Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bill's Best Birthday Present: Sausage Making!

Brits don't seem to make much of their birthdays, not like Americans do. So most years Bill is fairly stuck for what to ask for. As it happened, about this time his cousin Mike and Mike's wife Chris had posted on Facebook how much they enjoyed doing this class. So this is how we came to do this.

Apparently Bill's son, Simon, used to like to get on this tractor...

The Northumberland Sausage Company holds the classes in a portacabin in the car park of the Brockbushes Farm Shop, near Corbridge (which you already know is a wonderful place). We arrived early enough to browse the farm shop, which was much as I expected: full of wonderful, tempting stuff that we consider over-priced and thus can live without. However, I expect I'll come back when I start my Christmas shopping as there are some interesting and unexpected items on offer. For example, who knew that 'mango vinegar' was a cordial? Me neither. 

This is what a horseradish looks like when it's not in a small jar...

The man who greeted us (quite pleasantly considering we interrupted his lunch) turned out to be the tutor. As most people do, he asked about my accent, how long I'd been here, etc. He went on to ask if I had a sense of humour ('Sometimes' was my reply), warning me that the course was rather smutty and full of innuendo. I told him I would pretend not to understand if it got too offensive. 

Warning: If you're planning to go on this sausage-making course, you may wish to stop here so that you can enjoy the surprise of it all!!

When we began he introduced himself as "Timothy Sausage" and his wife / assistant as Christine (I think she probably kept her maiden name). He began by telling the history of the business - which is all of five years old - and how he came to be associated with it. He began by saying that when he met Chris his profession was "one in which one rests a lot". However, as he was getting married he couldn't just be on the dole, he needed to find a real job. So he got training in adult teaching. I gather he'd done that for a while before meeting up with his present employment. 

Step 1: Grind up 750g pork shoulder

Sometime later the opportunity presented for me to suggest he'd also gotten acting lessons, such was his teaching style. Now I thought he had just told us he'd been unemployed most his life until a woman kicked him up the backside, but Bill understood the 'resting a lot' profession indicated he had been an actor in his previous life. Mr. Sausage readily admitting to having been such and even pulled out a picture of himself in younger days. We both remarked how much age changes one in unexpected ways. 

Step 2: Add (secret) seasoning, rusk (breadcrumbs) and chosen additions; mix with hands.

As a sausage teacher, he is now a local celebrity, perhaps even more so than when he graced the stage. I have to say he is what makes the day so fun, though getting to play with noisy machines and squishy food also adds to the hilarity. The rude jokes were almost superfluous for me, but I'm sure they added their own spice for those with the national sense of humour. 

Step 3: Put rude red attachment on grinding machine.

So, what did I learn about sausage making? We started with 750 g of pork shoulder and fed it to the meat grinder. The spiral metal blade inside is called a 'worm'. We were of course warned to keep our fingers away from our worms. I'll not bore you with any more 'Carry On' humour. After grinding the meat we added 70g of rusk. I believe Timothy said this was a plant based product, but at one time this was just breadcrumbs used as a binding agent. Then we added 20g of 'seasoning' - the secret ingredients of course. He told us it would of course included salt and pepper but one of the surprise ingredients was nutmeg. I'm pretty sure there was garlic in there as well. Then that was all kneaded together until it resembled a 'brain'. Appetizing, eh? Since this was Bill's birthday present, he got to do the messy stuff.

Mr. Sausage kept wanting to tell us he only had 4 skins left. 

Then 150g of water (which equals 150mls, something new I learned) was also kneaded into the mix. After that we were told we could add up to 200g of other stuff: spices, vegetables, sauces, herbs, jams, you name it - all off the shelves in the portacabin. We were warned that 'less is more' and to 'keep it simple'. Bill chose honey and orange-and-lemon-marmalade. Hey, it was his birthday, right? 

Then came the skins, which were pig intestines. They looked fairly gross and smelled a bit farm-y, but even wet the texture wasn't unpleasant - more like wet muslin than the slime I expected. Getting them onto the cone shaped attachment to the grinder was a challenge, they were so un-slippery. Then I gently shoveled the meat mix into the grinder again whilst Bill handled the stuffed intestine as it came out the other end. That completed, he had to twist (3 times, each in alternating direction) the stuffed intestine into sausages after gently squeezing. That done, we put them in a plastic bag which was placed in the large refrigerator.

Steps 4 &5: Slide all of pig intestine onto red attachment then send the sausage mixture back through the grinder into the skin. 

The second batch Bill flavoured with chunks of red onion and a squirt of BBQ sauce. We sailed right through. At the end, we were instructed how to break down the sausage machines and to extract the remaining ground sausage. The links were to be refrigerated overnight to let them dry a bit; the ground sausage could be had - and was - for dinner. We ended up taking home about 2 kg / 4 pounds of mixed sausage meat.

Step 6: Twist the stuffed skin at intervals to form sausages.

Other bits that come to mind are that Timothy's is not a beer belly, but the much more distinguished claret belly. However is his favourite word. However much he likes wine, he wouldn't cook sausage with wine, nor would he grill it. If we wanted to be 'chefy' we could pan fry it and finish it off in the oven so as not to dry it out.  Beer or cider would work well with pork.

The pork shoulder is only about 20% fat. If making sausage with beef the recipe would be much the same, but if using chicken or turkey it would be completely different. Venison sausage works well using the same recipe, though he would use a shiraz wine with that and he would put in bacon to add fat to the venison. Made sense to me.

He referred to the leading commercial brands of sausage collectively as The Bandits and said they were only required to have as much as 35% of meat-product in their sausages to call them such. I've long known that hot dogs and baloney are made up of mechanically reclaimed bits that most of us would call garbage. They still taste good, but I don't tend to buy those things here in Britain. Mad cow disease made me stick with big lumps of nearly identifiable animal, though I may have eaten horse now and then. I agreed in principle with Timothy when he said he didn't mind eating horse, he just wanted to know when he was doing it. 

He said something about legally being obliged to include preservatives and something to ward off some kind of fungus that likes pork. He mentioned green bacon, which is apparently due to this fungus. I think he said that it's safe to eat if cooked, but don't quote me on that. I don't see me ever cooking green bacon; for one, bacon doesn't stay in the fridge long enough for a fungus to find it and for two I'm not a fan of green meat and would put it in the trash. Sausage being thicker than bacon, the health and safety minders feel green sausage wouldn't be safe or something like that.

Timothy spits before he refers to the French, all in good humour of course. However, I think he was fairly serious when he denied that the Americans have any culture and of course it's our fault that Brits have become so lazy in the way that they eat so many ready meals. For the latter, guilty as charged. 

However I did attempt to tell him about the wonders of Jimmy Dean sausage and about Big Bad John, a pop hit in 1961. I had a terrible crush on Jimmy Dean/Big Bad John when I was a child (not to the mention the sausage). That was even before I knew my family history included generations of miners, including at least one hero who died rescuing others. What more could one ask? History, heritage, music, food, philosophy... I think the Southern US has plenty culture! 

I would go back and listen to Timothy Sausage any day, although I can't say I much love the sausages we made. Even with BBQ sauce and onions I felt they were rather bland. I'm sure that this is because when I think Jimmy Dean and drool; what can I say? I'm not a native Brit.

We don't eat a lot of red meat in this house (though we do indulge when we are out), however I can see me pulling out Grandma and Grandpa's meat grinder and trying out one of these recipes:

Jimmy Dean Copycats

Top Secret Jimmy Dean

An Expat Cooks Jimmy Dean

(Looks like I'm not the only one who misses this flavour.)

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Brocade Grenade? - Part VII

Well, I'm most annoyed that I cannot find a photograph to show you a very gaudy piece of jewellery created by Georges Fouquet which was named (according to my notes) 'brocade grenade'; it didn't look like an explosive device but we were told that 'grenade' is actually Spanish for pomegranate. Susan admitted that it wasn't to everyone's taste, but made as it was from varying sizes of rubies closely set together, it couldn't be replicated. Maybe that's just as well. It was rather gaudy.

There is much of Fouquet's work that I could die for: he collaborated with my much loved Mucha.

More of this wonderfulness here.

Carrying on with the grenade/pomegranate theme, I'll venture that the 1920s was an 'explosion' of ideas and colours from other cultures, all with their particular styles of jewellery. The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the early 1920s created almost a mania for all things Egyptian and jewellery made of gold. [For major Downton Abbey fans, you may find it interesting to know that one of the discoverers of this tomb was George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon; the Carnarvon's own Highclere Castle, where that series is filmed. Oh, and it turns out Lady Carnarvon has a blog!]

In addition to Cartier's cats, VanCleef and Arpels was commissioned to create Egyptian motifs for the Duchess of Windsor. Try as I might, I cannot find an example that ties together that jeweller, that person and that motif.  However, I can show you VanCleef & Arpels Egyptian jewellery; VanCleef and Arpels jewellery for the Duchess of Windsor; can't say I much care for what Google kicks up for the Duchess' Egyptian jewellery. Nevermind, we're still talking about the 1920s and the Prince of Wales didn't meet Wallis until 1931... Re-reading my notes, maybe I've mis-interpreted and the three don't actually overlap, only that VC&A were famous for Egyptian jewellery and they designed for that particular person.

Perhaps it was the growing nationalism in India and the fact that Gandhi took control of the Indian National Congress in 1920; or, more likely, because the Maharajas of India brought jewels to Europe on an unprecedented scale:

Alain Boucheron wrote in his biography of the house of Boucheron, The Master Jewelers: “The flamboyant Maharajah... arrived at Boucheron’s in 1927 accompanied by a retinue of 40 servants all wearing pink turbans, his 20 favourite dancing girls and, most important of all, six caskets filled with 7,571 diamonds, 1,432 emeralds, sapphires, rubies and pearls of incomparable beauty.”

With the fashionable short hair, long earrings, bandanas and bright colours were the jewellery accessories in demand. This brings us to 'tutti fruitti' jewellery, though that term didn't come about until the 1970s.  Feast your eyes on this fruit!

I've made several attempts to read A Passage to India, published in 1924; I confess that I find it rather boring. Maybe my reading list here will help me get through it should I find it again. Alain Boucheron, member of yet another French jewellery family, is mentioned in this article about the wealth of Indian maharajas.  I suspect The Master Jewelers would be a much better read, well, lighter reading anyhow.

I can't even begin to speculate what brought Oriental culture to the attention of the flappers of the interwar period. Nevertheless we were told that Jade Buddhas were immensely popular as well as Indian and Egyptian designs in the 1920s. No wonder, they are really beautiful.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Holding Myself Accountable

You won't probably have noticed it, but a few weeks ago I added another section to the right hand column to keep track of my needlework projects. Which I am ridiculously bad about not finishing. I desperately need to either re-commit and finish them or to let myself off the hook and get rid of them. Keeping track of my book reading seems to have made me hang in and finish a few I might not otherwise have done, so I thought I'd try using this blog to push me on my projects a bit. The only positive I can report so far is that at least I've not put these aside and started anything else! Which is definitely progress. So, my three current projects are:

Knitting a Child's Sweater

This cheeky little chappie is from a brilliant knitting book called Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting by Debbie Stoller. Not only does she include quite a few patterns I would consider trying, she actually explains how to make up your own pattern for a garment. Way out of my league just now, but that made this book irresistible. I'm knitting the jumper without all the button-on animals, and it's the second or third one I've done. It's just challenging enough to be interesting, but still simple enough to be relaxing, if that makes any sense. I knit these jumpers for children in Nigeria along with a few dozen other ladies at Age UK in Whitley Bay. The local Rotary collects donated yarns of all types and these ladies knit it into everything baby related you could think of. I'm nowhere as good at knitting as they are, and not likely to ever be, but I do enjoy being associated with such a wealth of experience and skill. I'm still working through my own stash of yarn that has come to me over the years and only take yarn from them when I can't match something from my collection. My current sweater is purple and all that remains is to stitch it together. I'll be sure to show it to you when it's done - warts and all!

Patchwork Notebook Cover

This is not likely to end up being a notebook cover, owing to the fabrics I used being way too bulky; but I don't mind so long as the work I've done gets used for something - most likely a tote bag, as that seems to be the go-to item that brings the most satisfaction. I wanted to play with an idea I had for using scraps. Scraps are becoming the bane of my existence owing to my sense of stewardship (which sounds so much more noble than pack-rattery). Anyhow, these are the strips that were left after I washed away the paper backing, after being unable to throw away several bags of the stuff from processing a stack of interior designer fabric sample books. There is something really seductive about the colours and textures of these fabrics even though they aren't ones I would choose for myself. Anyhow, I tried weaving the narrow strips and then cross-stitching over the joins and I liked the outcome. When it becomes a finished project, I show you whatever it turns out to be.

These colours are pale green and gold with yellow and light green thread, but the sky is so dull today even full 'daylight' makes everything look grey.

Sew Myself a Piece of Clothing

I've selected View E, in the lower right corner. I really like princess seams but of course they are a complication I could have done without. I've started making this from beige muslin fabric which lined some curtains in its previous life.  That should tell me if my shoulder adjustments are working and will introduce me to all the techniques used in the pattern so I'll hopefully be less likely to mess up some 'real' fabric.  I've hit a snag in that I've apparently put some of the pieces together wrong, but that is what comes from sewing by hand in front of the TV. I shall have to give over some serious attention to figure out where I went wrong. I expect to be swearing when I get to the buttonholes, but there is nothing for it but to get on and learn how...

If you have a blog, do you ever use it to make yourself do something?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Cartier and Worth - Part VI

I've added the topic "History of Jewellery" to the right hand column so anyone just picking this up should be able to find the other bits.

Cartier is known for the cat jewellery pieces made
for the Duchess of Windsor.

Our lecturer, Susan Rumfitt, was telling us that at the 1925 Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts, Cartier (the jeweller) displayed his wares in the fashion section, not with other jewellery makers. She said the Cartier family had been quite smart in that they had married into the Worth family and so were able to suggest the bespoke jewellery pieces to complement the couture clothes.

This was the first I'd heard that the Cartier family and that of Charles Frederick Worth were intermarried, but it's true. I found a book on Google (Cartier by Hans Nadelhoffer) that showed a family tree.   Louis Francois Cartier began innovative jewellery making in 1847. His son Alfred (1841-1925) took over the business in the 1870s. Alfred had three sons: Louis, Pierre and Jacques. The brothers are named in a fascinating article in The Guardian, which I'll come back to in a moment. What the article doesn't mention is that there was a fourth child, a daughter named Suzanne.

Charles Frederick Worth is an Englishman who went to Paris and founded the haute couture industry. If you don't know about Worth, his Wikipedia entry is well 'worth' reading. It gives the names of his two sons: Jean-Phillipe and Gaston. 

Nadelhoffer's book indicates that The Guardian is correct that Louis Cartier married a Hungarian countess, but she was his second wife. Louis Cartier's first wife was Andree-Caroline Worth, daughter of Jean-Phillipe Worth; Susanne Cartier married Jacques Worth, son of Gaston. So the Cartier and Worth families were very much 'wedded into' one another.

The Guardian article lauds the genius of Albert in sending his sons out in the world to establish Cartier in other world centers: Louis remained in Paris, but Pierre was sent to New York and Jacques to London. This didn't amaze me that much as I had read much the same about the Rothschild family. The eldest son remained in Frankfurt whilst other sons were sent to Vienna, London, Naples and Paris. I wrote about this when sharing our visit to an incredible house near Nice a couple of years ago. 

Funny enough I have several leopard brooches - costume jewellery I'm sure - that belonged to my Aunt Rita. I had no idea this motif was originally linked to Cartier and the Windsors. I'll have to get my cats out more often. The other thing I discovered is that The Guardian  has a whole host of articles about 'Great dynasties'; you can find links at the bottom of the webpage about the Cartiers. I'm looking forward to loads of reading!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Poor Ad

Today is my Dad's birthday - he would have been 97. I can't really imagine him at that age, he was so poorly at 70. In trying to think of what to write about today I remembered that in the past year my genealogical research has led me to his first wife. Her name was Adeline. I've also had email conversations with her first cousin once removed (her cousin's daughter) in Minneapolis. The cousin's name is Barbara.

I found Ad with my maiden name listed on her mother's obituary. That gave me her maiden name and from there I found Barbara on Ancestry. Together we have pieced that Adeline remarried, had two children, divorced and found (possibly) two other husbands, the last with her til his death in 2000. She died in 2007, outliving my Dad by almost 20 years. Unlike my Dad she has grandchildren. Good for her.

Definitely my Grandma on the right; maybe Adeline on the left?

Although Barbara says Ad was her mother's favourite cousin, she doesn't seem to have any photographs of her. I shared this picture that I think may be her. I got this when we attended a family reunion of Grandma's family a few years back. I love the photo of my Grandma - she was such a clothes horse! - but I was really intrigued by the woman standing next to her. I think it may be Adeline, Grandma's favourite daughter-in-law. Mom told me everyone called her 'Poor Ad' because my Dad had divorced her. I've always been very curious about her. It was good to learn that she had remarried and had children. She ended up in Seattle, Washington which I believe is a beautiful place to live.

My mom in the 1940s.

I don't know if Barbara will ever manage to contact Adeline's children or grandchildren or we'll ever confirm the identity of the photo, but here are the reasons I think this may be Adeline: the clothes put the photo in the 1940s, when my Dad was married to his first wife. They are on a pier at a lake, which means either Minnesota or Wisconsin. The other reason is that the woman is dark haired, has high cheekbones and wears wire framed glasses....just like my Mom. I think that was my Dad's 'type'. 

Did you ever notice that men seem to be drawn to a certain 'type'?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Car and Coat - Part V

Apparently during the Victorian era just about every dress or blouse was covered with lace on the front. Things changed a lot around the 1920s.  For one, Sonia Delauney had the idea of making her car and her coat match.

Vogue magazine approved. 

We were told that Vogue magazine in the 1920s and 1930s had huge influence on jewellery design. Vogue's idea was that women should have not just matching cars and coats, but matching jewellery for each outfit, as in bespoke. So they've always had outrageous, unaffordable ideas; nothing new there then. However, Vogue was pushing the then new idea of choosing an item because of its brand name rather than because it suited one's features or lifestyle.

The 1925 Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts was also enormously influential, with a mini-town built of show houses. Items were displayed on glass plinths under bright lights to make them sparkle...pretty much like all jewellery shops show their wares now you might say. This was a new approach, completely different to the prevailing natural styles of art and gothic architecture as promulgated by John Ruskin. Instead people were exposed to Corbusier and Mondrian.

Cubism was a source of new design shapes and colours, particularly the geometric shapes. Also tourmaline crystal, often called watermelon crystal, became very popular.  One of my favourite Dick Francis books, Straight, is about a jewels dealer and a jewellery maker (and a jockey, of course); I read about tourmaline crystal along with a whole slew of fascinating gadgets. I recommend this book highly.

Going back briefly to Delauney's work (and her husband Roberts's), they were known for developing an art form, an offshoot of cubism called 'orphism'.  I quite liked the look of it, strangely enough. Also, I recently discovered that Bill actually hears some of the inane things I say! I read on some fashion blog or other in the last few weeks (I've looked and can't find it) that some designer has come out with dresses printed with 'fractured geometrics'. The phrase grabbed my attention for some reason and I was thinking it was the most interesting print I'd seen in quite a while.  Have a look and see if you don't agree. Anyhow, Bill and I were watching the season finale of The Voice UK and whilst I wasn't crazy about the song or the set, I did think maybe we'd been transported back to the 60s and when the stage lights played across the lines in the dancers' costumes (at about 1.10 if you want to skip to there!) that phrase (fractured geometrics) came to mind again. I mentioned this to him and he reminded me of it when I started comparing it with 'orphism'.  See what you think of the Delauney look

Saturday, 11 April 2015

History of Jewellery - Part IV

To any awaiting this next installment, my apologies. Blame the Internal Revenue Service for having a ridiculously complex tax system; I have admitted defeat and committed to pay a substantial proportion of my income to some accountants. Sadly, that doesn't relieve me of much work as I still have to spoon feed them the data. And on top of that, it's been pointed out that I've mis-numbered my posts, so I can't even count... Never mind, let's talk about something pleasant instead, shall we?

My notes from the lecture say that during the Great War, jewellery manufacture nearly ceased in Britain, and probably most of Europe. I guess it's pretty difficult to set diamonds properly when the bombs are raining down upon your head. However, in the U.S. jewellery manufacture continued as usual and costume jewellery became increasingly popular.

Now we came back to the Cambridge emeralds; it seems that Queen Mary's brother Frank (Prince Frances of Teck) died unexpectedly in 1910. He had never married, but that didn't mean he left the emeralds to his only sister; no, of course not. He left them to his girlfriend. If this sounds like silly gossip, wait til you hear how the emeralds came into the royal family to start with: Prince Adolphus (7th son of mad King George III) and his wife, Augusta of Hesse-Kassel - the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - happened to enter a lottery for charity in Frankfurt (one website says they were auctioned at a charity ball in 1818). Anyhow the prize they won was a box of cabochon (stones that have been cut but not faceted) emeralds. The website I've used to check my notes estimates between 30 and 40 of these large emeralds. I wonder how much a lottery ticket cost them? 

Anyhow, these emeralds, or at least some of them, were made into some earrings a necklace and were handed down to their daughter, Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (Queen Mary's mother). From her they went not to her eldest child, Mary, nor to her eldest son or youngest son but to her middle son, Francis. Frank never married but gambled a lot and had this affair with the Countess of Kilmorey. 

Countess of Kilmorey in costume as Comtesse duBarry

His elder sister, now Queen consort, of course thought this woman most unsuitable to own the emeralds and she got them back, paying her £10,000 for them. The present value of that amount is estimated anywhere between £600,000 and £800,000. It must not have taken her that long to accomplish as they were all ready for her to wear to India in 1911. As part of the process of getting the emeralds Mary had her brother's will sealed so no one else had access to it and this has become standard practice for royal family members since that time. Who knows how many juicy stories we've missed out on?

Anyhow, back to the Cambridge emeralds. I had to learn some new terms to interpret my notes. Apparently 'garland style' jewellery was all the rage around the turn of the century. This is just as it sounds: the metal and stones were shaped to look like what Caesar wore around his head, plus some ribbons and flowers and such. It refers to the motif generally used more than the way the pieces were fashioned. On the other hand, so far as I can tell, in 1910 some of the emeralds were in a festoon style which might also be described as 'garland-like'. I'm clearly no jewellery expert here.

Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck

I believe this photo shows the emerald necklace and earrings, but also possibly down the front of her gown on a 'stomacher'.  I've run across this historical noun on any number of occasions and wasn't sure what it meant. I can now tell you that it is 

a V-shaped piece of decorative cloth, worn over the chest and stomach by men and women in the 16th century, later only by women.
And it looks like this.  Unless it's made from emeralds and diamonds, in which case it looks like this:

So, you already know about the Cambridge emeralds as part of the Delhi durbar turban, but actually we should talk about the Delhi durbar parure, another word I had to look up:

a set of jewels intended to be worn together
The last couple of decades one hasn't dared to have matching shoes and bag, or nail polish and lipstick, never mind jacket and skirt or earrings and necklace. The fashion press has called this 'too matchy-matchy'. However, being able to buy several pieces of the same suit (assuming in my case they were even new) or shoes and bag at the same time has to be a sign of conspicuous consumption so it was only a matter time before the idea returned. Before you know it we'll all be able to wear our emerald earrings along with our emerald necklace and rings again; or even our tiara, earrings and necklace (not to mention our stomacher).

Queen Elizabeth II

Wearing 'stomacher' as 'brooch'.

In any case, we know the emeralds came off the tiara and were redesigned after WWII into a lovely necklace with some detachable drops. The adjustable nature of some of the royal jewellery may not be widely known. We were told that when Princess Diana wore this necklace as a choker and later as a sort of a flapper-style headband that people were outraged that she had 'ruined' a priceless necklace. 

I'm not a fan of emeralds with a turquoise dress.

It is a little strange perhaps, if we were correctly informed, for the headband to be secured with a strip of Velcro! Then again, how strange is it for the "next one" to also wear this same necklace?  

The Cambridge emeralds are now in the Vladimir tiara.

I think had I been her I'd have rummaged in the treasure chest a bit longer and found something different to wear.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Suffragette Jewellery - Part III

There is huge confusion in jewellery history around suffragette jewellery. Some jewellery of the late 19th century was green, white and violet. However, violet ranges in shades from purple to pink. Suffragette jewellery was green white and purple. Funny enough, the Women's Institute colours are green and purple and the WI is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, having started in 1915. I wonder if there is any significance to their choice of colours?

Anyhow, the suffragettes were very active around the first part of the 20th Century. Bill and I recently watched the third part of a BBC programme about them, with one of our favourites Amanda Vickery. The fact that their increasingly violent protests landed them in jail brought about a particular form of jewellery, remenescent of a prison window. These were very popular between about 1906 and the beginning of the Great War in 1914. These pieces are true suffragette jewellery.

However, there were more subtle ways for a woman to be supportive of the cause, Mappin and Webb, one of several jewellers holding a Royal Warrant, tended to make nice little pieces of jewellery with diamonds, emeralds and amethysts. A lady could pop in a select something and then casually mention to her husband at dinner "Oh, by the way dear, when I was out shopping today I found the most amusing little trinket at Mappin and Webb and had it put aside. Would you be a darling and pick it up for me?" 

You see why I didn't try to take many photos during this talk!

It's so easy to take the rights we women have for granted and to think the suffragettes were a bit mental. However, but for their efforts we might not have the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to have a job - even if we are married. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Super-Useful Items

I'm currently reading one of the books my friend Lucy gave me for Christmas, a Reader's Digest book about multiple uses for things around the house. They have tagged several as 'Super Items' because there are 30 or more uses for each. I'll not bore you with all the uses (you could Google those) but just for interest, these are the items you might wish to make sure you have on hand:

Aluminium foil (this is the British spelling, where there is an extra syllable in there somewhere...)
Bicarbonate of soda
Cardboard boxes
Gaffer tape (AKA duct or duck tape)
Nail varnish (AKA nail polish)
Paper bags (a vanishing breed!)
Petroleum jelly
Plastic bags
Plastic bottles
Freezer/sandwich bags
Tights (as in pantyhose)

When I finish the book, I'll probably share some of the tips I made a note of. In the mean time, I'd already had a strange idea before I read the book. 

I probably own too many wool sweaters, but I won't apologize as they stand between me and the cold, damp weather here. Although I found a way to hang them, they took up way too much space in my wardrobe. Stacks of them never stayed up. What I needed were the missing drawers. Or, failing those, some boxes of just the right width. Given the vast number of cardboard boxes on hand after Christmas, I was sure I could manufacture something. And I did - twice.

I determined the sized boxes I wanted, cut pieces of cardboard to size, overlapping if necessary to get the length. I used packing tape initially, but found it didn't stay together well enough with the weight of the sweaters and being pulled in and out of the wardrobe. 

So I took it all apart and got out my hole puncher and a small ball of scrap yarn. I laced the bits together like I would some running shoes or the like and so far they have worked fine. I fully use the space and I have cardigans in one box and pullovers in the other.