Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Victorian treats part 1

One of my favorite treats is a confection made popular in the Victorian era - Turkish Delight. It's one of those foods I find people either love or they hate, and sadly it seems more people dislike it then do enjoy these morsels.

I remember reading as a child, the classic book the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. In it Edmund succumbed to the White Queen's temptation of Turkish delight, and I wondered what it must take like. Later I found I had actually been eating it already in the form of the chocolate bar Big Turk. Somehow I didn't make the connection until I was older.
As an adult I discovered at a local candy store that carries imported and specialty candy, the traditional variety that is just jelly with corn starch around the individual pieces. I also found Fry's turkish delight, which I think is my favorite so far(thank you Sugar Mountain). Whenever I go to this store I always walk out with my Victorian era favorite.

Turkish Delight goes back to the 15th century where it originated in the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century a British business man brought some back to England where it was first marketed as Lumps of Delight (mmm..that's appetizing). Some even claimed it was a treatment for diarrhea. Lol. (you gotta love Victorian era treatments for illness - alcohol, morphine, and candy).

I Have to say I only eat these morsels of delight for enjoyment. And I recently learnt that there are actually other flavors! I was mentioning to a friend that I was planning to go to Harrod's on my upcoming trip to London. She told me that they have the best Turkish delight including other flavors such as lemon! What? Other flavors! Now I really have to go.

What are your thoughts on these lumps of delight? Love it? Hate it? Let me know.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Calling Cards

Today I'd like to talk about the Victorian custom of the calling card. This custom started in France in the early 1700s with merchants and tradespeople using them for business purposes. It then made its way into social customs as a way to formally introduce ones self to others. It spread from France, throughout Europe, and then into England and North America. During the 1800s it continued to gain popularity, and reached it's height during the later part of the Victorian era.

Calling cards started out being simple monograms handwritten by calligraphers, but as the 1800s progressed, the cards became more and more fancy. The Victorians added embellishment like elaborate fringed and scalloped edges, intricate borders, and layers that you could lift to reveal the callers name or a picture beneath.

There were also gelatin cards, transparent cards, and in the late 1800s photographic cards. Generally the more elaborate and expensive the card, the higher the person's social status.
A caller would deliver the card, when calling on another person, or get a servant to deliver it, leaving it on the calling card tray in the front entrance. The trays could be as just as elaborate as the cards. Wealthier households would use silver trays, and poorer ones would sometimes just have a china dish.

There was elaborate etiquette surrounding calling card customs. One would fold the top left corner if they sent it with a servant, the bottom left to say farewell, the top right to express congratulations and the bottom right to express condolences. Even the colors of borders could deliver a message, such as black borders which showed that you were in mourning for a close family member.
As they became more popular, many calling cards were mass produced. These cards, called common cards, made this social custom more accessible to the masses. People even collected the cards and put them in special scrap books.

In a way I wish this was still going on (I guess it is in the form of business cards, but let's face it, that's not as fun). It would be kind of neat to collect cards from friends, especially if people designed them to express their personalities. I think I am going to design my own and give them to friends anyway.

On another note, I saw some really cute card cases on Etsy. I am enjoying these two.

If you had a calling card, what would it look like?

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steampunk Music part 1

Steampunk music is a genre that is still in many ways defining itself. There aren't a lot of artists out there I would categorize under this term at the moment, but there are some I definitely enjoy, and hope there will be more. So what is Steampunk music? There is a fair amount of debate about this. But like the aesthetic style, I would say a commonality is that they combine traditional instruments, (ie. stringed instruments, like violin and cello), with contemporary elements (like industrial dance). Some artists lean more towards the industrial end and some more towards the traditional end.

One of my favorite Steampunk bands is Abney Park from Seattle, Washington. I think they are probably the best known Steampunk band and are helping to define the emerging genre.
They formed in 1997 as an industrial/gothic band and released six albums in this musical style. In 2006 they underwent line up changes, and re-emerged with in their current Steampunk style.

They wrote a fictional bio to explain the transformation of their band, a story in which they are pirates from an airship named Ophelia. They use this fictional account as the basis for the lyrics in there work. In this new form, they have released three albums - Lost Horizons in 2008, Aether Shanties in 2009, and End of Days in 2010.
While I'm not a big fan of the pirate references, I do enjoy the music itself. I would encourage anyone with an interest in Steanpunk to check them

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Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm beginning to think I could really use a parasol. I'm very fair and burn super easily, and while I wear sunscreen religiously, I think a parasol would only help me, especially as we are now getting towards the sunnier part of the year.

It's too bad they went out of fashion in the 1920's, when tanning became all the rage. While parasols have been around in various forms for centuries, they became a popular fashion item for well to do ladies in the early 19th century. At first the ribs were made from whale bone (poor whales), :(. Then in the 1840s they started making them from steel, which also made them easier to mass produce. They were a staple item for ladies of leisure, to keep their pallor, as tanning was for people that actually had to work.

While most might consider them impractical these days, I am all for them. First there's the aforementioned benefit of keeping the sun away. Not because I want to look like I am pampered and lazy, but because I'd rather avoid sun damage to the skin. Sunburns are not fun!
Secondly, I think they are amazingly beautiful and unique items. There are so many styles from pretty delicate oriental designs to basic black, to ones edged with lace and faux fur. I personally hope to find one just for me on my visit to London next month.
Let mission parasol begin! :)

This parasol I think is impractical but lovely.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

After Dark

Last night I checked out the new and improved After Dark night at Ozzy's. It's the weekly goth bar night in Winnipeg, held on Saturdays at the Osborne Village inn. While I know this isn't strictly neo-victorian, the night is very steampunk/Neo-Victorian friendly so it's worth a write up.
I've seen a few different incarnations of this night in my time, from Wellington's, to Die Machine, to Monty's and now Ozzy's. I have to say that I think this is my favorite incarnation so far. While I have fond memories of all of these nights, I think this is the best mix of location, music and ambience, so far.
The new DJs I thought picked an excellent mix of music, from old school to current. And they were taking requests, which I think made it very welcoming to everyone. :)
I also loved the nice touch of candles and roses on the tables. Very cool. I hope they keep it up.
I have to say I like the location of Osborne Village as it's close to home, and I love the area, there's lots of great stores and restaurants. It's also super easy to get a cab ride home as there's almost always a taxi waiting out front.
I know I'll be making this night a part of my regular social schedule.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011


I've been inspired to revamp my blog recently. I've changed up the look and the title to better reflect the bent that it has been heading in recently. I'm finding that I'm getting into the Neo-Victorian/steampunk aesthetic more, and I thought the blog could use a focus, rather than my random ramblings.
I also have been inspired by a blog that my amazing friend Chloe turned me on to (thanks girl). It's called the Ultimate Goth Guide, it's listed under the blogs I follow, so check it out. I admire the author for her commitment to daily posts on all things goth. Her writing is well thought out and informative. Definitely an inspiration! Right now my goal is weekly posts, never mind daily. :)

This week I checked out a relatively newer store in Osborne Village called Hungover Empire. I have felt a sad void in my shopping life since the Crypt closed and was hoping to find something that might help fill it. The store is smaller than the Crypt and has more of a focus on vintage wear. It does have a selection of rockabilly, and some goth wear and I did see some pretty cool goggles, and clothes that could fit into a steampunk style. I also saw a couple of skirts I really liked, and will have to go back again to see what else I can find, as it was just a quick visit. They actually had a flash sale today - 2 for one, for an hour, which I sadly missed. I think it's a great idea and I hope they do it again. I found the service to be friendly and am very glad to see a store again for the alternative scene in Winnipeg.

Please let me know what you think of the look for the new site, and of any suggestions for topics.

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