Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar: January's Table of Work


1. Use up any Christmas left-overs at once.

2. As soon as you have welcomed in the New Year, make a close inspection of your wardrobe and linen cupboard, and take advantage of the bargains at the White Sales. If you have children, inspect school kits and replenish where necessary.

3. Pay all club subscriptions which fall due now, also any dog or wireless or other licence.

4. Settle any accounts held over from last year and if you have a balance on the right side, keep it for an emergency.

5. If you have a country home or a town home with a garden, discuss, plan and decide on the flowers and vegetables you want, and order what requires to be sown at once.

6. Replace any shortages in your store cupboard, taking advantage of any cheap offers.

7. If short of Seville orange marmalade, make a supply of ginger marmalade, orange and apple jelly, and apricot jam from dried apricots.

To use up Oddments of Boiled Ham

Allow 2 oz. ham fat or 2 oz. butter to 1 lb. ham. Put both through a mincer with a fine knife. Season to taste with French mustard, and cayenne, and rub through a fine sieve. Pot, and cover with clarified butter or lard. Pot tongue in the same way, allowing 2 or 3 oz. butter to 1 lb. tongue, and flavouring with ground mace as well as cayenne and mustard.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar: January


BEGIN by planning the family budget for the year. It is easy to do this when your income is fixed. If your budget is likely to fluctuate this year, you must plan it to allow for such an emergency. In brief, you must cut your coat according to your cloth.

The best way to budget is to deduct your income tax then divide your income into eight portions, and allot each portion in this way:­

A. Food and Household Expenses ... ... ... 4 portions
B. Rent ... ... ... ... 1 portion
C. Clothing ... ... ... 1 portion
D. For Saving ... ... ... 1 portion
E. Doctor's and Dentist's Bills,
Insurance and Holiday Expenses,etc. ... ... 1 portion

If the net income is £iooo per year, the money would be allotted in this fashion:
A ... ... ... ... ... £500
B ... ... ... ... ... £125
C ... ... ... ... ... £125
D ... ... ... ... ... £125
E ... ... ... ... ... £125

To discover the sum you must allow for each item in your budget per week, divide each allotment by 52. Weekly expenditure under "Food and Household" should include all purchases of food, drink, cleaning materials, laundry, light, coal or other fuel, wages, household repairs, any minor household replenishing, servants' insurances, or portion thereof, any window­-cleaning payment, etc.

(The Housewives'Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall London)

Elizabeth Craig

Until a few weeks ago I didn't think I possessed an Elizabeth Craig cookery book. I had heard of her, of course. In her day (1920's and 30's) she was probably the most well known and most published cookery writer. Her output was prodigious. She didn't confine herself to cookery either but wrote on many other subjects connected with homecraft and house-keeping; a pre-war Martha Stewart, and just as inspirational and unattainable for most of her readership I would imagine too. Then I obtained a copy of 'Elizabeth Craig's House-Keeping', a copy of 'The Housewives' Monthly Calendar' and found a copy of 'Economical Cookery' lurking, forgotten on a bookshelf. I'm hooked. Wikipedia has a few bald facts on her life - I would love to know more about her.

So, this year I'll be sharing snippets from 'The Housewives' Monthly Calendar', published in 1936. Each month she provides 'A Table Of Work', a menu suggestion for each day, 'Tea Bread For The Month', 'Table Decorations' and ideas for sandwiches and fillings. No recipes are given. I would imagine that the calendar was designed to be used with her other works, which would provide them if needed. The book is a delight. It would be fun to follow at least some of her suggestions for the month and some of the sandwich fillings sound quite delicious and far more imaginative than anything I have ever come up with. This was obviously a time when sandwiches were taken very seriously indeed.

Christmas Day Review

Did you have a lovely Christmas Day? I do hope so. Ours was delightful, quite the nicest I have spent for many years. The weather was horrid - rain all day, so we were under no obligation whatsoever to go out. Rob and I are both still struggling with residual sickness, so staying in and resting was probably a wise idea. Resting in the sense of playing with, feeding and reading to two very energetic and happy little boys., that is. Virtually no cooking either. A non-traditional Christmas menu has become, well, a tradition here and this year was the least labour intensive yet:

Caramel French Toast and Sausages for breakfast (the sausages and the bake in the oven style french toast prepared the night before - 40 minutes in the oven while the boys ripped open their presents and the sausages popped in to heat up for the last 10 minutes). Delicious and lots of left-overs.

Bacon sandwiches for lunch

Pasta with egg and tomato sauce for the boys and, much later quick roast shoulder of lamb (bought several weeks ago on sale and frozen), crusty bread and minty mayonnaise. The lamb was marinated for 48 hours in lemon juice and garlic and was utterly scrumptious. Roughly pulled apart and stuffed into the rolls and devoured by us sitting on the sofa as we watched a dvd on the lap top.

It was very nice not to have to spend most of the day in the kitchen (thank you sweetheart). No vegetables, I've just noticed that. Oh dear. But lots of oranges and grapes to save us from scurvy. Oh, and Christmas pudding too with brandy butter. Some things are sacrosanct.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Talk At The Christmas Tea-Table (1905)

“JANIE" says she wants to enjoy Christmas, but it seems often such a busy, hurried time. Choosing cards and presents for her friends becomes a burden rather than pleasure, and a great tax on her purse.

Be sensible, Janie. Put aside first exactly what you can afford to spend, including post­ages, for postages mount up considerably, and begin in good time. Then choose sensible things. The shops at this season are often full of useless ornaments; buy something which will last. I find my friends like books better than anything else. Very nice books can he bought for a penny, and are far more useful than cards, which are too often hardly looked at, while for 6d. and 1s. really beautiful presents can be made. I advise you to send for Partridges' list, telling them some of your wants. You could give your aunt one of their Devotional Books Series ; then there are nice text calendars for your brother's rooms, and beautiful books for the children. In fact, 9, Paternoster Row can supply wants suitable to every purse, and no rubbish.

“CLARA”, who keeps a little shop, says she used to give small presents to her customers at Christmas, but competition is so keen and trade has been so bad, that she has had to give it up. Still, she is sorry; she does not like to be thought mean.

It is not meanness, Clara; you must be just before you are generous. Remember you have children to support. I know in villages like yours the custom of giving Christmas boxes to customers still lingers, but in large towns it has been almost, if not altogether, extinguished. The population has increased so rapidly, and competition is so much keener, that tradesmen came to an unanimous conclusion that they couldn't afford it. All the same; you might do something in a quiet way. I think we all ought to try to cheer the heart of some lonely person at Christmastide. Is there no one who has seen better days, who you know is out of the pale of the ordinary charities and doles, whom you might take this opportunity of doing a little kindness to? No one is offended at receiving a present at Christmas­time, be the gift ever so small; it shows kindly thought on the part of the giver - a thing much more prized than the gift itself. Too often people who have seen better days are over­looked. I remember a case of a minister's daughter, whose father being dead, her income was greatly reduced, and she had to live in small rooms. She was well known and respected, and when Christmas came people said to themselves, " Oh, I won't send anything to Miss B; she is sure to receive a number of presents far better than any I could offer: she has so many friends.” But one old lady said, " Well, perhaps she may be offended, but I'd like her to know I thought of her loneliness this Christmas. I've been baking some mince pies, and I shall take her one or two over." This was on Christmas Day morning, and the old lady came back to say that was the only present the minister's daughter had received. Everybody had been thinking that some one else would look after her. So try and do something for some lonely person, Clara, and perhaps your thought will be far more appreciated than if you had sent presents round to all your customers.

"RESTLESS ONE." - You are restless because you are not satisfied with the state of your heart before God. As the year dies away, I guess your conscience is reproaching you for neglected oppor­tunities of drawing nearer to God; of unkind, cutting speeches you have made; of friends you have snubbed, some of them, perhaps, now dead; of your next­door neighbour's gossiping words about you, which you overheard and don't intend to overlook.

Yes, you must overlook them, poor, rest­less heart, or you will not find true rest. Christmas time gives one grand opportunities of forgiving and forgetting. Make it up with her; you cannot recall the past, but you can do better for the future. And that very restlessness about Divine things in itself is not a bad sign - it is far better than not caring at all. That good saint of old, Augustine, said in one of his beautiful prayers: " Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless till they find their rest in Thee."

There is a restlessness that is Divine
God sends it to those souls He fain would bless,
Who, weary of the world and all its ways,
Do thirst and hunger after righteousness.

For Thou hast made us for Thyself alone,
And all the souls of men must restless be,
Till, guided by the Spirit of all truth,
They find their true and perfect rest in Thee.

"FANNY" - I have not forgotten my promise to give you some more fireside hints for those little fingers out of your scrap-bag. Needle books are always in request, and are most acceptable Christmas presents to those people who like to see something pretty in their work-basket, yet are always too busy sewing for other folks to dream of making anything pretty for themselves.

Take two pieces of card - the ordinary visiting card answers the purpose very well. Cover each card on one side first, with a scrap of bright-coloured ribbon or satin; this is done by drawing the silk by needlefuls of long thread across the card inside; then cover the inside with a piece of silk or sateen by seaming it to the edge of the satin. When both cards are thus covered, join them together by seaming them at the back with coloured silk; line them with bits of fine white flannel, neatly gimped with scissors round the edges; fill it with a few needles; stitch on two ends of narrow ribbon to tie up; and lo ! you have a pretty needle­ case. A flower or sprig, worked in silk or painted on the outside, greatly improves the appearance. They sell well at bazaars; also the long needle-books, but these require, more care in making. Any strips of wide ribbon for the outside, and scarlet or white flannel for the inside, are suitable; and if a little pincushion is made at the end in bolster shape, it is all the more saleable.

"PROUD MOTHER." Yes. I'm very glad your little Eva is so intelligent, but don't overtax her brain by feats of memory, and if, as you say, she takes note of everything, be very careful what you say before her. Parents should remember that children have ears and are very imitative. Let them hear and see nothing that you would be ashamed of any outsider hearing and seeing. Sometimes one hears such conversations as these:

" Mother, what made you marry father, when it was you that had all the money? "
" Hush, child. What do you mean?''
“Why the other day, mother, when Aunt Maria was here, you said he was poor, and had you known you would have been burdened with so many of his relations you might have thought twice about the matter."
"My dear, we must have been talking of somebody else­ - your Uncle Bob, I expect."
" Oh, no, mother; it was father you were talking of. You said there was a time when he drank too much, and that it was a good thing you moved here, out of the way of tempta­tion - that your money paid for the move – and - "
"Maggie, you must never repeat what you heard – never - ­never."

But all the same, the mother had had a lesson.

"YOUNG MAID" wants to know how to smooth a creased or rumpled ribbon. Lay the ribbon evenly on a clean table or board, and with a very clean sponge damp it all over, missing no part. Next roll it smoothly and tightly on a ruler, or some round piece of wood wider than the ribbon, and let it remain till dry. Afterwards transfer it to a fresh block of wood (which must be perfectly dry), rolling it round that. Wrap it up closely in coarse brown paper (white paper makes marks), and keep it thus till you want to use it. Don't iron it; ironing a ribbon is apt to discolour it, and give it a faded look even when new, besides making it limp.

"EDITH'' - By all means go to the Watch-Night Service on the last day of the old year. It is one of God's ways of calling His people to Him. Only if by going you so knock yourself up as to be unfit to get your old grandmother her early cup of tea next morning, then I think you would show true self-denial by staying away. Your prayer to God in the quiet of your chamber would be far more acceptable in His sight. To all it is a solemn thing, this departure of the old year. We know not what the new' year may bring - what changes, what disappointments - perhaps death itself for some of us. Life is so full of problems, and vexations, and struggles, it seems to many of us so hard to live at all and pay our way. Dear friends of the Tea-table, I would say to you all, Trust in God.

The Heavenly manna fell each day at dawn,
Not over-night.
So when thy trial comes, thou too shalt find
All will be right.

That each reader of " THE FAMILY FRIEND " may have a truly happy Christmas and bright New Year is the earnest wish of

Aunt Flo

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Blah

Well all around the blogsphere I see a hive of busyness and creativity and here on this poor neglected blog .......

Ho hum. We feel as though we are limping out the remainder of the year, full of cold and germs, coughs and sneezes. Visitors at the beginning of the month left a virus as a hostess gift and we have been sick, sick, sick ever since. Nothing serious (for which we thank God), just miserable, self-pity inducing sickness. We are all on the mend now, but the result of all this has been that the grand plans I had for advent went by the board long ago. We lost the advent calendar, lost the book of advent devotions and lost the will to continue. Homeschooling was of the decidedly 'unschooling' variety. Christmas has taken us by surprise. Aren't there usually more days in December? I was sure there was another week to go and here we are with it virtually upon us. I don't think I am alone - I keep eavesdropping on conversations in the shops: people moaning "I'm not ready! I'm not ready". In our little neighbourhood the Christmas spirit seems sadly lacking. The shops are packed, the shoppers frantic - as though the shops were closing for a week or more, instead of 2 days. No one seems happy about it - Christians and non-Christians alike. One lady I overheard in the charity shop was complaining that the supermarket was filled with men ("Just drives me mad: all of them moaning into their mobile phones 'I don't know which one you want!'). There are some comic moments but it is all rather sad.

Chez Baleboosteh, we are tired but not sad at all. Happy in fact - just not feeling terribly Christmassy. Today the weather was too bad to walk to church so we bumbled about the house and dried some garlic. Garlic is part of our Christmas tradition (such as it is). The first year we were here we planted garlic on Christmas Day. This year we peeled, sliced (in the food processor) and filled the dehydrator with approximately 10lbs of garlic. The house smells astonishing. We used the photo tutorial provided by Deliberate Agrarian as a guide. I have no idea how long it will take to dry, but we may be seeing the New Year in wielding a grinder and sieve.

Rob has to work a half day tomorrow (boo hoo), but we will then be able to relax and contemplate the holiday properly. Once the boys are in bed we will put up the tree and wrap their presents. As for the rest of today, well there is homemade fudge cooling in the kitchen that may not last until Christmas Day and we are going to settle down this evening to watch that classic Christmas movie ....... 'While You Were Sleeping'. Yes, I know it should be 'Its A Wonderful Life', but I have to admit that while in general I much prefer classic black and white films, I don't really enjoy this one as much as I perhaps I should. Shocking but true.