Monday 31 December 2018

Roasted Fox

So, that was 2018.   No need to review it.   It was what it was. 

I am tired after all the family visits, the cooking, the drink making, the jollying things along, happy, but tired.        I am also full of cold - a London cold - courtesy of the London grandchildren, bless them!

I don't really 'do' New Year these days.     Back in my younger days I would party through the night.  I have learnt a modicum of sense since then.

We got to meet our new grandson, Welles, he is a gorgeous little thing.

We shared some enormous family meals, had some very jolly gatherings, yet I think the meal we made using this freshly baked loaf of bread - kneaded with love, for that makes the best bread - was the one which they enjoyed the most.   

My second youngest grandchild insisted that his sandwich should be made with roast fox - he is big fan of The Gruffalo - luckily I had some in the fridge.

Simple food, made with love.


Friday 28 December 2018

The Dark End of the Year

The cats let me have a lie-in today, which simply mean that they didn't wake me until 5am. 

I stumbled through into the kitchen - fed the cats, let the dog out, put the kettle on, emptied the dishwasher, let the dog in, let the cats out, fed the dog, made a mug of strong coffee...and so on.

I was on my way back to make a second cup of coffee when I became aware of just how messy and gloomy the kitchen was looking.   Admittedly, it was pitch black outside, the curtains were all closed, and I didn't have many lights on, but even so. 

I immediately felt the need to clear the decks, put away the Christmas cloths, the decorations.   I wanted to transform my kitchen back into the light and airy room that I love so much.   Not quite spring cleaning fever, but almost as bad!

These are old photographs, you can tell that because the Rayburn was still in place, plus the photograph was taken in the daylight, which helps! 

I set to work, it wasn't possible to remove all signs of the season, but quite a lot of things have been returned to the loft.   I have my three youngest grandchildren coming to stay tomorrow, three little boys who love to 'investigate' things. 

Today has been spent roasting flesh (pig and chicken) baking bread and cakes, cleaning the house and making it safe, ready for the little ones.

Their visit will nicely fill the gap as we transition between the end of the old year and into the start of a fresh new one.         A big family gathering and another big meal tomorrow, plus a few smaller meals, then I can put my pinny away until next year.     

Thank goodness.

I took Toby out for a reasonable walk this morning, my bruised tailbone still won't permit me to do my usual route march!  We walked out past the watermill, up through Butterbump Splash, then cut across a field, jumped (well, Toby jumped, I splashed through, a small stream, clambered over a few stiles, walked by the side of the chalk stream and arrived at this bridge.     

Parsonage Cottage is located about 150 yards to the left of this bridge, in order to reach it we have to walk through up through the field, all the way up to the houses which  you can see in the distance, out through the field gates, then turn to our left and walk down the lane towards home.

The first house we pass is where my dear friend Oscar used to live, with his old horse, Benedict.  They have both gone now, but they are not forgotten, for they are firmly lodged in my heart and remembered often in our conversations.

Long ago, there was a slaughterhouse to the side, and part of the house became a butcher's shop, later it became a doctor's surgery, before reverting to a smallholding, when Oscar took it over.

The old ramshackle barn still remains, it is where this dear and handsome old boy dozed away his days.    When I took this photograph, I was unaware that the barn owl was in the barn, too.   Just as the camera shutter clicked, he flew out of the door, too fast for me to react to get a photograph, but slowly enough for it to be firmly stamped into my memory.   They were friends.  The owl would perch just a couple of feet above Benedict's head.

On down the lane, past another cottage, then the length of Owl Wood, and home. 

Darkness has crept in around the cottage again.    It is time to prepare supper - is there no end to this cooking nonsense?    Luckily, I made a pot of vegetable soup earlier!   

I will need to take a torch out with me when I walk Toby around Owl Wood, then I can get into a warm pair of pyjamas, make some hot chocolate, and continue reading one of my library books.

I hope you are set to have a pleasant evening, too.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Charred Remains and A Pink Rubber Duck

My favourite decorations this year have been those bits and pieces of greenery which I bought in from Owl Wood and the gardens.    Candlesticks had ivy twirled around them, simple but beautiful.  Snippings from the Bay trees were used for wreaths and for tucking into bowls of satsumas, clove pomanders and the like, mantelpieces had boughs of fresh and fragrant greenery placed upon them.  The very simple beeswax candles which I made last year  with my grandchildren burned softly and beautifully.   

The deep red and gold damask tablecloth was a remnant which I bought many years ago for just a couple of pounds.   It has seen many years of festive service and has washed to a soft and silky drape.   The whole 'look' was easy to put together, I scattered a few bits of citrus fruit, a couple of baubles, and some very nice 50p each at a charity shop wine glasses, and I was happy.

Friends dropped by, greetings and gifts were exchanged.    It was all very simple.   Happy grandchildren, happy adults.   Puzzled pets, though they were all happy with the extra treats which were on offer later.

The meal went well - not my kind of meal - but one which made the meat-eaters happy, and that made me happy.     I settled for generous helpings of all the vegetables, along with a dollop of the homemade cranberry sauce (sharp and refreshing, just as I like it) and waited for the cheeseboard.

Nothing fancy this year, I kept it simple.  Only one cheese, oatcakes, grapes, figs and walnuts.   It looked attractive, tasted good and it means that we won't have to work our way through mountains of unwanted cheese.

Gifts were opened, fixed together, played with.  Crackers pulled, party hats worn and corny jokes read out and laughed at.

One of the most successful gifts was that of a pink rubber duck!    It turned out to be something which my lovely daughter-in-law, MM, had long desired!

I also managed to bring tears to the eyes of my daughter's mother-in-law.    My gift to her was a peg doll dressed in fabric from a baby dress which had belonged to our granddaughter, along with a peg soldier which I had painted in a special livery, as directed by our grandson.

As for the charred remains - no, not the Christmas Dinner:     If you are using wooden candlesticks, don't let the candles burn too low or you could find yourself with a problem!

I hope your day went well, too. 

Today is my favourite day, as far as catering is concerned.   Leftovers!

Monday 24 December 2018

A True Ghost Story for Christmas

It is a tradition here, to tell a ghost story for Christmas, so I thought I would share this one with you.

Completely irrelevant to the story,
I just like the image.

A few years ago, my husband and I were on holiday in West Cork, Ireland, staying in our usual rental cottage, an old lighthouse keeper's cottage, perched on the rocky coast. 

The cottage we stayed in, the flat roofed glass bit was one huge
living room and kitchen, bedrooms below.

The old cottage had been renovated a few years earlier, turned into a topsy-turvy house, the top floor being an enormous glass box, the lower floor became two bedrooms, with a family bathroom located down a long hallway, right down to the far end of the house.

We always chose to go out of season, so the two or three other cottages on Rock Island were nearly always empty.   It was beautiful.   We could enjoy the skies and the sea, no matter what the weather.  There was a pub just a short drive away, or an even shorter row, had we a rowing boat, where they served the best fish chowder, ever!     The scenery was magnificent, there were plenty of places to explore, and the people we met were warm and friendly, ever ready to engage in conversation.

We loved the place.

Our holiday was drawing to a close and, after a day spent out in the fresh air, we went to bed.    I was wakened to the sound of what I took to be someone dropping a marble, from a height, whereupon it hit a hard floor and rolled a short distance.     This was repeated over and over, until it drove me wasn't at all frightening, just irritating.

I could see that my husband was still in bed, sound asleep, so I couldn't blame him for this one.   I also knew that there was no one else in the house, or in the cottage to the right of the house - and anyway, there was a huge hallway, and a large yard between the two buildings.    The marble continued to be dropped, sounding as though it was in the bedroom.   In the end my patience snapped and I said something along the lines of "Pack it in!" - something which my mother used to say when we were being irritating.

The noise stopped.   Peace returned.   All was well, I fell back to sleep.    A couple of hours later I woke up desperate to spend a penny.   Because we had stayed there so often, and the place was almost as familiar as home, I didn't bother to put the hallway light on for the journey along the dark hallway, nor did I close the bathroom door - there were just the two of us in the cottage, I was awake, husband asleep.  No need to close it.   

I heard very heavy steps coming along the corridor, so I called out "Hang on, I'm in the bathroom."     Silence.

I went back to the bedroom to discover that my husband was sound asleep, just as I had left him.   I woke him to tell him that the bathroom was free - he hadn't been out of bed, didn't want the bathroom, was grumpy that I had woken him.   

The following night was our last night in the cottage, there was no repeat of the noises, or the footsteps but, just in case,  I did wake my husband to come and wait in the corridor when I paid my nocturnal visit to the loo, and I put the lights on in the hallway and bathroom!   I was well and truly spooked.

We haven't been back since.

I rarely think about that night, but the other day I dropped a 5p coin on the dressing room floor, the sound was exactly the sound that I had heard repeated over and over again that night.    Not a marble then, a coin of some kind - even though there was no one else there, and the bedroom floor was fully carpeted - as to the heavy footsteps down the hallway...?

I suppose old cottages have their secrets, and that was a very old cottage, despite the very modern alterations. 

Sunday 23 December 2018

Plum Pudding without Plums (Eggs, Butter, Milk or Water)

Searching for the plum...

That catchy little title got my attention as I browsed through one of my older recipe books.

I should have scanned it, but I didn't - apologies.

Anyone who have been reading my blogs (various id's!) over the years already knows about my passion for old recipe books, especially old, handwritten ones.

This one dates from about 1840 and belonged to a cook who lived and worked in a Rectory.

It is in poor condition, has lots of splashes and grease marks, tears, worn edges, loose pages - in other words, it has lived a very useful life.      I treasure it all the more because of the wear.

I followed a few clues within the book and found that it was a country parish, cook certainly had to deal with large hams and gluts of fruit and vegetables.    She also catered enormous Christmas and Easter meals for the village school, as well as the Great and Good of the parish.

Back to this recipe, though.    It is one of the more easily read ones, but just in case you can't make head or tail of the handwriting:

5 tablespoonfuls of Flour, 1 ditto moist sugar, 6 oz of Beef suet chopped very fine. 3 tablespoonfuls of carrot/which must be boiled the day before and mashed very fine/ 1/2 lb Currants and one plum.   Mix all together put it into a tin mould and boil it 3 hours.  Serve with wine sauce.

Shame upon me, I bought our Christmas pudding.  Perhaps I'll make this one next year, but somehow I doubt it, it sounds rather dull.

Whizzing forward through time to the Christmas of 1912, and I have a book in which there is an article about some old Christmas customs and Superstitions.   

Weather Prophecies include A warm Christmas, a cold Easter.       A green Christmas, a white Easter.   and in Nottinghamshire they say 'If ice bears a man before Christmas, it won't bear a mouse after.'    It is said by some weather experts that the twelve days  in this connection following December 25th set the tune for the coming summer, and a curious fact was told me the other day.    The forebears of a Somersetshire farmer had for over a hundred  been in the habit of making notes concerning the weather during these twelve days, and each year the summer proved to be of similar nature to that experienced just after Christmas.       It is also believed that 'a windy Christmas and a cold Candlemas are signs of a good year.'

In Devonshire at Christmas time the burning of the ashton faggot always took place on the eve of the feast, as was a most important ceremonial.   The faggot, which is composed entirely of ash timber, the separate sticks or branches being securely bound together with ash bands is so made that it can be conveniently burned on the hearth, and around it assembled the farmers, with their families and farm labourers, in order to spend a jovial evening.    A quart of cider was called for and served upon the bursting of every hoop or band with which the faggot is bound, and the timber, being green and elastic, a good many quarts were in requisition before the festivities were at an end.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Winding Up

I haven't put out as many decorations as normal.     Candles, pomanders, greenery and this little snow scene have made the cut, along with my large golden kitchen angel/cherub - she oversees my festive cooking endeavours, as she has for over twenty years.

The snow scene is special to me, only because of the little girl in blue, she was used to decorate the top of my mother's Christmas cakes, for many years.   We don't like sugary icing, so she had become redundant and was in danger of being lost.    Luckily I found a wooden board complete with a very tall glass dome, at a jumble sale (one pound) it seemed like the ideal way to display her.

I made some wreath bases from the pliable vines of my honeysuckle plants.    By the time I had finished, they were twice as thick as this and ready for action.    In the past I have paid a ridiculous amount of money for wreath bases, much better to use free garden clippings, plus a few minutes of effort.

I trawled the gardens for greenery.   Holly, of course, ivy from Owl Wood, lots of rosemary and the big bay tree provided the rest.  The wire is left over from when I made my Christmas angels, I used it to make their wings.

One of the nicest things about working with these simple things was the smell, especially the rosemary!

By the time I got to wreath number three, I must admit that I had had enough of it for one day!

I found some red hessian and made some rather inexpert bows, to finish them off - I love red and green at Christmas time, it makes me happy.

The main gates are huge, so I made this large one for there, the others went onto the house doors.  They are rustic, very inexpensive, they do the job.

Our grandchildren have spent the night with us, their parents have taken themselves off to Lincoln ,for a bit of peace and quiet (and last minute shopping) before Christmas.   

Yesterday afternoon grandchildren and I made some more 'natural' firelighters - this time we used dried orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and star anise, they smell really good.

I got the old wind-up gramophone out and the old pile of 78's which had belonged to my parents.    I treated us to some carols, as sung over 60 years ago by the St Martin's Choral Society.  The quality of the sound was impressive, considering the mistreatment those records have received over the years.

I had better head off and make some breakfast preparations, it won't be long before my little elves wake up for a morning of mischief.   We should be able to hand them back to their parents by early afternoon.    I may need a jolly good nap then!

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday 20 December 2018

Community Feast

There are three very small villages which nestle very close together in this part of the Lincolnshire Wolds, you won't find these names on any official map but, for blogging purposes, I call them Little Bunting, Butterbump Splash! and Dovecote Dell.

 A special Community  Christmas Dinner (for older people)  was held at our local pub.     It is a new venture, sponsored by a trades union, and set to be come an annual event.   The surprising thing was that there were 37 diners, approximately half of whom were unknown to me and, even more tellingly,  unknown to our dining companions, both of whom have much deeper roots in the area.

We could do with some more people at our monthly meetings in the village hall, so we need to find out where they hide themselves, see if we can get them to come along.

Upon arrival we were given a drink and then had time to mix and mingle before settling down at our tables.     Surprisingly,  the tables hadn't been pushed together to form the more normal 'U' shape which the tavern normally employs for such events. 

It was very much a straightforward menu, the only choices being turkey with all the trimmings, or a vegetarian option.    I wish I had stuck to doing what I normally do, just opting to have the main course vegetables, it would have been perfectly adequate.   Instead I had the rice stuffed peppers - and the only way I can describe the taste is  what I imagine pine toilet cleaner would taste like, were one foolish enough to try it. 

The company was wonderful.  Husband and I shared a table with 'the Squire's wife', who helps to run a very busy farm, keeps active in community events, and rumour has it that she is a mean croquet player!     We were joined by my dear friend Rachel, who was widowed about 40 years ago, when she was very young.   Despite her loss and grief, she continued to run the family farm and to raise her young family.    Political discussions really see her come to life.   Brexit was mentioned, of course.

I have ordered a pair of non-slip, non-skid granny slippers - bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted, I know, I just don't want to give a repeat performance.     I am heading into Louth this morning, I would say for a quick dash around for some fruit and vegetables, but that won't be possible.    It will be a slow and sensible amble, which is all that the bruising will allow!   That'll teach me.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Accident & Arnica

I had a really nice day - nothing special, but one of those days where I was able to get some small projects finished, lists finalised, bits and bobs.  I was content.      The grandchildren enjoyed their tea, granddaughter happily telling me how her class had sung 'Little Donkey' at the local church, her older brother (much more of an introvert) surprising me by saying that he had done a reading in church, one of the girls had dropped out and he had volunteered to do it instead!

Then, about an hour ago, I was just coming through to settle down to read a few blogs, when  I found myself slipping, falling crash on my coccyx, my legs caught under my armchair, with the standard lamp crashing down on top of me.

I now have the achiest backside in the world, no doubt it will be black and blue soon, my shin is purple from what was almost a cut, and I am shaken.       What did I slip on?   I haven't a clue. 

I am supposed to go out to my free OAP Christmas Dinner, tomorrow - I reckon that I will look the ideal candidate.  I won't be walking in briskly, which is my normal pace, it will definitely be a hobble.

Just as well we ordered an extra jar of arnica gel the other day.   I am definitely going to need it.

You will be pleased to know that there will not be any photographs of my injuries!

Sunday 16 December 2018

Confused and Distressed?

'Women have great reason to be thankful for their ignorance on some topics.   Our heads are not confused and distressed with the mists and mazes of politics; with a few painful exceptions, we are blessedly unaware that the country will be shipwrecked and the world overturned if B. is elected and C. is not; we do not have to contend at elections; we know that the country has gone on and the Government endured though B. was made an MP and C was not.'   Home Notes, 1894.

In Norway, some time ago, the women supporters of the Temperance movement asked the authorities to forbid the employment of women and girls in public-houses.   The petition has been granted, and now no alehouse-keeper can employ any other woman than is wife to help him in his business.  What a good thing it would be if this most excellent example were followed here.   I know nothing more pitiful or more derogatory to the dignity of womanhood than to see a girl behind a bar over which dissolute half-drunken men are lounging, and indulging in coarse conversation.   Home Notes, March 1894.

A woman's desire to look nice is a right and natural instinct, and even amongst criminals it is said to be very strong.
A prison wardress, in telling of her charges, relates that the hardest punishment of all to the majority of women is being obliged to wear the coarse, ugly, prison garb.  Even the most hardened female convicts never quite lose the desire to look nice.   Home Notes, March 1894.

Busy women are invariably the happiest.   It is in the idle women that we find hysteria, depression, melancholy, and morbid feeling of all sorts arise.   Those who are not obliged to earn a living, and have not much work to do in the house, should take up a hobby, and occupy themselves steadily in one way or another.
Outdoor exercise for at least two hours daily should be taken.  Teaching poor children, making clothes for the poor, visits of charity, and visiting the sick are occupations in which all may feel that they are doing good.
Every woman should make a point of taking lessons in cookery, for the talent of cooking does much to promote happiness in life, as well as economy, should she have to set up housekeeping on her own account.   Home Notes, 1894

Coloured stockings are pretty, but not always harmless, as the Archduchess Maria Immaculata, widow of Archduke Charles Salvator, has lately discovered to her cost.  A slight scratch on her right foot was poisoned by the dye from her stocking, and she had to undergo a very painful operation in consequence.    Home Notes, 1894

Drunkeness is such a terrible affliction both to the drunkard and to all his family, that anything which tends to prevent it must be welcomed.   The feeling of craving for a drink may be obviated by making a decoction of half an ounce of ground quassia bark in a pint of vinegar.
A teaspoonful of this may be drunk in a little water every time the drink craving comes on.   Home Notes, April, 1894

Why do women who haven't got pretty feet, and who know they haven't, wear the boots that make their feet look their very worst?   A woman with big, shapeless feet, or crooked feet, can afford to wear but one kind of boot - a laced one, and never a low shoe under any circumstances.  Home Notes, 1894

This is boy, my younger son's cat.   Don't worry, he wasn't confused or distressed, merely grumpy.

I could be posting about the mincemeat which I made, the mince pies I baked, sousing the Christmas Cake with alcohol, or decorating the house and making it jolly for the season, for I have done all of that, but what I am most enjoying at the moment, is reading my battered copy of Home Notes, 1894.   

I hope you enjoy what is left of the weekend.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Mince Pies, Music, and Endless Queues

As I approached the village hall I could hear the sound of music.   No, not Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer.   The sound of a keyboard.   It was as lovely as it was unexpected.    I was half an hour early for our meeting, planning to get in to warm the place up before the others arrived, but someone was there before me.

The music, plus the car parked outside, gave the identity away - Carol Ferrari -  the friend who had offered to play her keyboard so that we could have a Christmas carol sing-a-long.   

I made my way into the hall, to be met with a blast of arctic air, it was much colder inside than out.    Carol hadn't known how to switch the heaters on,  but they would hardly have made an impact on the cold, anyway. 

She had been in very early, setting up her keyboard,  pulling a few tables together, finding some green tablecloths and placing some very attractive foliage arrangements (made to grace a dinner party, which she hosted two days earlier)  plus tealights, to make the place look jolly.     Each place had ten sheets of typed-out carols, a beautiful seasonal napkin and three golden coins of the chocolate variety.  It looked beautiful.   Thank you, Carol!

When we greeted one another you could see the breath hanging in the air, it really was that cold!  Luckily she was snuggled in an enormous and very warm quilted jacket which she had found hanging in the storage cupboard, so she wasn't about to slip into hypothermia just yet.

I zipped round and put the heaters on, though to be honest the tealights probably gave off more heat.

When the others arrived they opted to keep their coats on, then we settled for a quick chat and a catch-up, before we faced the inevitable.

We sang. 

Unfortunately, although we all sang the same words, we each had a  slightly different tune from those of the keyboard and the other singers, and all at different paces.    Half-way through we paused for sustenance, most delicious of all were the mince pies which the squire's wife had baked.   A couple of years ago, she won our Mince Pie Tasting Competition, they were worthy of the prize then, and this batch tasted sublime, too.

Then we got back to the singing.     Gareth Malone would have no chance of moulding us into anything fit to be heard.   So I will draw a line under that little episode.

This is a jigsaw puzzle which I found at the back of the store cupboard, I had to take almost a decade's worth of dust off it.     I have brought it home to work on, once we finish the one I showed you in a previous post.

Yesterday morning I had to post a few bits and pieces - there were 31 people in the queue ahead of me...   By the time I reached the head of the queue I knew my neighbours very well.  The woman in front of me had recently lost her beloved rescue dog, after 11 years of patience and love, but felt that she was now too old to take another one on.       The woman behind me was excited because her son was having Christmas Dinner with her this year, the first time for five years.

It is amazing what conversations happen when you are forced to queue, unless you prefer to stand isolated in a little bubble and discourage chattiness.

I had to walk the length of the queue to get back out of the shop, it was almost double the size of when I first joined it.      Post offices are few and far between around here!

Time has run away with me, again.   I need to go and check on the jacket potatoes and beans which I will serving to my grandchildren in about ten minutes' time, which means that I have no time left to proof read this, so apologies for typos.   

Fingers crossed that I remembered to switch the oven on!

Monday 10 December 2018

Owl Wood and Village Life

This is Owl Wood and Parsonage Cottage viewed from the barley field.    It looks like a little village because of the number of sheds which seem to be an essential part of country life!  Log stores, tool shed, workshops, old chicken house, polytunnel, plus large compost bins and assorted log storage and cutting areas. 

I should say here, Owl Wood is not as large as it looks in this photograph, it is merely the portion on the left, the other trees are across the lane and belong to assorted farmers!   The barley field doesn't belong to us, either, it just feels that way because Farmer T calls it our lawn. 

Most of the leaves have fallen  and the majority seemed to find their way to the main patio, in drifts several feet deep, thanks to the wild and mischievous winds.  I love the trees throughout the seasons, the splendour of the foliage in spring, summer and the glories of autumn, but in winter I take pleasure in seeing the graceful elegance of their form.   

Owl Wood is always interesting, at this time of year there are lots of berries and fungi, a few crab apples still cling to the trees and the ground is strewn with lots of fallen branches and twigs.    There will be plenty of warming exercise in clearing that lot up, the payoff being that there will be lots of kindling to be dried and used throughout the winter.

I have spotted all manner of mushrooms, some nibbled one day, gone the next, nice to think that they made a good meal for a hungry animal.

I would love to know who ate this - squirrel, deer, rabbit?

Some fungi nestling among the undergrowth, others growing on the old trees stumps and dead wood.

One of these days I will take my camera with me, these are all snapped on my phone, though I should really call it a camera, because I hardly ever use it for calls.

At this time of year it is a real joy to see the texture of old tree trunks, green ivy leaves and red berries, they never fail to delight me.

The north side of the old hen house - the roof is covered with beautiful green moss.

I headed into Louth, to get my hair cut.      It isn't the easiest salon to find, you have to walk down a tiny dark alley, head towards the light and you come out into a small courtyard.

Earlier in the year the courtyard is filled with masses of beautiful blooms, even in November they still manage to keep it looking attractive.    This is only the second time I have been there, it is a bit more down market than the place I used to visit, it costs less, but the hair cuts so far have been very good.

My previous hairdresser worked in a much more upmarket salon, and had magical scissors.   On my last visit to her she was running on time, but ended up at least twenty minutes late, because the customer before me had just returned from a holiday in Disney World, which just happened to be where she had booked a holiday.

They spent most of my appointment time oggling photographs on the customer's phone.   I really needed to have my hair cut, so I bit down my impatience at their rudeness and her unprofessional behaviour.    I should have left.    Her head was still filled with Disney, she gave me the worst haircut. 

So far, so good at the new salon.

Can you tell that I am taking life at a slower pace?    I have the time to make a start on a lovely Christmas jigsaw puzzle - I bought it from a charity shop, so I hope it has all the pieces!   I also made a huge batch of Ginger biscuits to fill up the biscuit barrel, they keep really well and seem appropriately warming for this time of year.

No time for puzzles today, though.   I need to bake a cake this morning, once I have walked the dog and seen my grandchildren onto the school bus. 

It is the second Monday in the month, which means that our village hall will be a meeting place for some of the older people in the area.    A sing song has been planned - oh joy!   If I play my cards right, I could man the kettle and serve the cake, keep busy and avoid having to sing along.

There won't be a meeting in January, but in February we are having someone in to give us a lesson on marbling paper, which should be fun.   It will cost us about £5 each, but to be honest, I would pay that just to avoid having to sing.  😳😸

Saturday 8 December 2018

A Nice Fresh Cabbage or a Bestseller? Christmas 1917

I wish I had found this illustration in time for my previous post!

One hundred and one years ago times were hard, food was scarce, bread and flour were in particularly short supply and people were being reminded that every scrap of food brought into the country came at the risk of many men's lives and must be valued accordingly.

The December 1917 issue of Home Cookery came up with lots of helpful advice and recipes.  It was all given in the form of cosy chats with friends and family.

"Something good to eat" is a form of practical Christmas present which is always appreciated.   Try the following suggestions for dainties which will give real pleasure to your friends.

We have such a lot of relations and friends, you see, and we've always been in the habit of exchanging Christmas gifts.  When times weren't so hard as they are now it was less difficult to decide, but, as it is, the problem has been acute.

"Let's stop asking what we can give and ask what they want. What do you suppose Aunt Nellie would welcome more than anything else this Christmas?"

"Sugar" said mother, thinking of Aunt Nellie's growing girls and boys, and the difficulty she met in trying to get sweet things for them.

"I'll tell you what we can get," interrupted Mary eagerly.  Cake!"  Why not send one of those topping cakes of yours that take next to no sugar?  It would be such a boon to Aunt Nellie to have that item taken off her Christmas preparations."

"Yes, it would," agreed mother, "and I could put in a jar of apricot jam.  That's the next best thing to sugar."

"We could send grandma some chicken jelly." put in Elsie.  "Yours is so much nicer than the bought kind, and I'm sure she'd enjoy it more than bought knick knacks."

That started the ball rolling - what bachelor girl in lonely 'digs' wouldn't welcome a tiny home-made pudding or a pat of country butter?    Many a town-dweller would be more grateful for a nice fresh cabbage or a few carrots and turnips than for the very newest best-seller.  The mother of a big family would regard a good substantial cake as a veritable fairy godmother offering.

We may smile at the way this is written, or giggle at the thought of being given a cabbage for Christmas, but after reading of all the shortages and struggles during the 14-18 war, I can also see just how these gifts could have brought happiness to both the recipient and the giver.   

At this point I am so tempted to launch into a comparison with Christmas 2018-style, but I won't.   Did I just hear a big sigh of relief?

Chicken Jelly

A good present for an invalid or old person.

Skin and cut in pieces an old fowl (You may take the toughest old rooster you like for this purpose.)  Break the bones and put them in a covered earthenware jar with a few peppercorns, a good pinch of salt, and the rind of a lemon.

Cover closely and simmer for seven hours, adding more water from time to time, as required.  Strain off the liquor and cool.  Decorate a mould with slices of hard-boiled egg, pour the jelly into it and allow it to set.

The chicken that is left will do quite nicely for mince.   Of course all the best nourishment will be gone from it into the jelly, but you make up by adding gravy or stock.  

A Dainty Little Cake

This will please a person who is fond of delicate fare.

1 egg and
Its weight in margarine, flour and ground rice
1 heaped tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of strong coffee/coffee essence
1 teaspoonful of baking powder

Cream the margarine and sugar, beat in the egg and afterwards the flour, rice and baking powder.  Melt the honey in the coffee.

Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ones, making a fairly stiff dough.

Bake in a tin lined with greased paper in a fairly hot oven.

War Christmas Cake

(Far nicer than the old-fashioned Christmas cakes.)

Half a pound of barley flour
Quarter pound of regulation flour
Quarter pound of chopped dates
Quarter pound of stoned raisins
Quarter pound of currants
Six ounces of margarine
The rind of 3 lemons, grated
The rind of 2 oranges, grated
2oz of brown sugar
1 teaspoonful of ginger
One breakfast cup of sour milk
One dessertspoonful of baking powder

Put the fruit into a saucepan of cold water and just bring it to the boil.  Drain well, and dry on a plate in the oven for a few minutes.

Melt the margarine in the milk.  Sift the baking powder, spice and sugar into the flour.

Mix all the materials together, and beat them with a wooden spoon for five minutes.   Put the mixture into a tin lined with greased paper, and bake in a brisk oven till it is risen and slightly browned.

Then move it to a cooler place and continue baking till a skewer, when put into the thickest part of the cake, comes away clean.

This makes a splendid cake; just the thing to give as a present to a family of boys and girls.

The final article in the magazine:

My Dear Readers,

For three Christmases now we have made our preparations thoughtfully and economically.  And now this fourth Christmas since since war began, we are asked to be still more careful.    We are not asked to go short of things, but to remember that all foodstuffs are precious and that in wasting even a crust, or an odd left-over of pudding, we are throwing away something for which human life has been risked.   Furthermore, to bring more food for another meal that scrap might have helped to go further men are again risking their lives......

In this number you will find practical advice on choosing and cooking and making the most of  Christmas good things, for the home circle, the children, Tommy in camp or abroad, the invalid - for everybody, in fact.

The magazine is printed on flimsy, poor quality,  war-time paper.   Plain, simple, absolutely packed with economical recipes, hints, tips and exhortations to use every bit of food.    It is a very dull and worthy offering compared to those high gloss magazines of today, which are filled with wonderful photographs of dishes prepared with more ingredients than they could have dreamed of, back in 1917, and yet it is so much more interesting.  Times of need v times of plenty.  So much to read between the lines.

There is much more that I wanted to say, but time has run away with me and, anyway, this is a blog, an amusement, not a lecture hall!

Enjoy your weekend.

(NB to any of my children who may read this  -  I may be old, but I do not want a pot of chicken jelly, nor do I want knick-knacks.  Thank you. xxx)

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Brand New Bathtub Baby

Just had news that Grandson No 4 has finally arrived - he my have been overdue, but he made a very sudden entry to the world.   I won't go into details, but the title gives it away.

Another little Londoner.   Still no name, they want to get to know him a little.  All I know is that he weighs in at 8lb 10oz and has dark hair.

I still have some comments to answer, from my previous post.   I will be responding, just a little distracted tonight - texts and photographs are whizzing around from various members of the family and I don't want to miss out on any of them.

Monday 3 December 2018

"I'll Saw Your Wooden Leg Off"

Most evenings see me more than content to stay at home in the warm, but last night I braved the darkness and went out to the cinema.      Not just any cinema, a very special one called 'The Kinema in the Woods' at Woodhall Spa, which is about half an hour away from Parsonage Cottage.

The Kinema was originally a concert pavilion which overlooked the tennis courts, croquet lawns, gardens and bandstand in hotel and Spa grounds.     In 1922 it was converted to a cinema,  moving pictures being all the rage at that time. 

One quirky little touch was that the posh seats - the first six rows - were deck chairs  and very much in demand at their price of 1/6d, other seats ranged from 1/3d to 6d!   In 1953 the seating was updated and changed.

There are two screens, last night's film 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' was shown in the smaller auditorium, which seats about 90 people.     The walls have some very interesting murals of countryside scenes, while the wall lights look like clusters of enormous ice cream cones, great fun and no doubt quite old.

The seating is comfortable, plenty of leg and arm room. 

My big gripe - and this applies to cinemas large and small - is that people these days seem to think that they are going to starve if they don't eat constantly, while slurping down enormous cartons of fizzy drinks and coffees.   

Before the film began the auditorium was filled with the sound of people chomping and munching on gigantic tubs of candyfloss, popcorn and/or enormous bags of sweets.   Chomp, chomp, chomp.   

This was my grandchildren walking ahead of me as we made our way back into the woodland car park.  Dark and mysterious, but well illuminated along the pathways.   They loved the adventure.

It is a charming little cinema in a fabulous setting, not too far from home.   Will definitely be visiting again, as soon as there is something I want to watch.

Other than that, I have been very domesticated, trying to make up for all those weeks when I neglected the house and indulged in craft work.    The pantry - which is as large as a small single bedroom, has had a thorough cleaning and everything has been organised, it looks wonderful at the moment, but it won't take long for those mischievous pixies to start messing it up again.

Today I began work on scrubbing out the Boot Room, which should really be called the Mud Room.  It is the room where Wellington boots, coats and hats reside, so do the white goods.      Dog towels hang on the radiator, they are constantly in use, every walk is a trek through mud, but that can't be helped.     I hose down my Wellingtons, before I come in, but the dog can't be hosed.    Instead i towel him dry, clean his paws as best I can, then time and the warm fireside do the rest.

The cake and biscuit tins have been filled again, the grandchildren are happy.

Tomorrow I should tackle the mountain of ironing, but I also need to do the supermarket shopping, after which I have arranged to have coffee and a chat with a friend, so perhaps the ironing can wait until Wednesday.  One thing for sure, it won't run away.

Talking of which, I was cleaning the bedroom the other day and noticed some fresh wood dust around one leg of a very old tallboy...I investigated, and yes, woodworm.   Little beggars.

The tall boy is now residing in the polytunnel, upside down,  having had some woodworm treatment applied.  I have scanned all around the room and other pieces of furniture, but it seems that only the tallboy was affected, thank goodness.

I'm wondering whether woodworm could have come in with some of the logs which we occasionally burn on the open fire in that room.

I am thankful that I noticed it, it could have been so much worse.

Looking at the tallboy, I couldn't help thinking about a phrase which my father sometimes used to warn us that we were getting a bit unruly.

"Behave yourself or I'll saw your wooden leg off."