Friday, January 29, 2010

Stourhead Continues Some More

by Ann Lethbridge
Fascinatingly, at one point in time, Stourhead had its own hermit.

Now this picture of some ruins in the grounds is probably not it. The guide says the hermitage is no longer there.

But I had fun imaginingt some bearded elderly gentleman earning a living by sitting in this structure, just so those living in the house could say, there is a hermit living at the bottom of my garden.

And if you can have a temple and a parthenon and a gothic cottage, why not have a hermit?

That is it for the garden. There is a walled garden. There is also a tower. Since we wanted to see the house, we decided to save them for another day. And so, you will have to wait for those too.

Stourhead House

No, no, this is not it! This is just the gate.

But you knew that, didn't you?

Imagine driving up to the Stourhead house in your carriage or phaeton. Such an impressive entrance.

The gate was built in 1799 and was a replica of an earlier gate set between the village and the stable yard.

As you can probably tell I did not take the above picture, but I did want you to see the front of the gate. By this time my camera was misbehaving - I had to buy a new one, and so a couple of my pictures didn't come out.

I did want to share this one with you. Over the years I have seen lots of gatehouse, but I did think this was one of the prettiest I've ever seen.

There are a lot of things about Stourhead that makes one want to say that. But the reason I was so excited to find this gatehouse was that it is how I imagined the gatehouse in "Captured for the Captain's Pleasure" would look. Only I added a bedroom in the eaves.

Yes I know that title makes you think of ships and ocean, but there is a fair bit of dry land too. In that book, the house itself is burned down, but fortunately Stourhead while it did suffer a major fire in the early nineteen hundreds, much of the interior was either saved or replicated.

A wide drive sweeps in a curve up to the house. It is bordered on the right by Spanish chestnut trees.

To give you an idea of the size and age of these trees, my husband kindly offered to stand next to one.

Did I say offered?

Well he suffered through it anyway, bless him.

Where is the house, say you?

But first we have to park our car in the garage. Ahem, take the carriage to the stable.

We will start there, next time. I promise you, it is worth the wait.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stourhead Continues

by Michele Ann Young

We are in the middle of our January thaw, with a couple of days of very mild weather, but the weatherman kindly assures us it will not continue.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to resume our ramble around Stourhead and forget about the climate.

Here we have the Pantheon as promised.

‘Few buildings exceed the magnificence, taste and beauty of this temple’
- Horace Walpole

The Pantheon is the garden's largest and most important building, we saw it in my earlier pictures. It sits on the edge of the lake and can be seen from all different angles as one walks.

Its interior is equally magnificent, with marble statues and reliefs set around the main circular hall.

It was designed by architect Henry Flitcroft, and built in 1753-4, and no doubt provided an impressive setting for Henry Hoare II’s picnics and summer parties. And yes, if you think you recognized it from Pride and Predjudice - you are right.

This is the temple, called after The Temple of Apollo.

Remember we saw it in one of my earlier pictures. It stands at the western edge of the garden up on a hill.

It was built in 1765 by Flitcroft, inspired by the circular temple of Baalbec in Syria.

Apollo is the sun god without whom no garden can flourish.

Actually I'm feeling a bit like a sunless garden myself at the moment. Roll on spring.

This last picture is of a cascade or waterfall. It is one of those things that one just comes across. Another one of Stourhead's surprises

There are more to come.

Until next time, happy rambles

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Regency Food

by Ann Lethbridge

What can we serve for breakfast?

Toast and marmalade of course.

Last week I handed in two books, which left me at a bit of a loose end. So, since my husband sneakily bought home some Seville oranges, I decided to celebrate meeting the deadlines by making marmalade. I thought it particularly fitting, because marmalade was indeed Regency food since it was first produced in Dundee in 1797 and can therefore show up on our Regency heroine's breakfast toast.

This is something any Regency cook would be able to make in her kitchen, since it requires nothing but Seville oranges, which are sour and bitter and lots and lots of sugar. Along with a fair bit of elbow grease. I was lucky, my daughter was home and took an interest so I had my scullery maid to help out.

Here we have the squeezed skins already for chopping. These particular oranges turned out to be very juicy, full of lovely pips and the rind was almost perfect.

I added a couple of lemons for extra zip, but it could have been all oranges.

I like to use an old-fashioned glass squeezer, as you can see in the picture. The glass edges really make a good job of crushing the pulp out of the juice and it catches the pips. In making marmalade pips are very important.

Here you can see the juice in the pan along with a muslin bag full of... yes pips.

The sticky juices that come out of the pips is natural pectin, it requires 2 to 3 hours of simmering in the juice from the oranges and 15 cups of water, and all those peels we chopped. Pectin is what makes the preserve set, you know so it looks like jelly rather than juice.

That's a lot of simmering, my friends, steamy windows, cups of tea, and gossip. And of course you need to be sterilizing the jars and writing the labels during that time too.

And when you are done all the simmering there's this icky sticky job of squeezing the warm muslin bag. Such fun. And just to prove it here I am. Not looking my best, but by this time I'd been working for hours. Still, I am smiling. You can see the simmered peel in the pan. by this time it is soft.

Then 15 cups of sugar gets added, and there's a lot of stirring and putting drops onto chilled plates to see if it's set yet. Very nerve wracking trying to see if thick juicy stuff is actually wrinkling when you push it with a fork or not.

I must say I was a bit shocked at the amount of sugar that went in there. Almost appalled. But even with all that sugar the end result was not all that sweet. The other thing to remember is to only spoon a small amount on your toast, because it has a wonderful flavor and it is quite strong.

We made the final marmalade in three batches. And to one of them I added chunks of crystallized ginger. Yummy. the first picture at the top is the finished result of a whole day of hard work. I'm glad I don't have to make everything from scratch, I'd never get any writing done.

I'm going to try to keep some of it for hostess gifts, but we've already polished off one whole jar. It even ended up on ice cream as dessert the first evening - it was still warm too.

I wish I could share it with you. Nothing quite like home made, especially when it is authentic regency food. So if you ever pop by for breakfast don't forget to try the marmalade.

Until next time, which will be next week, happy rambles.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Story Coming Out

by Michele Ann Young

It is always exciting when you see a new cover, knowing one of your stories lies beneath the artwork.

This one is lovely, don't you think? I did look at it with a faintly jaundiced eye, wondering if that corset isn't just a bit too Victorian, but then I decided that the front-closing stays fit with the Regency. And the girl's face is lovely.

This is a compendium of twenty-five short stories due out in May and I am in such exalted company as Mary Jo Putney, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase and Mary Balogh. I feel honoured, I must say.

My story is called Remember and is about two lovers meeting after a long, bitter separation.

Due out in May, at the moment the only place I am seeing the book listed is at Amazon UK. I am not sure if there will be a different North America date. Here is the link. The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance.
These books are also founds in bookstores everywhere.

Naturally I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flora and Fauna of Regency England ~ January

by Ann Lethbridge


The weather has a huge impact on Flora an Fauna, naturally. Duh, you might say. but since we all live in vastly different climates I thought a bit of weather information might be of interest during this discussion.

In January 1814 the coldest temperature each day ranged from 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16C) to 21.5 degrees F (-6C) Remembering that it will warm up during daylight hours - what there are of them. This was an exceedingly cold winter for England. Quite often it is warm enough to walk outside with a sweater, other times you need to be well bundled up.

Flora and Fauna

Not much going on at this time of year you might say. And to be honest many of the creatures I have posted about before appear in the winter too. Our Naturist has, among other things, this to say:

Linnets (fringilla linota) congregate; and rooks (corvus frugilegus) resort to their nest trees. The house-sparrow (fringilla domestica) chirps; the bat (vespertilio) appears; spiders shoot out their webs; the blackbird (turdus merula) whistles; and the skylark sings. The titmouse (parus) pulls straw out of the thatch in search of insects. This bird is also very active in climbing and running about the trees for the same purpose, and the redbreasts search about the holes of walls for snails.

In other words he says there is a great deal of spring-like activity happening already.

As you can see, I picked one of my favorite birds, called the titmouse in the diary, it is also commonly known as the blue tit these days. It is very acrobatic.

The naturist also tells us that marauders such as the fox and the polecat invade farms when there is little to eat in the wild. Our Regency farmers would not be happy about them. Polecats are interesting creatures. They are mainly nocturnal and are found in woodlands, farmlands and wetlands. They often make dens in stream banks or under tree roots and feed l on small mammals such as voles and rat and also on frogs.

Until next time, happy rambles.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Regency Fashions for January

by Michele Ann Young

Before we get to the important stuff here is a bit of writing news! Michele has a story in the Mammoth Book of Regencies. The working title is Remember and it went in to the editor on Wednesday. More to come on that later.

These two gowns are so very January, aren't they? And with the weather in England the way it is right now, to me they look perfect. (It would just take the Thames to freeze over, and I would be over there in a heartbeat. Can you imagine, a 21st century frost fair).

Right, back to fashion.

This place comes from the Ladies Monthly Museum for January

Walking Dress.

A Green Velvet Hat, turned up in Front, and edged with White Swansdown, ornamented with a Green Velvet Flower. A Pelisse of Green Velvet, with Bishop’s Sleeves, trimmed with Black Lace. Habit Shirt of clear Muslin; Swansdown Tippet. Buff Boots.

Notr the habit shirt, these were worn under riding habits, but I suspect it is added here for a bit of warmth.

Full Dress.

Head fashionably dressed, ornamented with a Silver Wreath, and Heron’s Feathers. Walking dress of clear Muslin; a deep Lace let in round the Bottom. A Robe of Crimson Satin, edged round with White Swansdown, full sleeves, looped up with a Diamond Button. White Muff, Gloves, and Shoes.

The colour of the robe is gorgeous isn't it. Heron's feathers. My, whose for dashing out and tackling a heron. I bet we'd be in trouble.

And just for fun, for those who may not have seen this:

Snowy Britain on January 7, 2010. Brrrr.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year

It is always difficult to get back into routine after a holiday, isn't it? But here we are.

Family is very important to us all when there are celebrations, and we were lucky enough to communicate with all of ours over the past two weeks.

There is also the surfeit of food to contend with and the odd glass of cheer, and those couple of extra pounds. All in all, though, it was a great holiday for us.

I am glad to be back with you all. 2010 promises to be an interesting year, with at least 2 full length and two (or is that three) short stories coming out. We look forward to sharing our research, travels and jubilations with you. (You won't find any snark here. Ever.)

For me that is the key to the New Year. Looking forward, making plans, tucking the regrets away in a private corner and rambling on.

Wishing you all the very best for a happy, healthy and rewarding 2010.