Monday, September 26, 2011


It's been a bit slow around here the past couple of weeks due to the lengthy process of moving my family.  I hope to resume more regular posting the second week in October.

I hope you are enjoying Growing Up Medieval so far!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

authenticity for parents : passing on interests

In medieval society people were born into their trades.  Dad John was a wheelwright so Son William was a wheelwright.  Part of the evolution into modern society brought an end to the strict adherence of this principle, so it may be difficult for some modern parents to understand how to take advantage of this in the recreation we do with our children.
Some of us have, in modern terms, very unusual hobbies that we practice specifically because of our involvement in a recreation group.  Given the total number of people you know at any level, how many of them would honestly like and enjoy taking up pewter casting?  How about making 16th century ruffle collars?  Let's face it- the hobbies we spend our time on are not your typical hobbies.  Yet they are great tools for expanding your child's horizons.

Now, I'm not saying that you should teach your children your hobbies and that will be that.  Far from it.  If they happen to really enjoy doing that particular craft, great.  If not, let it go.  The real priority here is to teach it to them so that, when they are adults they not only have an appreciation for the craftsmanship and beauty of medieval culture, they have a very real understanding of it.

Start young on this- pre-schoolers are infinitely fascinated by new things- but try to match the level of skill needed for success to the attention span of the child.  Most of the hobbies we do will require at least a grade-school level attention, but start your youngster off by constantly involving them (Anna, can you hand me that skein of wool?), reeling them in (Phillip, do you want to see how I can turn this piece of metal bright red?), and teaching them what you can in little bursts (Hey, Rachael, if I show you how to do a running stitch, do you think you could sew the hem of your dress?)

And, of course, encourage your child to excel at whatever craft he or she chooses to focus on.  If they decide to take on a different hobby than those you know, provide them with plenty of opportunities to teach you, so they feel that you are engaged.  If they would like to pursue a hobby that is more expensive (and you feel they are able to realistically take it on) work out a deal with them, just as you would in the modern world, to use chore money to pay for materials.

The hardest part, I think you'll find, is not passing on the "too many projects at the same time" trait that we have as adults.  Let's be realistic with ourselves, though, and realize that, in a hobby with so many hobbies included, that's a trait worth having.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

merry market : wooden chess set

Chess Set from Playing Mantis
A hand-carved wooden chess set with plenty of character would make a nice gift for your period-gaming child.  This set in particular is quite a piece of art, but maybe you and your child could design and make one together with this as inspiration!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

kids cookery : applesauce

Applesauce in period was typically served as a sauce for meat dishes, and resembled the apple puree we all know today only very remotely.  Medieval recipes for "appulmose" include such ingredients as beef broth, egg yolk, and fresh cream.  I'm not sure you could get such a concoction past your own nose these days, let alone your child's!

Omitting the unusual extras, and sticking with a recipe like what your grandmother would have made isn't a horrible departure from period applesauce.  Sugar and cinnamon, which bring out the best in apples, are period ingredients (even if not exactly the same as they are now).  In addition, even if a modern applesauce isn't entirely period, it keeps well in the fridge for a day or so, can be served warm or cool, and is kid-friendly.  Your child can even help you make it, and imagine their glee when a nice bowl of their applesauce appears on the lunch table at the next event!

The apples you chose will greatly determine taste; Gala, McIntosh and Golden Delicious are all good choices.

To make a rustic applesauce for 4, you'll need:
  • 4 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or more to taste
In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.  Serve forth!
Recipe from 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

modern medieval family : eco-medieval

I'm officially coining a new term: eco-medieval.

What does it mean?  Consider for a moment the materials, methods and manufacturing we strive to include in our recreation kits.  Authenticity, in terms of medieval recreation, is achieved through using period practices and supplies to take the place of our modern conveniences.  Instead of backpacks, we carry baskets.  Instead of denim, we wear linen.  Instead of lawn chairs, ours are made of wood.  And as much as possible, we like these things to be handmade.

In the modern world, this same underlying principle is at the heart of the "green" movement.  A return to using non-synthetic materials, and a preference for things that are hand-crafted.  The eco-friendly family is one that leverages the power of natural resources and human ingenuity to create a healthy environment around themselves.  "Natural resources and human ingenuity."  Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the medieval world?

Eco-medieval, therefore, is a way for the modern medieval family to balance mundane eco-living with period authenticity.  Simply put, living an eco-medieval lifestyle is realizing that our love of authentic medieval supplies- those things we cherish in our kits that make us feel closer to living "the Dream"- doesn't have to check out when we leave an event.  Many of those items can find homes in our mundane lives.  Also, many of the concepts behind those things we love can carry over into the mundane world, finding new, modern avenues.

An example?  My garb is made up almost exclusively of linen and wool cloth.  These materials aren't hard to come by, but they can be costly.  The price is worth it to me, though, because of the authenticity these materials add to my garb and my persona.  Doesn't it make sense, then, that I should look for natural materials in my modern clothing as well?  If I can appreciate fine materials in the medieval sense, I can also appreciate them in the modern sense.  Price is still an issue, but if I'm committed to the eco-medieval idea, then the same rule applies to modern clothing that does to my garb- it's worth it it I feel more enriched and "authentic" by wearing it in the real world.

In addition to finding ways to support "authenticity" in the modern world through the green ideal, it's also a valuable tool for helping children see the modern world through medieval eyes.  And it can only help support their interest in recreation society when they see the history behind a modern desire for handcrafted, natural goods.  Seek out parallels in furniture making then and now, or cooking, or art-making.  Showing them that the medieval ideal is still alive and well in the eco movement gives the educational aspects of our hobby more bearing.

Another way that an eco-medieval attitude between event life and the real world can help children is that it can encourage the value of stewardship by providing a venue for hands-on, eco-inspired learning.  It may be difficult for your wee one to understand how wind energy works by not straining natural resources.  Yet, doesn't shearing sheep and processing wool into yarn to weave into cloth teach the same lesson in a more hands-on, albeit round-about way?  Likewise, they may not grasp that modern packaged foods use chemicals and substances that aren't good for us, but they will jump at the opportunity to grow their own vegetables and learn to make dishes from scratch with them.  Our hobby provides hundreds of chances to teach green lessons in the guise of period authenticity.

Instilling the eco-medieval idea in our children is also the perfect way to teach them about craftsmanship and taking pride in the hard work they do, both at events and at home.  Children who understand the principles behind authentic work in the period context can take that concept with them through life.