Bring Home The Bread

Almost the whole of the UK has had varying amounts of snow, some areas worse than others. It meant shops were getting empty due to both panic-buying and stock deliveries not getting through. In our modern times, we have freezers, long-life cartons as well as the canned and dried products, yet we see frenzied shopping for bread which doesn’t really contain the nutrients needed for survival.recipe-image-legacy-id--2056_12

On the home side, my grandmother’s era not only churned their own butter, but without a fridge, it was kept in a bowl of water to keep it fresher longer.

Milk still had cream on top so that could be used for making butter, cheese or adding to desserts. Milk could be pasturised at home just by heating it to simmering point and letting it cool for a longer lasting milk. Bread was often made by local home bakers and had flavour which is missing from the mass-produced cotton wool bread.

We used to save all our sour milk to go in the scones (soda farls) but with the current pasturised and homogenised milk, all the live bacteria gets killed off and that’s what’s needed, so the best alternative is live yoghurt for a light, fluffy result.

I have a tendency of buying organically when possible and it’s the same with flour, I will buy it straight from the mill if I can. Not so long ago I saw large cartons of organic double cream reduced due to it being near the sell-by date. I bought some, made butter with it and when I made some oven scones, I could sit back and enjoy the home-made scones, home churned butter and home-made jam. Butter is easy to make, I put cream into a Kenwood mixer until it separates. Even the remaining whey can be used in baking but the butter needs to be washed, it’s the whey remaining in it which turns butter rancid. It probably was all done just as quickly as it would have taken to go to the supermarket to buy manufactured products but I had a smug contentment knowing what was in everything as well as every morsel being a tasty bite.

I do take shortcuts, I have made bread the way it should be made but I found it laborious and time-consuming so I succumbed to getting a bread maker. It’s not in use often but with the simple ingredients of flour, yeast, water, dried milk and oil, it’s easy to quickly add the ingredients to let the machine do all the work. So not only do I have an easy way of making bread, having a supply of dried milk is handy if the fresh milk runs out. Of course Irish soda bread is even easier, it doesn’t even need yeast and is absolutely delicious.

There are essentials we do need shops and supermarkets for but I won’t be queuing for bread or milk.


Stay A Little Longer

There are never many new programmes on television, plenty of reruns though. Perhaps the lack of imagination and wit of the older writers, but we seem to be stuck either in ‘Big Brother’s House’ or somewhere in a jungle. I am not a fan of reality programmes in the least, but some of the reruns from another era are interesting in comparing the way we lived, and seeing the changing world of fashion.

Floral dungarees are just as much in fashion now as they were 70 years’ ago, with a few minor changes of course. I doubt however, the fashion from the period dramas are likely to be repeated.

In the world of clothing, the corset, ‘stays’ as they were originally known, have been around from the middle ages. Worn by both men and women to change the shapes of their torsos. Until the whaling industry brought in whalebone, bodices had been laced and stiffened with paste to smooth the female figure. The ‘whalebone’ is actually a keratinous material found in the upper jawbones of whales and was used to filter plankton. It’s a flexible material as well as robust and was cut into strips to be inserts into linings of outer garments.

It was during the 17th century, that stays were used as undergarments which moulded corset thinthe figure into a conical or ‘V’ shape. During the 1800s, the ‘stays’ became corsets when the hour-glass figure was very much fashionable and a necessity for social stancorset,,mending. It did have some pitfalls though, the small waist which was desirable at the time reduced the human torso to as little as a 16 inch waistline, causing breathing problems and was no doubt the reason for the need to carry smelling salts, to relieve the feelings of faintness.

corset full

The corset never died out, although becoming less of a fashion undergarment and more of a surgical appliance. It was still used to shape the body and reduce bulges but it also became a support to prevent backache.rollon

The roll-on girdle was liberating from laces, hooks and buckles and general ironmongery involved in getting the right shape and control, but until tights came on the scene, suspenders were still necessary to keep stockings up.

I was considered to be an ideal size for my height and taking a size 12 (UK), I thought I was too thin and wanted to put weight on! Perhaps due to fashion magazines which promote very small sizes, the shapelier female figure was replaced by a thin, shapeless, boyish figure with common sizes being as small as size six or eight (UK). With no shape to control, gradually fashion became less restrictive, it could be the hippy era which appreciated comfort, leaving the corset fashion to Burlesque, Goths and as an outer garment once again.

Let It Snow

There are some years we get off lightly with snow. If we have it one day, it can be almost gone the next. What a difference from my memory of the past of it. Snow meant building snowmen, throwing snowballs and making slides. Slides were lengths of well-polished snow and the more you slid on them, the more the compacted snow had turned to ice until it was a very fast run. A bit like skiing without skis. The school playground was covered in slides of various lengths, depending on how hesitant or brave you were.

Usually by the time we got into classroom, we tried to get mittens, scarves and hats on the radiators. Hands were very painful with the cold and worse when they started to heat up. That didn’t matter in the least because as soon as the pain was gone, we were ready to go back out. It was easier at home though, there would have been some dry clothes to change into and the wet ones put in front of the fire to dry.

My early recollection of heavy snow was opening the back door and being faced with a wall of snow three to four feet deep. My mother was there with the shovel, shifting the snow to make a path outside and even then she would find time to show me how to build a snowman. Over the years the weather seems to have changed quite a bit and there has been less snow or it doesn’t lie for any length of time so today’s children miss out on a lot of fun. It was ‘children playing’ kind of fun, nothing organised for them. We weren’t allowed to throw stones but you could throw snowballs and that seemed to satisfy the rebellion in you without doing any damage other than to leave your hands cold and wet.

It was not a time to rebel at school, it was still the time of the ‘tawse’, the thick leather strap wielded by teachers to the hands of any errant child and if your icy, painful hands were the recipients of the tawse, the stinging result was sure to bring on floods of tears. getting the tawse

We live in a valley so on the rare occasions it does snow, there are plenty of favourite places to go with your sledge. You don’t need a steep hill, sledges are often plastic now and light so can travel fast without having to haul a heavy sledge back up the hill. You seldom see a child looking unhappy when playing in the snow. You just need to Google a few images to see the reaction is the same in every country.

The Time Warp

I have an interest in local history as well as family history and when our local family history society decided to celebrate their 20th anniversary by holding a history fair, I was asked to take a stand at it. Me, because my interest in family history overlaps local history with a small, partly ruined kirk which has it’s own burial ground. To any budding genealogist, it is a little gem, a mine of information on the departed local residents but also giving an insight into social history.340 256 018 032

Since the kirk dates back to 1198 there is a lot to talk about from then until the present day. We are not without myths, legends and ghosts. Not that we are aware of many but some visitors have relayed their own paranormal experiences. We must be the only ancient monument to have a ghost walk without any ghosts but it was well organised and a huge success just proving you don’t need ghosts, to be afraid of the dark!

We’ve also held a Mediaeval Fayre which was a lot of fun. We had to compromise a little bit with venison sausages replacing the spit roasted deer but nobody seemed to mind. Burial grounds at one time were the hub of the community where fairs, weaponry practice and other celebrations were held.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As churchyards became overcrowded, cemeteries were developed. They were places you could stroll in, relax and enjoy the gardens. It is possible to enjoy life without disrespecting the dead.

The local family history event I attended recently was like walking into a time warp. The display of memorabilia on display on the tables next to the stand I was at, placed me firmly in the middle of one of my blogs!

How Clean Is Your House?

Some years ago, I became a member of a local gym. I felt that sitting in an office for long periods would speed up stiffening of joints as I raced towards retirement age. My idea of going to the gym was purely for exercise, and to lose weight or alter my shape would be a total waste of time unless I was prepared to stick to a rigid diet as well. At first I joined a private health club and paid my annual fee, thinking that it was the cheaper option than a monthly membership. It was a lovely club, quite luxurious although also small and friendly. I used to welcome my short spell on the exercise machines followed by relaxing in the jacuzzi. You felt good after the visit. Looking forward to going home from work and to a dinner of meat and two veg. but on coming out, all you wanted was a nice fresh salad. Unfortunately, I had a minor car accident resulting in a whiplash injury, so my membership came to an abrupt halt.

I always felt more comfortable in joggers and tee shirt and some others obviously felt the same. Although the local, popular gym in town was somewhat different, all lycra and make-up with the would-be Adonises competing to be Mr Universe.

Years ago, gyms were more associated with sports training. With less gadgets in the house, housework was the only exercise you needed. No fitted carpets, so whatever was on the floor had to be cleaned. Scrubbed with soap and water or if you had linoleum (no vinyl then), it had also to polished. Can you believe people pay for the same exercises we did at home for nothing and had the satisfaction of having a clean house as well?

Fitted carpets are notoriously unhygienic but we will tolerate living with the dust, grit and these monsters just for comfort.

The floors would have been covered by rugs, perhaps even one large rug, leaving a varnished wood surround or a linoleum covered one. The rugs were taken out regularly, thrown over a rope or fence and beaten well to get rid of accumulated dust and bugs.carpet-beatersIt’s still reckoned to be the best way to clean rugs, especially handmade or antique ones.

I wonder if anyone realises what modern life is doing to us?

A Little Puff Of Smoke

I found it strange that out of all of his family, only my father and one uncle smoked. My father must have started as a young man but any objections I had to living in a smoke-filled house were met by my mother’s defence of ‘it’s his only pleasure’. That was a really sad statement in my mind.

Dad did have hobbies as a young man, he fished, tied his own flies and had a motor bike and ultimately, a car. Being brought up in a corn milling family, he didn’t have much time for anything else. He started off work in the outside world as an engineer though it was some time after that, he met and married my mother. He had long hours at his work and any spare time he had after that was spent decorating their first home and making furniture for it. Although it was the habit for the family to donate furniture to young married couples, they didn’t always get all they needed. The first piece of furniture my father made was a wooden trolley. I still have it. He also made a sideboard which had added handmade inlaid handles to doors and drawers. The house we lived in was a small terraced cottage and beyond the kitchen, he had a workshop. He started making pokers with decorative, multicoloured handles made of different coloured layers of some sort of plastic which fitted in well with the contemporary colourful decor of the period.capstan

There was nothing my father couldn’t do but I can still see him, whatever he was doing, he had a cigarette. He smoked 20 Capstan Navy Cut cigarettes a day, so it was probably modest compared with some. If he had to nip the cigarette out, it wasn’t thrown away, it was put in his pocket until he had time to smoke it again. Sometimes they were forgotten about and if he ran out of cigarettes, he could rummage through his pockets for the ‘dowts’ (cigarette butts). At that time there were no filters on the cigarettes he smoked.

One of my maternal aunts and some of her family smoked Senior Service. These pasenior-serviceckets were quite decorative and a new craft became popular, sometimes known as ‘prison craft’, it was something prison inmates could keep themselves busy with and they created picture frames and other items out of many cigarette packets. Because of the logo of the front of the packets, they provided an interesting form of art work.

I think now, considering how skilful and how capable my father was to provide us with our home, smoking was his own leisure time and would have been ‘the only pleasure’ in that respect. As work became easier and he did get more time, he added reading to that. I think that is why the smell of engines and tobacco are the ones which remind me mostly of my dad.


Festive Season Reflections

Christmas and New Year is a time of reflection, perhaps the festivities surrounding it make missing loved ones a bit more intense. You can’t help wondering what it would be like to celebrate one more Christmas or New Year with them, losing someone at this time is the most difficult to cope with.

In my family, the loss of my younger sister at the age of four, has given me a lot to think about throughout the years. I can’t help wondering what it would have been like to grow up with a sister.

My mother died suddenly just 11 days after we had been out for a New Year dinner at one of the local restaurants and my father died ten years’ later in November, Christmas has never been the same.        unborn-child

My daughter died at birth and although her twin sister survived, and she has been a fantastic daughter, there is bitter sweetness in being thankful for her and at the same time remembering the loss, that part never goes away for a parent to lose a child.

In my grandfather’s time, death was very formal, the deceased had to be attended to, mainly in the home, funeral cards were sent out and you knew what the envelope contained if you received one, it was edged in black. It was almost always a burial for like funeral parlours, crematoriums were few and far between. A service in the house was followed by a cortége to the burial ground, mainly attended by men, often formally dressed in black and possibly wearing top hats. After the service, it was back to the house for a glass of whisky for the men, sherry for the ladies. Burial grounds are notoriously cold and the mourners needed something to warm them on return.


One of the pieces of jewellery I have is a gold ring belonging to my grandmother, a hair ring or mourning ring. Though the hair is long gone now, it was popular as a remembrance of someone close. A length of hair was taken from the cadaver, plaited and put in a specially made ring. Over the years, the hair was damaged and finally taken out.

I thought initially that this was quite a macabre practice, then realised I have a lock of my hair in a Bible, happy in the fact, for the time being at least it’s not a mourning relic.

Even more macabre are the postmortem memorial cards, when the deceased was posed, sometimes as if being alive, to have a photograph taken.

Perhaps it’s best just to remember people as the were in life rather than in death, that way, they remain with us in our celebrations.

When Santa Calls

Our Christmases were quite low key, and definitely for the children. We didn’t get a fraction of what today’s children get but we were more than happy with it. We had a nice dinner although nothing like the big razzmatazz of today.

The house would be decorated with paper chains and honeycomb bells and balls and there would be tinsel and glass baubles for the tree. The tinsel I remember was quite scraggy in comparison to the thick fluffiness of now. The tree was real, and you couldn’t beat the lovely smell of pine which added to the Christmassy excitement.

We always hung up our stocking, or at least one of dad’s socks, it was bigger. In the morning it was filled with a tangerine, an apple, some sweets  and perhaps coloured pencils or similar. We usually got a bigger gift of a toy, some smaller toys and lots of books and annuals. I seldom got up before at least one annual had been read from cover to cover.


Christmas was a family day, we visited relatives, exchanged gifts and we could play with our cousin’s new toys and games. It was a lovely day.

It’s sad that commercialism has taken over, the Christmas bells are being replaced now by the sound of till bells ringing in the shops. It’s not what Christmas is meant to be. First we have the nativity, celebrating the birth of Jesus. Then we have Santa Claus – you may wonder where he fits into the scheme of things.

Saint Nicholas came from the Mediterranean area, he is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, students and repentant thieves. You would think that would be enough to keep him busy, but he was a kindly bishop and was reputed to give gifts secretly, and often slipped a coin into a child’s shoe. Known in some places as Father Christmas but he had many other names depending on the country. If you want to know more about the real Santa Claus, a visit to his website is quite enlightening. St. Nicholas Center

Perhaps we should think about Christmas and it’s true meaning and not so much spending money on gifts that often are excess to requirnativity-scene-7ements, or over-indulging children whose lives are already overburdened with parents and grandparents competing to see who can give the most. The usual excuse there is because they want to see their faces when they give them too much. That’s not giving the child a gift, that’s self-indulgence.

Think how many homeless people could be fed if all the money for excess gifts giving was given towards some real need. Remember St. Nicholas is reputed to have only slipped a coin in a shoe, he didn’t have a credit card to run-up debt.

Perhaps it would be nice to turn the clocks back and make Christmas a family day and remember the ‘reason for the season’. It’s not Happy Holidays, it’s Happy Christmas.


What’s In An Ad?

Certain memories stand out of my grandparents and the differences in what hung on the walls of botmaph maternal and paternal grandparents. I don’t actually remember photos or pictures on the walls of my paternal grandparent’s home, there was a very large map, which probably came from a school as my grandpa’s nephew was a school headmaster.strop

There was a barometer and beside the fireplace was a leather strop, which my grandpa used to hone his cut-throat razor. Perhaps their walls weren’t interesting enough for me to remember.

My maternal granny had a large framed picture of Pear’s Soap advert, I always thought it was really nice.pears-soap-picture In the kitchen there was another framed advert for Fry’s Five Boys chocolate, showing all their moods.five-boys

The kitchen wall was also home to a framed copy of the Minnie Louise Haskins’ poem, originally titled as “God Knows” but is known better as “The Gate Of The Year”. The poem became popular in 1939 when King George VI quoted in his Christmas broadcast to the British Empire

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

I have always remembered those words, they were committed to memory a long time ago from a framed print of the speech. 

The one thing made me curious though was a tin brewery tray of the Scottish brewers, Wm. Younger & Co. Ltd., as granny was a devout Christian and didn’t approve of strong drink, I never knew where it had come from. Although one answer could be, alcohol applied in correct dosage, could also be medicinal. Whisky could be used as an antiseptic, an ease for toothache and stout was an excellent tonic long before antibiotics.


Afternoon Teas

It is nice to see the Victorian afternoon teas making a comeback. It’s disappointing though to see commercial companies offer afternoon teas wwaitresshich are nothing like the elegant teatimes of the past. Cakes and other dainties are served but there’s no crisp cotton tablecloth on the table, no dainty china cups and no real tea, only teabags. There does seem to be a difference on how you feel, depending on the type of afternoon tea you are attending. Add all the frills and fancies, linen serviettes instead of paper, patterned china instead of the standard hotel earthenware cups. Scones served with curls of butter and jam in proper jam dishes instead of prepacked portions. All that transports you to a genteel era, housemaids with black dresses and white aprons and caps serving dainty sandwiches and cakes on a tray. Also tea served from a teapot, kept warm under a tea cosy. Though a dedicated coffee drinker, I have a selection of proper leaf teas for the guest to chose from and not a teabag in sight.

I do wish I had paid attention to both my granny’s and mumtea-settable‘s baking though. Granny’s scones were second to none and none of the ingredients were weighed. Handful, pinch and spoonful were the measurements instead of pounds and ounces. When the milk was sold in glass bottles and cream would still rise to the surface, the short life without the fridge didn’t mean sour milk was wasted, we kept it all for granny to use in her scones. No science degree to tell you sour milk makes the scones light, I use active yogurt instead to replace the ‘live’ bacteria milk processing takes away.

Having inherited a number of recipe books, handwritten by my mother and both grandmothers, it’s quite comforting to see the titles such a “Mrs Hamilton’s Fruit Cake”, or “Sadie’s Chocolate Cake”, let your imagination loose and not only do you see these people in your mind’s eye, but you can almost smell the baking as well.

Many years ago, I bought an S.W.R.I. (Scottish Women’s Rural Institute) cookery book. Some of the recipes date back generations and one such recipe from the book, I will share:-

Hatted Kit (A very old Highland dish)

Warm slightly over the fire 2 pints of buttermilk. Pour it into a dish and carry it to the side of a cow. Milk into it about 1 pint of milk, having previously put into the dish sufficient rennet for the whole. After allowing it to stand for a while, lift the curd, place it on a sieve, and press the whey through until the curd is quite stiff. Season with sugar and nutmeg before serving, whip some thick cream, season it also with a little grated nutmeg and sugar and mix gently with the curd. This dish can quite well be made without milking the cow into it., although the contributor’s mother always considered that direct milking put a better hat on the kit.”