Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: The Black Death: a personal history

Greetings all,

If you're feeling down this season what with "economy being what it is", the world geo-political factions cracking up, cheese at $5/lb, and "retirement fund? I apparently didn't need no stinking retirement fund." allow me to recommend the following book:

The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher( slated for pbk release june 2009

I finished reading this over Thanksgiving. I never felt more grateful for modern medicine itellyouwhat. What if 1/2 of everyone we knew died in the space of two months? That's the horror/reality that Professor Hatcher portrays in his book. It's an interesting mix of non-fiction and fiction. He takes primary source materials from the time of the black death in late 1340s england and puts them in context for the modern reader (tho I do agree with one reviewer: a glossary of middle english legal and land terminology would have been nice). Mr. Hatcher then creates a fictionalized narrative (docudrama) from the viewpoint of the villagers in the small town of Walsham (the place/source of the primary source documents) and shows how landed gentry, church, and peasantry dealt with the upheaval of the time. It's not far off to say that the labor shortages caused by the plague lead to the end of feudalism.

Aside from the novel "Domesday Book" by Connie Willis (again, another favorite) I haven't done much plague reading, so this was both frightening and fascinating as it revealed the specific workings of agragian life in the mid-1300s england. Plates (pix from illuminations) and maps enhance the narrative.

Enjoy! and give your healthcare provider a big hug the next time you see them.

Yours in Service,
Mestra Rafaella

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jan. 29, 2008: a few fave recipes

Herb soup #2 (from Redon, Medieval Kitchen)
"Menestra of greens. Take Swiss chard leaves and a
little borage; cook them in boiling clear water until
the water comes back to the boil; then drain them and
chop fine with a knife. And take a little parsley and
raw mint and chop them along with the greens. Then
pound everything in a mortar, and add to a pot with
rich broth and boil briefly, If you like, you can add
a little pepper."

Ingredients: Swiss chard, borage (can substitute
spinach or other greens), parsley, mint, beef broth,

Production: Boil (in batches) 2 bunches of swiss chard
(we got the red variety), 2 bunches of parsley, and 3
12 oz packages of precleaned spinach, saving the water
for stock. Chop greens fine and mix all together. [If
you can get borage, give it a try. We froze the block
of greens for transport and froze the veggie water
separately (which made reheating onsite easier).
Onsite we heated veggie water (one container busted,
but was no problem as we also had beef broth), added
greens, added drippings from roast beef (see below),
added 32oz beef broth, and salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe filled a 5qt pot.

Roasted Onions #26
"Of onion salad. Take onions; cook them in the embers,
then peel them and cut them across in longish, thin
slices; add a little vinegar, salt, oil, and spices,
and serve."

Ingredients: onions, vinegar, salt, oil, spices

Production: Peel and cut tops and bottom from large
white onions (I did 8). Place on sheet pan. Roast in
oven at 300 for a little over and hour. slice into
wedges (not rings). Dress with white wine vinegar,
salt, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), and about 2 tsp
of Rafaella's Salsa Fina for every 4 onions. Serve.
This could be hot or cold dish. I roasted onions on
wednesday eve, packed in containers, then kept cool
and dressed onsite and served.


Jan 29, 2008: tips for feeling more mediaeval

To all good gentles gathered here, greetings from Mestra Rafaella,

I too long for the early years of my SCA wherein we didst endeavor to speak forsoothly and bring a certain magickal quality to our gatherings. I know my theatrical approach to our great Society is not everyone's Dream, but it is mine and so I endeavor to coach, cajole, model and-- yea verily-- harangue on occasion to see my Dream come alive in our events. This is why I autocrat, er, event steward,
bwahaahaahaha. :-)

The busy-ness of modern life and the entry of most folks these days into the SCA via electronic media (instead of going to fighter practices and arts events and tournaments in slow and upwardly spirally progression) leaves some without the foundation of courtliness, courtesy, and honor that we earlier coveted. Interkingdom anthropology has a lot to do with how one plays as well. In my original Barony of Calafia (San Diego, CA), we did stay in persona and were generally far more formal more often than I've ever seen in all of AnTir. Prithee, this is neither good nor bad, but the different ways of different lands.

There are many articles on speaking forsoothly available (see here for a collection: but I have found recently that a series of *small* personal challenges to try and do things in a more historical manner has fostered deeper and more meaningful conversations about the ways in which our ancestors lived. I gather that most folks would find their fun improved by "persona development" but again, I can only encourage.

So consider challenging yourself to do a few of these suggestions this tournament season (as you have time, energy, and funds) and find if they do add to your general enjoyment and appreciation of the Dream:

1. Endeavor to omit modern topics from your discussions (as a consulting herald I find this exceedingly difficult at the consult table because so much of the information we convey is now online, but in other areas such as around the lists field, the A&S tent or the potluck line, give it a try).

2. Set a courtly tone by using titles. I know, I know, AnTir is sooooo laid back, so the way I choose to do this is to endeavor to greet those good gentles with whom I interact at events by their titles proper on the first instance of meeting them that day (morning biffie runs excepted). This sets the tone of acknowledging and respecting each person's hard work for their rank and our place in the Great Chain of Being as our ancestors would have done. And then for the rest of the day be as courtly or not as your place and relationships dictate.

3. Give reverance when greeting. Whom have you bowed to or curtsied to today?

4. Try to always wear a headcovering of some sort (veil, coif, hat, etc). Since headgear isn't a standard everyday thing of most folks these days (at least those who don't wear a uniform) this is a good way to step back in time quickly.

5. Try wearing historical shoes (those of us with mobility issues find this one a real challenge. For me, 26 years and counting and I still can't make or buy footgear that satisfies my historical and orthopedic needs, but I'm still researching...)

6. Try historical carrying devices (pouches, scrips, chests carried by poles, etc.) Does your belt pouch match your persona? What container _would_ combatants use to move their armor from tournament to tournament?

7. Try historical underwear (within the confines of cleanliness and decency...)

8. Try historical bedding. My goal this year for tourney season is to make linen pillowcases. I made a period-style quilt back in 2002 and the difference between a blanket and a sleeping bag was amazing for feeling "you are there".

9. Eat historical food. There's lots of us around to help on this one. :-)

10. Eat your food with only a knife and spoon.

To quote author Margaret Frazer, "Why bother? For me, the answer is that to live only inside one’s own particular time and shape of space and thought is to live impaired in sight and understanding. To be able to see with other eyes, to think—even
peripherally or for a bare few moments—in another’s mind, to feel with another set of feelings than our familiar everyday ones, is to grow, to stretch our limits of individuality a little larger, to reach our minds a little farther, to open our perception of our world and selves a little wider."

Surely a little stretching will bring us closer to each of our Dreams.

In Service to the Dream,
Mestra Rafaella d'Allemtejo, OL
Defender of Arts & Sciences to the Shire of Mountain Edge

Suggested reading on persona development:

margaret frazer quote from:


Dec. 17, 2005: travelogue

Greetings all from Mestra Rafaella, your friendly
shire herald.

This past week I did for the first time travel east
and north to the fair Barony of Wealdsmere (modernly
known as Spokane, WA).

Having never travelled to the far regions of the
crown's land beyond Three Mountains, I was amazed by
the beauteous hills, the glorious rivers, and frozen
cascades of water that decked the cliffs as we
travelled into unknown territory. Most assuredly,
gentles live in these wild places, but being a friend
to mine own hearth, I had not previously travelled
more east than the great henge of stone which doth
mark the sacrifice of solders of the first world war
and its neighbor, the museum of Maryhill.

I was graciously escorted by lord Morphael who hails
from the wilds of the Outlands (colorado) and is
accustomed to travel in the snow and ice, whereas,
poor me, my ancestoral home lies in the south of Caid
(california) wherefrom I did not experience this white
wet substance until late in my twenties. During the
great ice storm of A.S. XXX in the Rivers Region, I
did proceed to spin about in the curves of
Terwilliger, thankfully damaging mine own cart only
and none other. To my shame, I have been afeared to
travel in foul weather since this incident, but
company makes travel easier and I am grateful that my
companion had time to spend with me on this journey to
speak with the elders of the City Library of
Wealdsmere wherein I might hope to be employed.

The winds blew mightily against our cart but we
perserved east and north into the Barony of Wastekeep
(TriCities) where the local wizards must have been
conspiring against us, both going and upon our return.
The signs of direction in and around these three
cities were most circuitous and bewildering, and being
confused on how to proceed, we stopped for luncheon
repast. The wenches of that most welcoming
establishment belonging to Lord Denny do make fine
fried meats and eggs and shredded browned starches of
unknown origin.

Travelling more north we encountered landscapes that
rivaled the deserts of my homeland, flat and brown and
greatly populated by short grasses. Farther north and
higher in elevation these landscapes became white with
ice and snow, sheltering all views in a pristine
blanket that described not its secrets. Few travelled
along our path and the road was frozen but dry, though
many-wheeled container caravans did sometimes join us
on our quest.

Darkness had fallen as we entered into the heart of
the city of of the Barony. I was impressed with the
lights of the city though a serious venture into the
streets would need to wait until daylight. We found
our lodgings and dinner was delivered and we had a
good night's rest (Best Western Trade Winds North,
good people).

The next day we ventured out into the grey sunlight
and quested far and wide in the city, verily I should
say, as far as the streets cleared of ice and snow
would allow. I was much impressed by the fineness of
the tall buildings and the opulence of the
architecture (altho in my ancestral homeland, that
much red brick would be a danger during times of the
quaking of the earth). The downtown area is most fine
with many establishments seen in larger cities of
AnTir, in faith, I did not expect such sophistication
and that is testament to mine own ignorance of the
fine gentles and cities of the eastern edges of our
kingdom. Having seen Wealdsmere, I one day hope to
visit Lyonsmarche (Pullman/Moscow).

Many stores we see in the Shire and Three Mountains
and Stromgard are also found in Wealdsmere, in sooth,
the size of the Barnes, noble proprietor of books, was
quite impressive. A city which boasts both a World
Market and First Pier import store is truly blessed.
The many huts serving coffee from Arabia were a
welcome sight though we availed ourselves of the
vendor bearing the sign of the green two-tailed
mermaid (that's melusine to you heralds) as I had a
gift card for that establishment.

Much art adorns the city walls, many of the murals
were created by children under the tutelage of
masters. Other artists of fame and reknown have
created scultpures that line the riverfront park (tho
I mistook the rusted running men for scared villagers
at first). A great river and railed road run through
the middle of the city. The outdoor ampitheatre with
its strange tilted pavilion, a configuration of ropes
and machines,puzzled my companion and me as to its
function. Apparently a Great World Exposition did
occur in the town in A.S VIII, which left behind this
legacy of art and civic venues including a rather
gigantic red wagon. They must be seen to be believed
Adorned in a thin layer of snow, all these things did
seem as wonders.

At the appointed hour we did arrive at the City
Library. A skybridge connects the library to the
indoor marketplace that stands adjacent so my
companion ventured off to find treasures from afar.
The City Library which lies downtown is most wonderous
and the staff is pleasant and knowledgeable, offering
many services, such as researching one's familly
history. However, I was disappointed by the lack of
seating accommodations accorded to gentles of my
(ehem) stature. :-7
I perched where I might to do more research.

My interview with the elders went well enow though I
felt I did not express myself with as much finesse as
I have on other occasions. After two long hours of
discussion, in despair I cancelled my dinner plans
with Lady Juliana and Lady Richenda, fine heralds of
the kingdom whom I know from their days in Terra
Pomeria, rejoined lord Morphael and headed back to our
lodgings. By faith, my fears were unfounded, as the
elders of the Library did contact my former employer
the next day to request a recommendation.

Alas the time came to leave in the early dark of the
morn of the next day, as I had to rush home to speak
with the elders of the Great State Library located in
Terra Pomeria. [and upon returning home I found more
invitations to speak with libraries, two in Caid, and
one in the West, tho it is greatly my wish to remain
in AnTir and even more preferably Dragon's Mist, but
we go where we must... and most assuredly all this
discussion with various libraries of great reknown
must yield me employment soon... soon I say! :-) ]

On friday morn, the local heralds of weather could not
decide whether the temperature was 7 degrees or 14
degrees on the scales of farenheit. God's teeth were
chattering, I tell you what (prithee). We travelled
south in the light pellets of snow crossing through
white terrain, into the desert terrain, and then west
along the windy Gorge yet again. The Columbia Gorge
was most beauteous tho my companion informs me that
waves of such height and foamy white brilliance along
the said waterway are mesmerizing yet dangerous. For
me, it was a glad return home with discussions of wit
high and low and sunshine which was gloriously warm in
comparison to the earlier morning.

I bid thee all farwell, and encourage all to travel to
the far reaches of the kingdoms. Wonders both great
and small are oft to be found.

In Service,
Mestra Rafaella d'Allemtejo
Pursuivant, Shire of Dragon's Mist, AnTir

Sunday, October 21, 2007

St. Crispin's/Harvest Festival 10/20/07

Ended up going late to event due to circumstances beyond my control, but I got Beatriz de Chambery to this gig and in front of Queen Miranda to receive her Award of Arms! (originally announced at Sport of Kings back in August) It's been rough for us to keep it secret this long, woof!

Congrats mi amiga, Lady Beatriz!

Friday, October 12, 2007

How to spend a lovely day of A&S getting nothing done

Apprentice and Best Friend and I got together for A&S day and it went something like this:

Plan for 11am start.

Actual arrival of Apprentice & Best Friend, 1230pm.

Move art supplies stuff from cars to condo. (30min)

Decide food and drink is necessary. Go pile into van. Get drive thru coffee and snacks. Back to condo (30min).

Imbibe victuals and caffeine and chat about nothing.(30min)

Set up art supplies (30min).

Re-organize art supplies to facilitate project.(30min)

Work on project while talking about other projects one is not currently working on. (30min)

Tea & bathroom break (30min)

Apprentice goes "eep! the time!". Apprentice bails taking Best Friend with her as they carpooled.

Projects completed: None.

Afternoon with Apprentice & Best Friend: Priceless. :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Eulalia gets her Jambe

My Apprentice, Lady Eulalia de Ravenfeld got her Jambe de Lion tonight. That's AnTir's arts & sciences grant award. I'm so stoked! Huzzah to Her Ladyship!!!