The womens’ group I have connections with celebrates 100 years in existence shortly. They are having a party, the of course is the minimum requirement. The cake has been ordered, the bunting sorted. All that remains is finding that essential Edwardian blouse to suit the long skirts and button boots. They were trying to describe what they thought they wanted, pin tucked or frilly front, high neck, or peter pan collar, leg of mutton sleees with long button down cuffs with lace. With several colleagues joining in the list, it became quite a huge undertaking, worthy of the Victoria and Albert museum! They haven’t sourced the idea article – the criteria being a bit over the top I suspect. But online sites are fantastic as finding just the right thing – eventually. Like this wonderful one dealing with shabby chic, retro and vintage. Almost anything can be found, with systematic patient browsing!
I have recently been very active in the care of three rather senior ladies in my life. Two of these old dears are safely housed in care homes, some mile apart. I chat to each about things from their past. Two of the ladies were at school together and were in fact evacuated before WW2 started. They were sent to the countryside – separate billets but near enough to be able to spend much time together. They were lucky and lived with families who were happy to share the bounty of farm life with frightened youngsters who’d never seen a cow, or an aga kitchen range! They shared lessons at the nearest grammer school but more importantly their adoptive mums and grandmothers took time to show them the basics of looking after themselves and their siblings. Both came home fully skilled in basic home making, small holding husbandry and how to cook basic meals. Absolute perfection!
I have belionged to a particularly strong womens’ organisation for some time now – in fact I was the youngest member of the group when I joined the first time, some years ago. They do have a rather drab reputation for making jam and singing jerusalem these days, but they most certainly do a very much wider range of activities and are very helpful in the community, when given a chance. Our group entertains other groups throughout the year and the annual general meetings are legendary – cake, scones and afternoon tea flows with gay abandon. The cakes are lovingly hand made by proud members. It becomes a rather amazing, unspoken competition over who can devise the most exsquisitely iced displays and only the best china cups are allowed. There is something very special about the habit of taking afternoon tea with chums, in a village hall. May it live forever!
I have taken to reading a magazine geared towards the somewhat more refined and well heeled end of my social circle. It’s been in publication for a couple of hundred years and I have discovered that it can knock every other womens’ magaine into a cocked hat! I got the hint that we were not talking cheap and cheerful when reading an article from their archives for various baking tinwares and in fact, how to equip the perfect 1920s kitchen. I was agog with their ideas on budget control, not long after the cessation of the first world war. These days when we want to recreate that splendour and optimism, nothing quite beats doing an infantry of the bakeware cupboard, or that spare larder with the chipped blue rimmed tins and basins! If you want to cheer yourself up in winter gloom, buy and use more bakeware – especially the pretty feminite styles available out there today.
I membershiop of the three major heritage organisations for some years – but I don’t really make the most of them in that I don’t tend to travel on holiday or jaunts on my own. There is no reason why either, I visit members of my family dotted all over England, so a stopover in a highly heritage populated area would be fun. That is on this year’s ‘must do’ list. What I really enjoy when I do take in a property, with or without a fantastic garden, are the wonderful tea rooms. Some are much posher than others, that is true. But on the whole, the welcome is second to none and the cakes / scones / tea & coffee services etc are absolutely gorgeous. This always inspires me to get baking when I get home. I have decided to reacquanit myself with the joys of kitchenalia too this year and will be browsing anytime soon!
I had occasion to do baking in someone else’s kitchen the other week. It came as a bit of a surprise, as baking is not always in my day plan. However we were over with friends and all happily breakfasted and ready to walk down through the village and back up via the pub. Then the dear wife of our host managed to slip over, falling rather awkwardly. Panic and chaos loomed – the thought of not being able to indulge in the home cooked lunch followed by delicious choice of desserts was frightening stuff!
Well as Mrs Host was unable to continue, and her husband took her to A&E, we others took to the kitchen to cook the ready prepared ingredients – and with help from cook books and some wonderful chintzy crockery and bakeware goods. the kitchen was a treat in itself and gave our endeavours a whole new feeling of accomplishment!
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!