Showing posts with label home front. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home front. Show all posts

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Five More Mummy-Saving Resources

1. Plenty of tunes. Streaming online music, all day, for free, with only onscreen adverts (easily ignored) and occasional pauses to check that you are still there: this is what Grooveshark offers. Music can be a wonderful tool in changing your mood and encouraging your kids or husband to get up and Get Down. Grooveshark is a fantastic way of digging up Northern Soul tracks without putting together a vinyl collection; also brilliant for re-discovering the hits of your student days. You too can writhe about to Kate Bush, Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins when you should be washing up, without having to re-start your CD collection.

2. A sense of perspective. This can be gleaned from the most unlikely sources. Now and then we need reminding that "this too shall pass", and when we look at what our ancestors lived through, it would be churlish not to count our blessings. Regular readers will know that the 1940s era works as a beacon of hope for me - there are endless lessons to be learned from the Home Front - but I have also been inspired by the bravery and courage shown by men in the military sphere: the Band Of Brothers series being a thought-provoking portrayal of this.

Also learning from the past, but with a confrontational eye on the political, social and eco issues of today, Harriet Fasenfast charts her year as an urban farmer in A Householder's Guide to the Universe. Her down-to-earth advice on running a household, gardening, shopping and so on, is shot through with philosophy and poignancy as she discusses consumerism, friendships, her son's addictions, our society's obsession with fame and fortune, and gathering wisdom from our elders. A firmly-rooted and challenging book.

3. Healthy joints. Chopping wood, carrying the (smokeless) coal in, lugging baskets of wet washing around, shifting the sewing machine, offering piggy-backs to nine year-olds: household activities can generate wear and tear on our joints, when you least expect it. I had no idea that three hours of rag-rugging one Winter afternoon would result in tennis elbow; that has to be the most homesteady repetitive strain injury a body can have, don't you think?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

What's Your Money-Saving Style?

1. Your idea of a good value meal is...
a) Orange Wednesdays at Pizza Express
b) Grasshopper, rabbit, deer, armadillo
c) Creamy fish pie
d) Mushroom stew

2. Your favourite functional item in the house is...
a) used to access the internet
b) the woodburner
c) the slowcooker
d) the sewing machine

3. To earn extra money, you would consider...
a) mystery shopping
b) selling craft items, such as homemade candles
c) ebaying
d) being an Avon lady

Friday, 24 January 2014

Why bother sewing for your kids?

From The Farm Blog HopEarlier this month, I made Secundus a hot water bottle cover and "showcased" it online. Most friends liked its cheery snowman motif and the fact that it had cost me nothing, but one comment stuck with me: "You have too much time on your hands!".

Readers, I am a sensitive soul when it comes to my "career", and this throw-away remark got me thinking once more about Proper Jobs and Decent Salaries. "Is it really worth making things for the Evacuees?" I asked myself. "If I had a reasonable income, I could go out and buy them what they want."

I'm not getting on THAT bus, readers. Working mums. Dual incomes. Disposable Income. It's a debate for another time. But there are many good reasons why sewing things for your family is an excellent thing:

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Gift Ideas for Those Who Make, Bake and Create

Anyone who is new to the world of sewing, or has just invested in a new sewing machine would appreciate The Very Easy Guide to Using Your Sewing Machine by Wendy Gardiner. It’s an extremely comprehensive, user-friendly manual that includes nine great projects with step-by-step instructions and photographs, which help put what you read into practice. Making items like drawstring bags, a cafĂ© curtain and a decorated guest towel will build every sewist’s confidence. Neither patronising nor overly complex, and backed-up with a glossary and trouble-shooting guide, this would help keep your sewing on the right track whether you are 16 or 69.

French pastries may taste out of this world but they are often heralded as beyond the repertoire of all but the professionals. Murielle Valette’s Patisserie: A Step-by-step Guide to Baking French Pastries at Home features all of the glamour and glory of dark chocolate millefeuile, apple tart Tatin and cherry clafoutis but makes them accessible to even the beginner baker. Sumptuous photos are backed up by thorough instructions and tips from the professionals. Chocolate profiteroles are within your grasp!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Simple pleasures #12 Something Out of Nothing Pudding

My husband loves to forage. There, I've said it. 

Autumn is his favourite time of year, and hunting round blackberry bushes, listening to Radio 4 podcasts on his mp3 player is his idea of a good time. The big bonus for our family is that he comes home laden with free food.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Moved to Tears Around the Piano

Being the 1940s keeno that I am, I was thrilled to find out that one of our closest National Trust properties, Beningbrough Hall, was holding a four day World War Two event in August. Only seventy years ago, the Hall was a billet and mess hall to the Royal Canadian Air Force, so to walk around its extensive gardens, hand-in-hand with my children, in a time of relative peace, felt like a real honour, and I dressed up in sorta 40s gear to mark the occasion.

What particularly interested me was the display about rationing in England, which began during the War and didn't fully end til the 1950s. A week's worth of food was laid out for us to look at, and it was humbling. The amount of cheese rationed to an adult per week, for example, would have filled just a couple of sandwiches for our very own Evacuees, Prima and Secundus. I was complimented on my "red badge of courage" (lipstick) by the volunteer who explained about the use of gravy browning and burned match heads to create the illusion of stockings with seams down the back. 

While Prima and Secundus were playing in the adventure playground/ playing "tig" with the King, I made my way to what I was sure would be the highlight of the visit: the chance to sing 1940s songs round the grand piano in the Hall. My mum, who was born in 1946, used to sing several of the wartime tunes to me as a child, so I hoped to be able to join in with the rest of the crowd, most of whom were a couple of decades older than me. 

What Joy Is MineImagine my delight when two chaps in RAF uniform strode in, one of whom sat down to play the piano, and one who, along with a beautifully dressed lady, began to sing "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" from 1939. The tenor teased me for not joining in with the actions to "Run, Rabbit Run" (I am too cool LOL) and stood right next to me, singing, until I relented.

Soppy girl that I am, I burst into tears when during the performance of "(There'll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" and the soprano, whilst still singing, kindly passed me a lace-trimmed handkerchief from her vintage handbag. It's the line "And Jimmy will go to sleep| In his own little room again" that brings a lump to my throat. Seventy years later, we still owe "The Few" so much. 

Towards the end of the day, we headed to the Tree of Hope and Prima, Secundus and I wrote our own messages of peace which we tied to the branches; lest we forget. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Dig for Victory #3 - Survival of the Fittest

Not so much a garden of Eden; mine is more a garden of Darwin. This year, with the loft extension in full swing, it is all about survival of the fittest. Some of the Thompson and Morgan seeds I sowed earlier this year have been a real success. Unfortunately, because I neglected to label everything once I planted the seedlings in my raised beds, I am not entirely yet sure what these successful plants are. I will be much more diligent next time.

With some of the lettuces we have had real luck, and they are providing us with salad leaves (cut and come again) several times a week. Others bolted very quickly, while I was up a ladder, but I have left most of them in situ, as the bees really like to visit the little yellow flowers. It also looks as if the garlic clove I planted is busy generating a new head of garlic. I await developments.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Welcoming Enforced Simplicity

Something GREAT happens when this is what you wake up to every morning: 

The simple lifestyle that I have read about for so many years - ever since picking up Home Ecology in a charity shop on holiday in 1991- the downshifting mindset that I have tried so hard to attain, it simply falls into your lap. When you sleep next to a saw like this one and your wardrobe (a quarter full) is covered by blue tarp, plus there is a six foot high gap in your bedroom wall, dust-sheets at the windows, and the garden is half-covered with rubble sacks, you have no option but to simplify.

We have spent the past two or three months packing our belongings into boxes and storing them in the King's workshop, just so that we have space in which to work and to help prevent everything getting ruined by the inevitable soot and plaster dust that accompanies a loft conversion. Clothes, shoes, books, ornaments, pictures, toiletries, camping equipment, that kind of thing. In addition, we donated over half a dozen sacks of unwanted items to Shelter and Save the Children. We are now at the point where, not only do we not miss or hanker after the items we have boxed up, we don't even KNOW what is IN the boxes. I know my wedding dress is in one of them, okay, but essentially we are managing perfectly well without about two-thirds of what we own. 

No-one is going without. The children are going to school in (fairly) clean uniform every day, and I have worn about three different outfits over the past month, not including overalls. Meals are still eaten at our big dining table and showers have become something to really look forward to. All of a sudden, the King and I have a particular affinity with miners.

Our usual routine continues amidst the planks and plaster board; we just have very dirty feet at the end of each day. We still have our beds, which bring us great comfort and excellent sleep, mainly because we are physically worn out but not stressed. My little garden is serving us well; being able to pick fresh lettuce and - today, strawberries! - has been a lovely, if small, link with nature. Even though it is Wimbledon fortnight, rain has held off most days, which has meant I can get washing done, we are only traipsing dust (not mud) through the house, and we are able to take breaks from the sawing and drilling in the fresh air.

Having a carried half a trailer-load of breaks down to ground floor this week, and a similar amount of lath and plaster, I have some sense of what the housing crisis must've been like in The Blitz. Just a wall's worth of bricks or a ceiling's worth of plaster is a mess to be reckoned with. To have your whole home reduced to that kind of rubble by enemy bombers, and worse, to lose loved ones amongst the debris, is barely imaginable.

It has done us good already to have fewer choices, less space and minimal possessions. Already this month, we have celebrated in our ability to work as a team and to meet the physical challenges with muscles we didn't know we had. We have thanked our children for their patience and ability to amuse themselves (sometimes) and cope with continual change. What becomes important is rest/ sleep, food, and a shower. These basics, and each other, are all we need.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Done Meal Planning? Try Meal Linking!

Food prices are rising all the time and yet in this country alone, 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink are currently thrown away every year. Hardly the Home Front, is it? Homesteaders who cook for families on a daily basis are trying to get the most out of the products we buy and save money where possible. The key to this, according to one busy UK mother, is not only menu planning, but meal linking.

The No-Waste Meal Planner by Becky Thorn, is a book that inspired me to try three new recipes in two days - an unprecedented feat. Thorn shows you how to link your meals from one day to another so that you can shop economically but cook deliciously and use up any leftover ingredients that might otherwise have been abandoned at the back of your fridge. 

So what is a meal chain? Here's an example from The No-Waste Meal Planner:

The Roast Chicken to Margarita chain
Roast chicken – use the carcass to make a stock and the leftover chicken meat to make Chicken Risotto – use leftover risotto plus salami, mozzarella and passata to make Arancini with tomato sauce – use the leftover salami, mozzarella and passatta to make Pizza Margerita. Four meals, all linked, and no wasted ingredients.

Thorn's ideas are revolutionary to me, but she writes in a very encouraging, straightforward way and includes shopping lists for each of her meal chains. It's also easy to adapt her recipes and cross from one mail chain to another, which is what I did with my first step into meal linking. 

Ginger biscuits were first on the list. These turned out bigger and flatter than I'd expected but went down well with Secundus in particular. As I had some rhubarb from Mrs Forward's allotment, and some summer fruits which had been ignored for several months in the freezer, my next challenge was to make a fruit crumble, incorporating some broken up ginger snaps into the crumble topping. I don't even LIKE fruit, and I loved this crumble. Prima had third helpings. 

Lastly on my oh-so-healthy foray into meal chains, the King had had a bad day at work so I made some Rocky Road, using broken biscuits from the bottom of the biscuit barrel and, yes, another ginger snap. All of the other ingredients were already in my kitchen cupboards, but if yours need stocking up, Thorn includes good advice about that too.

The best thing about Thorn's book is that it challenges us to think outside the (grocery) box, stop doing the same old dishes and experiment with ingredients. Not only do we get to try new recipes and ways of doing things, but we cut down waste and costs at the same time. All the things I made were treats but they cost very little and are healthier, and more substantial, than bought versions. Thorn has even got me thinking, for the first time in nearly 13 years of marriage, of doing a Sunday roast, so wide-ranging are the permutations of a joint of meat. In this kitchen, that is truly revolutionary.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Dig for Victory Phase 2

The garden space at our homestead is mighty humble, but in the Second World War, every available piece of land was cultivated, and I am determined to "supply my own cookhouse", as the old posters said, even in some small way. We have two raised beds made out of railway sleepers, two espaliered apple trees, and two baby trees which I hope to be able to identify this year. In addition we grow things in pots and in our front garden, which hosts two fruit trees and two lavender bushes at the moment.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Why Friday is Soup Day

Imperial War Museum Eat Your Words Serving Tray by Denby, £9.60
Fridays used to be the day that the King and I avoided doing any more marking or planning and instead put our feet up and fell asleep in front of Inspector Morse. 

Fridays are still special but not quite in the same way since the Evacuees came along. There is, for example, the Friday Treat Jar, which comes out after tea and is filled with snack size offerings from Cadburys. And there is also the fact that Friday is Soup Day.

By Friday, Prima and Secundus are tired and happy to be home and they don't want to eat anything which requires any level of skill or willingness to try new things. What they want is soup. To them, this means Heinz Tomato Soup and nothing else (believe me, I've tried). 

To me, Soup Day is an easy way of using up vegetables which haven't yet been smuggled into pasta sauce, chicken korma etc, or which I have bought in bulk because they are cheap. When you have been given a parsnip by your mother-in-law which can only be described as grotesque, soup is probably the best place for it. 

Trying new soup recipes is a fairly low-risk, low effort way of expanding your repertoire (now that I have a favourite kitchen knife, I feel that I can describe my culinary efforts in posh language), as it doesn't involve regular basting, lattice pastry, or anything involving offal (unless that's what you want, homesteaders).

Home-made vegetable soup gives the family a nutritious, dependable, easy-to-eat and comforting meal at the end of the week, and it also gives you a good excuse to experiment with bread-making - Friday is the only day of the week I regularly make a loaf while the soup is doing its thing in the crock pot. If you haven't tried crock pot cooking yet, save time and money and reduce your stress! Check out the Easy Crockpot Recipes and Menus e-book today! A regular soup day is an essential part of my meal planning.

It's the best thing to do with a whole load of mushrooms that were on sale but are looking a bit "moist" right now. If you use the slow cooker, you'll save even more money. As home-made soups are pretty cheap to make (and, in are house are only served to adults) you can afford to experiment. With today's mushroom soup, I have added a parsnip and taken away a potato, and used (very cheap) beer instead of wine or cider. This is not because I don't think the above-mentioned Potato Pete doesn't make good soups; it is just because, as is so often the case, there are a number of bored-looking parsnips in the bottom of my fridge.

This willingness to try new things and learn from mistakes is the core of Mumtopian life. I have no idea whether the leftover raw mushrooms will freeze successfully, just like I have no idea whether mushroom really goes with beer, but on Soup Day I'm Home Front through-and-through. After all, I own a serving tray that declares "I Make Good Soup".

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Art of Home Front candle-making

There is no Art about the way I make candles. Essentially I recycle wax. If that doesn't sound glamorous, well, hey, it ain't. But it does work and costs pence, especially if you use your woodburner's heat and string you have saved from parcels like they did in the 40s.

To make Mumtopian candles, you can go down one of two routes. 

The Tealight method.
For this, you will need a collection of "oh-that-didn't-last-very-long, did-it?" tealights; the kind you are always compelled to buy whenever you visit an Ikea store. Remove the metal outer casing and recycle it (if possible), then break up the (cooled-down) tealights and remove the wicks and metal wick holders, retaining one. 

Thread a length of string through the wick holder and set aside. You will need enough string to act as a wick in the candle you are going to make, so bear in mind the size of the container you will use for your candle and the number of old tealights you are using. 

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Planning to Dig for Victory

It's not as if we are cut off from all the countries from which we import food by patrolling submarines these days, it's far easier to buy organic food, plus there are 178 types of salad available if you search on Asda online groceries. So why am I planning to dig for victory and what is this victory of which I speak?

Victory Against Idleness.
All too often I find myself sitting in front of the fire, leisurely perusing Giles and Sue Live The Good Life with a large cup of coffee, while outside, our cosy homestead, the year is passing and nothing has happened in the garden. There are certain gardening windows of opportunity I don't want to miss this year because I've got my head buried in a book and no bulbs buried in the garden. 

A call to action is Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden: How to Create a Vegetable, Herb and Fruit Garden in Easy Stages  by Holly Farrell (£14.99, How to Books) which is about the most comprehensive guide to planning a garden I have come across. Whether you are looking to garden as a family, want veg through the year, or would like to use your garden produce for jam-making and baking, there is a plan in this book for you. Farrell devotes the first section of Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden to helping readers assess their garden - the soil, the amount of space, sun and shelter - and what they want to get out of it. She even provides a specific plan for a garden with a clay soil like mine.

Victory Against Ignorance.
Most of the vegetables I have grown in the past five years have been prime examples of Survival of the Fittest. Successes have more been a matter of luck than judgement. It's a waste of time and seed to attempt gardening without any kind of knowledge. 

Farrell includes just the right amount of detail about identifying and removing weeds, successful composting and preparing beds- perhaps I can grow more than rhubarb and gooseberries, if I follow her advice to improve our clay soil. Neither does she include endless off-putting descriptions of What Can Go Wrong, with pages of nasty photos of carrot fly and aphids. 

Carrot-fly, by the way, does not have to be a foregone conclusion. British-bred Carrot ‘Flyaway’ was developed especially for its resistance to Carrot Root Fly making it less susceptible to attack than many other varieties. A naturally very sweet tasting variety with smooth skinned, blunt ended roots and a good orange skin and root colour; seeds are available from Thompson and Morgan here.

From The Farm Blog Hop Victory Against Want.
We are completely spoiled for choice in all aspects of our lives, from the racks and racks of clothes we find in high street stores every season to the huge supermarket aisles devoted to cereals. No-one needs 27 types of washing-up liquid to choose from, and nine kinds of children's toothpaste. Eating seasonally means we eat what is available when it is at its best, rather than strawberries all year round, just because we fancy them for pudding. Growing our own will help us focus on what we need to eat, rather than what we simply want.

Victory Against Disease.
Apart from the health benefits of eating more vegetables and fruit, especially organically grown and freshly picked from the garden, I think that this project will help manage my depression. It's a purposeful, constructive activity which takes place in the open air and offers opportunity for physical exercise and stress relief. 

Farrell includes a module of scented and medicinal herbs - lavender, lemon thyme, bergamot, lemon verbena, feverfew, lemon balm, chamomile and peppermint, which are "the most suitable for home remedies and tea-making": an element I would like to bring to my garden this year. I have lavender bushes already, and have been sent a packet of chamomile seeds by Thompson and Morgan, so that's a good start. 

Victory Against Squalor.
Our garden is not at its best at this time of year, but it would hardly win any trophies in peak condition. I would like to inject some colour and beauty into our living space. Module 25 - Annual Cut Flowers - is the one I am interested in here. It features "easy-to-grow, traditional cottage garden cut flowers that are less common in the shops": sweet peas, cosmos, bullwort, cleome, scabious, and cornflowers. 

The first two on this list have been kindly sent to me by Thompson and Morgan, so there are no excuses! "All these annuals are cut-and-come-again", says Farrell, "providing very British posies all summer." The garden must not be a waste of space but there is no reason why it cannot look good and be useful at the same time. 

Beveridge would be proud.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How to start wearing 1940s style

80-s does 40's with a
shirtwaist top and pleated skirt.

Guest post by Debbie Wells of Vintage Dancer

I have a ten month old girl who I absolutely adore which is why on most days, she is better dressed then I am. It is much more fun to shop for her and coordinate outfits with hair bows and all that fun stuff that goes along with having a baby girl then it is to dress myself. The only exception to my lack of dress is with my vintage costume collection. I have an entire room dedicated to housing me and my husband’s vintage clothing. Truthfully most of it is not genuine vintage. I am a thrift store addict (aka charity shops.) I LOVE to save money as much as I LOVE to be creative with my costuming. Instead of the $150 vintage dress I find an 80-does-40s or 70s-does-20s look-a-like dress and alter it, accessorize it, or just plain ignore the modern parts of it until think  it looks genuinely vintage. I will share with you a few of my secrets using my current favorite era the 1940's.

80s does 40's peplum top dress
The 1940's are a great era to re-create with thrift store clothing. Most thrift store clothes are circa 1980's and 1990's which is when there was a 1940's fashion revival. I can comb through the racks of dresses and find about ten or so that look 40's. The key style is the shirtwaist dress with collar and buttons half way or all the way down the front. Skirts can be A-line or long and pleated. It's a classic 40's dress style that hasn't gone out of fashion since. The other common style of dress is the peplum top dress and or two piece blouse and skirt.  These are in style right now so you can shop at a new store instead of a thrift store if you prefer. The only thing to avoid with new dresses is the shorter lengths. Vintage 40's dresses came down to just below your knees. Anything shorter will instantly look too modern.

Once you find a dress it's time to add a pair of shoes. 1940s shoe style are wedges, Mary Jane’s, and peep toes (in style now.) What makes these style look more 40's and less modern is the chunky heels and thick straps. 1940's shoes were sturdy and practical. I love them because I don't feel like I am going to lose my balance like I do walking on thin heels. 1940's colors were a bit on the drab side- black, grey, tan, blue. But if your dress is full of spring time color your shoes should match.

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