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.

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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.

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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!

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.

 

One Lump Or Two

My conglomeration of linens, crockery, cutlery and glassware for any attempt to recreate what dropping in on someone for a cup of tea meant, is quite limiting, but perhaps there’s enough to take your mind back or show what it was like before mugs. Tea was the British drink, anytime or all the time, the kettle was kept on the boil, in case visitors dropped in.

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There was an art to making a cup of tea, between what we were taught at school and at home. It was important enough to take up a whole period of cookery lessons at school. For a start tea did not come in little teabags. In the average household, a packet of tea from the grocers was emptied into a tea caddy. The teapot was warmed first, it was unforgivable to even think about making tea in a cold pot so it was swirled round with boiling water out of the kettle first and discarded. A spoonful (or spoonfuls) of tea was put in the pot depending on how many it would be serving, the spoon for the tea I have is round and fairly flat. The pot filled with boiling water. It did have to be boiling to make a good cup of tea then it was left by the fire to brew. Traditionally milk goes in the cup first, it was a cup and saucer, not a mug and the tea poured through a strainer to reduce the number of tea leaves finding their way into the tea. Sugar added to taste and the tea elegantly sipped. The cups were usually small so you kept your guest happy by refilling the cup with fresh tea.

A neighbour or a close friend didn’t get such elegant treatment, that was meant for real visitors. Seldom would anyone leave without at least a cup of tea.  Those worthy of having the best china displayed were also spoiled a little bit more with the use of fancy table covers and a ‘properly’ set table, whether it was a small side table or the dining table.

tea-settable I have only three cups and saucers left from my grandma’s wedding china and no plates but with the plate there would have been a small serviette and a tea knife. Sugar if it was served as cubes, would have the sugar tongs or if it was during the war and sugar was rationed, then saccharines would have been put down in small dishes, accompanied by a tiny spoon, (as seen in the centre of the photo). Butter either curled or cut into small cubes, both methods were preferable. A nice touch to a tea table would be flowers.

There would be no need for butter and jam if only cakes and biscuits were being served but pancakes (dropped scones, Scotch pancakes) were quick to make and absolutely delicious straight off the girdle. There was a lot more home baking in the days of my parents and grandparents. There was no need to add artificial smells to your home when home baking and cooking were on the go!

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Known as a girdle in Scotland, most will know it better as a griddle

Being a good hostess wasn’t as easy as it is now, there were no dishwashers, if there were, I doubt there would still be patterns on the dishes now. Cutlery, even EPNS still needed to be polished regularly as it all tarnished fairly quickly. You did that rather than being thought shameful at not being a good housekeeper. Women were proud to be housewives, even more so if they had the opportunity to show off their baking skills but it was also important to have a ‘nice table’.

I would very much like to host a ‘proper’ afternoon tea but my baking skills need to be polished up first. As for tea, although I don’t drink it, I do have a selection of loose leaf teas and no teabags. My tea drinking family assure me they are much better than teabags and don’t need milk or sugar to disguise the bitterness you get from everyday teas.

Tea actually doesn’t get much mention as being beneficial but it is, it’s a powerhouse of benefits. It’s antioxidants could help prevent a lot of serious illnesses, it may not be a miracle cure for any ailments but it’s usually what you reach for if you are tired, thirsty, needing energy restored and seems to offer some cosy comfort if your spirits are lagging a little. Perhaps that’s why it’s termed ‘The cup that cheers’.

 

Washday Blues


Washing day before the advent of electric washing machines was very much a manual task, and for some would mean filling a huge built-in tub (also known as a copper) in the wash house with pails and pails of water, a fire lit under it to provide ample hot water for a family wash. It didn’t quite start there though, whilst the water was heating, most of the washing had to be pretreated as part of the laundry routine. Whites were left in the sink with bleach to whiten. Before they were added to the main wash handkerchiefs were soaked in borax which was a necessary step, especially during nose blowing seasons! 

Another aid to whiten clothes was the use of ‘blue’, Drummer Boy and Reckett provided blue tablets to mix with water to dip whites in to brighten them, many laundry powders still have blue specks througz-reckitts-blueh them for the same purpose although they say it’s their powder which washes cleaner it isn’t, it’s the blue specks which give the impression of brighter whites, an old trick grannies knew about long ago. Blue has been used for centuries to whiten yellowing cottons. Originally made from ground up lapiz lazuli, making it the most expensive pigment available. Now it’s a mix of synthetic blue and bicarbonate of soda. Cottons and linens also had to be starched, not only did it stiffen the fabric, it made it easier to iron and it stayed cleaner longer.

Wise grannies left bleaching whites to the sun, soaking wet whites hung up, laid out on the grass or hung over hedges until they dried, then repeated the wetting and laying out to dry. The sun is not only the best whitening agent, it’s the best disinfectant as well. Don’t believe the manufacturers of laundry aids about how they have improved washing clothes, the sun was doing that long before they were.

 

 

 

 

The Warring World

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One of my interests is family history, however my maternal family have proved fairly difficult to follow. My great, great grandparents came over from Ireland in the early 1800s and I know nothing about their lives before they came here. Their family had a hard life, worked in the coal mines and were no strangers to poverty or ill health. Bronchitis and mining accidents were responsible for the demise of several of them. 

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I have a wooden ornament, a hand holding a ball which my mother said came from my grandfather. Soldiers made things like that with whatever material they could get to pass the time, and he had brought it home for the children.

This Little Light Of Mine

I would describe my home as ‘hand knitted’. I have no time for the current trend of changing home décor according to current fashion. My home is my home, functional, comfortable but would never get an award for interior design. Everything, or almost everything has a story behind it. In fact it would be a nightmare for any Interior Designer, however no stranger will be allowed to advise me on how I should live with their choice of décor. It’s like my garden, ‘uniquely designed’. I am surrounded with things that mean something, the stories behind a gift rather than the object itself.

I don’t live in the past at all but we live in a ‘throw-away’ society. I see pages of house magazines with houses, perfectly suited to be a photo in an Interior Design magazine, they are beautiful houses if that’s what you want to live in but there is seldom any sign of living or life in them. How many people redecorate for each season. The colours promoted by the house magazines’ last season as the current trend, have now been decided to be old-fashioned and jaded this season. At the rate they expect people to redecorate their homes, they would have painters and decorators living permanently with them. To me that is a show house, not a home however everyone’s taste is different.

I like trying out different crafts although I don’t do much now, I did like to experiment with ideas. When younger, I needed a bedroom lamp, probably when I was going through a girlie notion of floral pinks and greens. I needed a nicely shaped bottle and luckily my father’s boss was the best person to supply that need. Being fond of a wee dram, it was a chobottle-sketchice gift from friends and family, so I was given a very nicely shaped whisky bottle (minus it’s contents of course). Dad drilled a hole near the base and I managed to get white paint to stick to the inside.

This time it was craft from my paternal side that came to the fore, when my father told me my grandmother made a paint with sealing wax and mentholated spirits which would stick to glass more or less forever.  

At that time sealing wax was available in larger stationery supply shops in a variety of colours. It was then ground up as much as I could and put into small glass bottles (old aspirin bottles were ideal) with some mentholdrum-shadeated spirits and left to melt. It took a long time. In the meantime, I bought a drum lampshade frame, covered the frame with bias binding and stitched white silky fabric round it, pleating it as I went along. Lined it and then added four pink satin sections, each drawn in at the centre and finished off with a flower I made from gold-coloured wire and dyed nylon stockings.

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When the sealing wax was liquid enough, I painted a floral pattern on the front panel of the bottle. I had my bedroom lamp.