I have just returned from a lovely few days in the country with family. We stayed in a cute cottage just outside a market town. As we all individually live in large modern family houses, no beams or thatches, to us this was just the most perfect way of relaxing and taking in the best of the village and countryside on offer. The hosts had really thought long and hard about the layout of their prized pocession. In the kitchen there was a gorgeous old dresser unit bedecked with miniature bunting in a ditsy floral design very similar to the style on the china cups and saucers the lined the top shelf. Below that were the tea plates and a few old fashioned trivets. The lowest rack contained the dinner plates – it was really practical and beautiful. Shabby not, but chic definitely. This theme continued up through the bedrooms – matching linens and accessories. Just lovely.
One of the joys for my great aunt is seeking out unusual chinaware from charity shops and church fund raisers. On our sortis, GA as she is lovingly referred to, despite promises to the contrary, spends hours turning over every single item on the bric a brac tables. The expenditure is minimal of course. Those of us in the younger contengent of great nieces and nephews have had to endure the embarrassment of her making loud, uncomplimentary comments about the “rubbish people hand in these days . . . . .” GA is fully aware of our discomfort, but knowing her position as a genteel senior to be respected, remains blissfully aloof at all times.
I recently introduced her to the much more satisfying pastime of browsing china sourcing and matching sites. Not to buy though. No, she’s making a very tidy profit, selling at hugely inflated sums, much of the stuff gleaned at minimal outlay from the aforementioned jumble sales and charity shops!
Having just taken part in a fantastic birthday party extravaganza for a young middle aged lass, the world of shabby chic and all things baking came to the forefront of my world big time. I am, or was not, naturally big in baking. My mother did all that, Dad wasn’t at all interested in the cooking side of life and I followed his talents in the garage, mending the stuff to do the baking was my thing!
However, this party was an eye opener from the point of view of bringing ideas of how to decorate kitchens and make a difference without spending vast sums. There were some amazing ideas on how to recreate that ’30s kitchen with the unfitted look, and where to obtain the wonderful selection of hand tools needed by patisserie fanatics. So if special presents are needed again for a lover of baking – I am the one to come to!
There is nothing on earth as fab as taking high tea with my aged spinster aunt. Admittedly she is finding it more of a challenge now and gone are the days when she would sally forth and produce a whopping great spread for a dozen or so in one sitting. As far as I know, she never worked as such, but seems to have led a serenely quiet life presumably funded by private income – entertaining us all to this wonderful treat!
Her high teas are of the most amazing standard involving cake stands, matching cake knife and forks – which in turn match whichever of the tea services selected that day. Each service is now pretty old, so everything is hand washed, carefully dried and stored in very substantial china cabinets. Such a wonderful thing to have been priviledged to share as I’ve grown up. A habit my own family has now taken up!
One of my nearly immediate family is crazy about baking. There is never a day goes by when the poor lass isn’t heard weighing out, whisking, beating, scraping or other fun packed noises. The maternal instinct in most of us ensures that at one or two cakes a week are produced. Well, that is true for some of my female relatives. The notion of me actually measuring out the ingredients is a science I have yet to indulge.
I do love watching other people bake and this joy was mine when I joined friends at a weekend party. The hosts mum and grandma had been busily preparing a mass of lovely scones, sponges, rock buns and deep joy – chelsea buns! But it was the bakeware that caught my eye – so beautifully co-ordinated and practical. Nothing was just for show, it all had a use and was easy to clean and store. All sourced from a dedicated online site.
On a recent trip into the nearest county town I was quite taken with a small museum that had suddenly appeared and was open for just a few weeks. I don’t recall any pre publicity so I had little idea of it’s purpose or intended audience. I went in full of wonderment and came out also full of wonderment but of the very best kind.
In the display were masses of gorgeous bakeware and cooker items collected from around the world – a Scandinavian lass had acquired some of their bread tins and recipes and her little offerings had a typically dry quip about scandi land not only being good for murder mysteries! The arrangements of shabby chic in overdrive and cutsie bakeware goods were heart warming and had quite an effect on me. As soon as I got home, I browsed to find exactly what I wanted for my own little kitchenalia paradise.
Celebrations abound at this time of year – the spring does seem to bring out the bestof the cake bakers amongst relatives – not only the seniors either these days. There are many younger folk who now absolutely adore the many hi end cookery and baking shows on tv. The lifestyle channels are choc a bloc with programmes on how to do this or create that. The competitive element has not diminished either – from the simle baking show that has run for almost a decade, there ae the spin offs – one particularly challenging one that requires the professional expertise that only the fully trained could ever hope to take part in.
The supermarkets are gearing up for this and stock all the ingredients shown. And there are many sites that stock just the right baking accessories to achieve those dreams. The mixers, basins, special silicon moulds – and the machinery – just out of this world!
The lure of the chase – when a pal of mine was looking out for a whole load of cutsie kitchanalia in the form of coffee and tea cups with matching saucers, cream jugs, tea and coffee pots and cake stands. she was sucouring all the local charity shops and many a weekday was spent visiting different towns for organised charity shop blitzes.
The need for all this activity was a promise to hold a charity tea and coffee morning with all the proceeds going to a local hospice. A very laudible cause one shouts – and the idea was brilliant. Who doesn’t love a home made cake and coffee morning. But getting the crocks to serve the tea, coffee and cakes on was quite another matter. It did bring to her attention though the miriad of sites that are online dedicated to the art of sourcing chic bakery goods and fabulous kitchen items – sheer heaven.
One of the best memories our family has of one particular house move, was the fact it happened over the easter period. The daffodils were out all over the nearby common land. I’m looking back to the very late 1960s when new housing was coming on stream and families were beginning to get the confidence to move out of the familiar rented accommodation and buy their own fabulous little house. My family was one such.
The road leading to our development was actually unadopted and just a mud track at the best of times. I had an accident on my pedal bicycle one day – the front wheel got stuck in a big pothole hidden in a puddle. Two ladies rushed to sort me out and when my parents came to retrieve me and the bike, they were invited in for tea. With that came the most stunning array of cakes – on a beautiful old cake stand. It began a friendship for life!
What do you get the mum who has literally everything. Every perfumery product known to mankind and jewellery until it falls out of the neat cases on the dresser. Flowers are lovely but expensively marked up for the occasion – as you cannot really go and buy these much in advance of course. Something though that almost every mum appreciates, all year round, but more particularly around Mothering Sunday, is the chance to go out and have a special afternoon tea. Those lusicous little sandwiches – little being the operative word – and tiny scones, iced fancies and victoria sponge cake.
To recreate this wonderful atmosphere at home, it is possible to acquire small sets of tea cups, saucers and matching cream jug and sugar bowl. The associatd teapot would of course really make it special, as would the cake stand if available too. It is a lovely touch for a youngster to put on for a mum and grandma together.