

(modified for your patchy enjoyment)

The favored color was black, but green, purple, blue or red might be use to enhance a lady’s gown or her eyes.   Dark skinned women were seldom seen wearing patches because their foremost purpose was to show the striking comparison of black against pale white skin.

According to one of my sources, “a great lady always had seven or eight, and never went without her patch-box, so that she might put on more if she felt so inclined, or replace those that might happen to come off.” 1

Faience Patch Box from the Polk Museum of Art, ca 1745

Seven or eight? Seriously?  That would look like a strange case of the pox and not, I imagine, altogether beguiling.



1.  The XVIII century

2.  England of Song or Story

3.  Women & Gender in 18th Century Russia

Writing on Life’s Periphery

Most ideal writing days end up like this for me:

a) I get up early, sit down to write, and my dog immediately rings the door to go out (yes, I trained her to do that. Poochie bells; they’re awesome!). She runs to the neighbor’s yard, refuses to come back, and I chase her down. She resents my writing, tells me I love it more than her, and she has a evil plan to ruin my concentration (and if you’re wondering if she can talk, she can. Crazy, right?)  Lesson learned: distractions happen and if it’s not the dog, it’s a person, an ailing plant, or maybe even a machine.  There is no way out of this.

b) I plan for a day off to write, uninterrupted in my quiet, tranquil – Oh, but what, I have to leave my comfy chair? An appointment got rescheduled? The office workload just doubled and I gotta come in?  What an absolute surprise!  Yeah, no. Life doesn’t want me to write, it wants me wade through the to-do list that magically grows BY. THE. HOUR.

Per Virginia Woolf’s advice of “killing the angel in the house” I have tried to ignore the laundry until it starts sliding out of and over the top of the basket. I’ve turned an eye from the dishes stinking up the kitchen, the floors that collect dust bunnnies like they are pets. But as well as being a writer, I’m a wife and a pretty damned good one. Maybe it’s a little 1950s-ish but claiming I’m domestically challenged doesn’t help anyone cause I’m not.  If I learned one thing from my southern grandmother Ruby it was, “you gotta take good care of your man.” And I do.  And although I don’t regret it one bit and my husband helps out at home a lot, all that supportive domestic lovin’ takes time that sometimes I don’t want to give up.  So back to writing. . .

I’ve learned through much trial and error that there is no time to write. It’s squeezed in. I jot down notes when I’m waiting in line, edit in bed, laptop tilting precariously as I nod off. I’ve read about writers who write in the bathroom – not an altogether bad idea if that’s truly the only moment you have alone!  Desperation calls for desperate acts.

I’m even starting to believe that I don’t really need that much time to finish that book, or that editing, or that short story I’ve been dying to get to. I just need a few spare moments and the confidence to know that like pennies in a well, writing on the periphery can add up if I keep throwing my coppers toward a wish. If I’m lucky, my wish might even come true.

18th Century Art – Portrait of a Lady with a Book

Antoine Vestier, 1785
Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source
The best thing about portraits is imaging what the sitter is thinking.  The lady, equal parts doe-eyed and longing, upon first glance looks a little pensive, maybe even a touch bored.  I can’t help but think there’s something more going on behind that placid exterior though.  Personally, I’m leaning towards a lady in full marital restraint.  There’s a slight pursing to her lips, her head cocked as if she might at any moment sigh.   Her finger is wedged in a book, keeping place.  Has she been interrupted?  Distracted by a provocative thought?  In my mind, her husband is on the periphery, wading by the river.  And this lady, after reading the heroics of a particularly dashing fellow, is wishing she could wallop her husband with her book.
Now for the record I have never a) lobbed a book at my husband, b) wanted to, or c) imagined doing so.  I may, however, have mentally dressed him in a kilt and gave his deep voice a brogue, but that’s another story! 
What I especially love about this portrait is the lady’s blue sash around her waist.  It’s shiny like the ivory ribbons on her dress.  This portrait also reminds me of the one in my previous post of Marie Antoinette by Vigee Lebrun.  Although the dress here is of fancier fabric, the design is similar to the chemise a la reine with perhaps the exception of long ruffled sleeves.  There are also fat pink roses in the background.  In a wilderness setting like this, I’m not sure where they came but what do I know?  I make stories about people in paintings.


Tea Find – Kalahari Organic

As much as I love coffee, I have a bit of a tea obsession.  I like to collect different varieties and brands, drinking them much slower than their rate of purchase to savor the accumulation of comforting future moments.  I drink black or mate when I’m tired, rooibos after dessert, and an herbal tisane before bed.  I also make my own herbals out of mint and chamomile and rose hips in the garden.  Still, I can’t get enough. 

I recently discovered Kalahari’s line of Chocolattes, specifically Raspberry Latte, and let me say if I wasn’t on vacation, I would’ve tossed more than one of each in my cart.   They looked delightful: Hazelnut Mocha, Matcha Mint.  To my surprise the Raspberry Latte tasted exactly as one would expect: a hint of ripe red berry, a smooth undercurrent of rich dark cacao melted with slight sweetness of rooibos.  It’s divine with a bite of dark chocolate or as a complement to dessert.  Their other teas sound wonderful too: Highlands Honey, Limpopo Lemon, Zambezi Red Chai.

Which leads to the question: where to get it?  I’ll be scouring my local grocery store soon but with my predilection maybe online ordering is the best option.  The tea comes in individually wrapped sachets and they offer a special discount for bulk orders.  Purchase 6 boxes of a flavor and get $3 off your order total.  Teavana, I’m whispering but you just might have a competitor.

Marie Antoinette wore muslin

Chemise á  la Reine (also “gaulle”)

The simple gaulle shift Marie Antoinette popularized in her middle reign at Versailles is ubiquitous in her image today.  We see it in her famous portrait by Elizabeth Louise Vigée Lebrun where she is a confection of gauzy white ruffles, her cheeks pink and fresh, a green ribbon trailing in her hands, a flush colored rose clutched in her fingers.  Assumed by everyone from Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (who received the shift as a gift from Antoinette, as one fashionable friend to another) to the Princesse de Lamballe, even one of Antoinette’s earliest opponents, Madame du Barry, found the gaulle divine.


Madame Du Barry

Eventually after Antoinette’s death in 1793, the gaulle revolutionized fashion, leading  to the pared down looks of Jane Austen’s time in the early 19th century. 

Caroline Weber describes the gaulle in great, succinct detail in Queen of Fashion:

“By the summer of 1780, one of her [Marie Antoinette’s] favorite ensembles for Trianon was a white muslin shift known as gaulle, which Bertin had copied from “Creoles” and colonialist’s wives unable to wear the silk in the Caribbean heat.  This garment was slipped over a flexible cloth bodice instead of whalebone stays, and was free of any other structuring elements except a ruffled drawstring neck, puffy sleeves held up by ribbon “bracelets,” and a wide ribbon sash at the waist.  Wearers accessorized it sometimes with a saucy white apron, sometimes with a white fichu, and almost always with a soft white bonnet or wide-brimmed straw hat, perched atop hair that was loose and unpowdered.”