Treasure Hunt

I work at a Very Old University (established 1855). Over the decades, various storage rooms, closets, and little-used offices have accumulated a lot of paper, steelcase furniture pieces, broken chairs, cartons of floppy disks, and lots and lots of mystery items.  All the stuff that gets shoved aside in favor of The New.

Recently we decided to have some fun with the little ‘lounge’ area leading into the ladies room in my office suite. I knew I’d seen some interesting pieces lurking in the dark corners of my building, and so I suggested we go on a treasure hunt to see what could come upstairs and find new purpose.

I already knew the first treasure I wanted to nab – I’d lusted over this piece for years, but never had a place to bring it back to light. Now I do! This cabinet has set the theme for our decorating project – we’re going (yay) Victorian! Pardon the tilt of the shot, I literally was scrunched up against a counter and couldn’t get a decent angle. It’s about six feet tall.

And that set our theme. Next!  I stumbled over a newer piece, but well built, and dark wood. This is SOLID wood and with some lace atop and some sort of decoration, will work on a side wall.

These two little chairs are oddities – and we have had them in the ladies room for at LEAST 25 years.  But they’re cute-kitchy.  I’m thinking to pull some ornate pillowcases over the backs, tie them off at the base with thick plush ribbon, and call it a day.  I don’t want to get rid of them as I am sentimental about them.  The countertop and mirror will get some sort of treatment… the old linoleum is blech.  Not sure what I’ll do yet.

I’m saving the best for last. Not sure how these will be used, but damn!  The tallest piece is about a foot tall. They need polished. But they are beautiful, heavy silver pieces. Maybe something on the little countertop, with flowers in them?  I DO know their history.  One of our deans, back in the 1960’s, used to like his afternoon tea. His secretary would prepare it, and serve it to him and guests on an ornate tray.  The tray seems to be undiscovered so far, but we did find the rest of the set!

(And the silver is sitting on my beloved 1940’s era credenza in my cubicle. Mine! You can’t have it!)

With all these bits collected, I think we have some good ideas for gathering in artwork for the walls, and bits of frippery to complete the look.  We were given a $50 budget to buy anything we wanted.   I’m hesitant on adding a rug, knowing how the custodial staff treats the floors. But maybe.  I know a really good second hand store for rugs…

Shall be nice to have a bit of genteel Victorian times in our otherwise drab 1948 institutional building.

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Gearing Up For The Holidays

Right this very moment, countless shoppers are no doubt wondering what would be the perfect gift for ‘that Steampunk friend’.  Let me give you some advice.

Firstly, anything that appears in Regretsy’s “Not Remotely Steampunk” pages should be avoided. Yes, that includes the sparkly white fairy wings for babies.

Secondly, about goggles.  Most likely, they’ve already got a pair or thirty.  Unless you absolutely know for certain just what your giftee’s dream goggles are, you shouldn’t guess.  After all, there’s a slight difference between



Thirdly, just because there’s gears on it, doesn’t mean it’s steampunk.

If you have any further questions, or need a bit more clarification, please watch this instructional, informative video.

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Victuals! November Aether Salon

Aether Salon November 2011
Sunday, November 20 at 2 pm slt
Babbage Palisade & Academy of Industry

What’s that bubbling in the pot on the stove? SCIENCE! Kitchen technology took great strides in the Victorian era, thanks in part to discoveries by Louis Pasteur, Gale Borden, George B. Simpson and many other inventive and scientific minds. Learn about surprising changes in food preparation of yesteryear – and how you can bring a bit of vintage techniques into your kitchen of today.

Salon presenter Ceejay Writer practices what she preaches. In her First Life, she grows and preserves foods to last through the winter months. She is a self-taught herbalist with extensive herb and tea gardens, an organic vegetable gardener and forest forager. Besides traditional canning, she enjoys figuring out new uses for her beloved dehydrator. Most of her favored food preparation methods pre-date her own birth.

‘Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry…’

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Living a Steampunk Life, in Real Life, Entry #2

I blogged back on June 26th to let people know that I might randomly post a little here about my Real Life, since I have the tendency to go about my days in ways that connect with the past. I just wrote this for my own personal livejournal, and thought it might be of interest over here, too. And I can’t help but wonder how my Victorian era counterparts dealt with summers such as the one I write about, back before Deep Woods Off was invented. I know of various herbal insect repellents, but I have tried them and really… they do not work. Maybe insects existing a century ago had not yet built up a tolerance to such mild repellents. But in this day and age, rubbing your arms with lemon balm will make you smell nice, but it won’t keep you from being bit. So, then, here’s my journal entry, to share with friends of this blog.


I’m sure many of you know that this is a horrific year for mosquitoes. Wait, it’s a GREAT year for the skeeters, but it’s hell for us redblooded humans. I have literally been held hostage inside the house, even on perfect summer evenings. It’s just not worth what I have to go through to sit on the porch. Here’s my basic regimen for tending to the veggie garden. And keep in mind it’s Summertime, with summer temperatures.

1. Put on thick flannel pants.

2. Put on zip up hooded sweatshirt. Flip the hood up. Tighten the drawstring TIGHT at my neck.

3. Spritz my face with Deep Woods Off, and also mist down my clothes.

4. Run to the garden, stick hands in the green bean plants, scream in terror at the CLOUD of skeeters that immediately swarms me. Pick the beans as fast as possible.

4. Run to the tomatoes, yank them off the plants.

5. Grab a few raspberries.

6. Gaze sadly at the poppies and borage flowers that require a lengthy, careful harvest, and sigh. Leave them be. I can’t spare the sanity or blood loss it would take to harvest.

7. Grab my baskets and run like hell for the house, as the skeeters have already mutated to creatures immune to my Deep Woods Off.

It’s nuts. Utterly insane. Yes, we grow our own food for health and self-sufficiency reasons, but also for MENTAL health. I love spending time nuturing the plants, weeding, harvesting small flowers for tea, and just letting the day slide off me. This year, that’s impossible. All I can do is buck up, grab the food and go.

On the bright side, the tomatoes ARE prolific and I am turning them all into sauce, and canning it in pint jars. If you are curious what goes in my sauce, it’s evolved into this. No particular measurements.

*Tomatoes, blanched, peeled, thrown in the biggest pot in the house.

* At least one chopped onion.

* As much garlic as your significant other can stand on your breath.

* Oregano

* Bayleaves

* Salt and Pepper

* Sugar. Anything up to a quarter cup, to cut the acidy effect.

* Chopped bell peppers. Red and yellow are fab, green are okay.

* Chili powder

This year I’m also chopping up bok choy and tossing it in, since there’s a lot in the garden that we aren’t otherwise getting at. I figure it’s extra nutrition! Don’t worry about chopping anything neatly. You’ll see why.

When it’s all simmered for hours and has thickened up, and you’ve tasted and adjusted the spicing, cool it down. (Actually I cook mine over a few evenings, since time is limited. I stuff it in the fridge in between).

Get out your blender, throw blobs of the tomato mess in, and whirr it up till smooth. Repeat till it’s all been blended down. Viola! That bok choy has vanished into saucy goodness, and no longer poses a threat.

Eat it up, freeze it up, can it up. Whatever. Just don’t share it with the damn mosquitoes.

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Living a Steampunk Life, in Real Life

I use this blog sporadically and randomly, and with no real sort of focus or goal. My typist has her own private journal, and now we’ve decided that when she writes about activities that would suit my Steampunk era, I’ll let her cross post them here. She lives in the country, and rather enjoys doing many things the way they were done in the Victorian era – or earlier! These sort of posts may be of interest to my SL friends who don’t have access to my RL private journal. So, let’s give it a go.

Today’s Garden Harvest:

Three dozen Garlic Scapes which will be finely diced and either dried or stored in oil.

Three quarts of quite fat strawberries. More jam perhaps? Already did nine pints. Debating. Must clean them up at least.

Handful of poppy flowers. (Drying, for tea. Don’t panic, I use sparingly for sleeping.)

Handful of Borage Flowers for tea.

Big bunch of Sweet Woodruff for May Wine

Shall mince the scapes, clean the strawberries, wash the woodruff and let it air dry (stuff dries FAST on its own). I may pull down hanging bundles of oregano, chocolate mint and spearmint to crunch into jars. The catnip is a slow drying herb and needs more time to dry.

Tomorrow I hope to harvest mints, catnip, oregano, chives, sage, chamomile flowers and raspberry leaves.

Everything is growing very well! Won’t be long to peppers, radishes, lettuces, beans, raspberries… tomatoes still look a ways off.

Oh, and I tea-dyed an all-cotton peasant blouse and a pair of cotton gloves. Both were FAR too blindingly white for my taste!

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World Steam Expo 2011

(Ceejay is lounging about somewhere sipping absinthe, so her typist will take the controls of her blog for a post!)

We had an amazingly good time at World Steam Expo this year, and I even cajoled Ken into costuming up a bit. We got him an extremely nice, well crafted bowler hat, upon which he wore his father’s welding goggles. No cheap imitations for him – these are family heirlooms that his dad wore when working in the auto industry, many decades ago. Looked great.

I went for a Steampunk nature girl look – straw pith helmet with mosquito netting, ribbon/brass/gemstones jewelry, peasant blouse, green alligator skin corset, beige skirt (which was a revival of a retired work skirt, lots of lace added, new brass buttons, etc.), brown stockings and brown cuffed ankle boots. Also slung a loose leather belt on over the corset to hold gloves, con pass and just generally steam up the look. And for the crowning touch, a homemade rustic butterfly net. I think the ‘industrial’ side of Steampunk is a bit overdone, and wanted to explore another facet. Besides… there’s a basis for it! I love this blog, it explains a lot: A Steampunk Container Garden – The Victorians Practically Invented Potted Plants.

Pics from the con WILL be forthcoming, as life allows. Ken’s careening through massive amounts of tasks nonstop every day, but when the pics are flickred, I will post a link! In the meantime, if you are curious, there’s a lot of everyone else’s pics in the flickr community.

Besides music and goofing off and ogling lots of costumes and filking and gadgets, we attended some really good panels about distressing clothing, working with metal, and possibly the most interesting, the influence of steampunk on modern design. We left the con with a definite high spirit of ‘we can do it!’ DIY confidence and enthusiasm!

…. which was a good mindframe to be in, as we arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, to find no electricity, water, internet, cable… just a lawn full of storm-ripped branches and the realization that our town had been hit pretty damn hard by a massive tornado-ish storm.

And so, we slid from Steam Expo into living life in the Victorian era for quite a few days. Water was hauled from a neighbors pond, kerosene lamps were gratefully lit. We do have a generator and could keep the fridge, freezer and a couple of lights going, but really, we’d gone back in time. I got a lot of reading done! Oh, and did I mention we were in a heatwave, and no A/C?

Anyway, it was an adventure, and I do believe the con had us in a great mindframe to weather it.

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