Monday, April 6, 2020

The Homemakers Heart and a Nana story...

Though I have always made nearly all our meals and snacks from scratch anyhow, these new restrictions to stay home have stretched my creativity in the kitchen just a smidgen. The new normal does not lend itself to an evening out or brunch at a favourite cafe with Mr E. It's very truly home-focused and most especially time heavy in the kitchen. I admit to missing those lazy Sunday brunches which someone else made for us. And Mr E misses hot chips and grilled fish down on the beach.

But today those thoughts, those longings for what we once took for granted, made me think of Nana and the way she would soldier on with a cooked breakfast, simple lunch, hearty dinner and dessert, seven days a week without a murmur - because this had always been her normal. 

This epiphany came with a little nudge from God to be thankful I can cook, bake and create in the comfort of my own home as Nana never had her own home, they lived in small low-income rented flats all her married life, and she never complained. After all these years I am still learning lessons from her blessed I am.

So I thought I'd share one of my Nana stories today as I think it's been a month or so since the last one.

The Kitchen Table

When I was growing up and living at Nana’s, we only ever drank tea as our hot beverage. Coffee was something you drank when you were out, and cocoa just never appeared in her kitchen.
Each morning, upon waking, I would take my place at Nana’s simply set table, and await my first cup of tea. Always in china tea cups, and always white with two sugars.
Nana religiously set her breakfast table before bedtime and on a full-moon night when I needed to make a midnight visit to the outside toilet, I would creep past my sleeping grand-parents, and step into the softly illuminated kitchen that led off their bedroom, into a magical world.
Atop a freshly laundered and pressed tablecloth, a delicate square of lace covered the cups, saucers, tea pot, plates and cutlery. The moonlight reflected through that lace cloth would cast a shimmering web over everything, and a starlike twinkling would dance across the silverware adding to the ethereal atmosphere. Often I’d pause by the table on my way back inside, and try to guess what breakfast nana had planned for the morning. She never, ever, served a cold breakfast. It could be leftovers from the evening meal the night before, eggs and sausages with thickly cut grilled toast, butter fried kidneys and bacon, or if Pop was coming home after night shift at the wharf he’d hopefully make fresh chips in lamb fat. Nobody made freshly chipped potatoes like my dear old Pop, and Nana never set her hat to take that crown from him because it was such a blessing for her to sit and be the one served for a change.
Our teapot was large and metal, leftover from Nana’s days as cook in a pub after WW2, and she only ever used loose tea leaves. Nana made a point of teaching me her recipe for a good brew – before the water, add to the pot one teaspoon of tea for each person, and another for the pot. Once the boiling water was in the pot, and an oversized hand-knitted tea cosy in place, her next instruction was to turn the tea pot around and around, using a different calculation – one for each person and one for the pot, and halve your total. I still do this today, even when using (shudder!) tea bags.
Morning-tea on weekends offered the delights of tea cake, buns, or biscuits to accompany our pot of tea, as did afternoon-tea on weekdays when I’d arrive home from school.
Nana religiously served a baked dinner, usually a leg of lamb,  for lunch on Sunday’s,  but Sunday night it was her custom to take the evening off,  baking a fluffy batch of scones to have with thick lashings of butter and her homemade jam. On Sunday nights it was also usual for us to linger longer at the table and finish a second pot of tea whilst playing cards!
As I think back on my childhood days and the nurturing of my love for tea, a favourite memory is when Pop would be working afternoon shifts, and it was just Nana and I for dinner. Every so often she’d have a cheeky twinkle in her eye and ask me, “How about we skip dinner tonight and share a loaf of fresh baked bread between ourselves? I have a pot of strawberry jam, plenty of butter, and we can drink all the tea we like. Just me and you and we won’t tell Pop I didn’t cook a meal…”
Now, Pop knew all about this, but he never let on. It was a little game they played with me to create a special ‘Nana and Jennifer’ occasion, and it lasted until I was into my teens and let slip I knew exactly what they were up to.

 I cannot brew a pot of tea today without remembering the taste of fresh bread, butter and jam, and seeing Nana’s clear blue eyes smiling across at me over her teapot. Such a lovely legacy.

A pumpkin vine popped up in the front garden recently and if you know my husband you're aware he does not like pumpkin and would normally have pulled it out without a second thought, but three months into our vegan lifestyle change he's become a rather different fellow. Now, he's not going to embrace cauliflower or broccoli in the near or distant future, but he does accept that pumpkin can be used in many ways, many delicious ways. And he loves me. And I love pumpkin and have always dreamed of growing a nice productive patch so it's staying put and we're all smiles.

No idea what type of pumpkin this is but it will be either a Butternut or Kent as they are the only type I've bought in the past year and this plant has self seeded from our compost.

It rained very hard here yesterday afternoon which was most welcome as the mid autumn weather is still very hot and humid and not at all pleasant to be gardening in between 10am and 4pm.
I captured this photo as the sun came out again just as the last drops of rain passed by.

I imagine you're wondering what a toilet is doing in our backyard?
One of the teachers at Mr E's school had five to get rid of and for some odd reason my husband thought I'd have some creative way of using it in the yard. It's a Royal Doulton, very good condition, but...well...I'm still pondering what it can become. Perhaps I'll add a large plate to the top and turn it into a bird feeder? And then plant something pretty around it. 
Ideas anyone??

The chooks love the rain too, and on the many days we have no rain but ghastly heat my husband turns the sprinkler on lightly for them for about fifteen minutes mid afternoon. They dance around, cooling themselves and almost crowing with delight.

This was the only rain we'd had in a while, but there's been cloud cover and high humidity for about a week now (which triggered a 24-hour migraine the other day). The birds gather as usual each morning for their feast and the longer we sit and watch them the more arrive to take their turn at the feeder...

In the kitchen there's been a lot of different meals made including vegetable lasagne, vegetable pad thai, dhal and rice, loaded baked potatoes with guacamole and coleslaw, and assorted leftovers.

Fresh bread is high on the weekly menu rotation every couple of days. In the past week I've made a multigrain loaf, focaccia two ways (which made the most delicious sandwiches the next day) and today's new loaf, a light rye...

Dessert at the tail end of last week was a lemon yoghurt cake baked in a baba tin which I served each night with a raspberry coulis and coconut yoghurt. (I used coconut yoghurt in the cake, not dairy)...

Today was a big day in the kitchen because hubby was off working on a new/old car he's repairing so that he can finally sell that trouble-ridden Jeep (which will bring an end to the almost five year saga of endless repairs) and I find it's always easier to get a lot of food prepared for the week ahead when he's occupied elsewhere. Monday just seems to be my best day for baking every week.

Last week I baked jam drops because Mr E 'loves' a biscuit or three (cookie to my US friends) with his cuppa...

...but now that he's finished them it was time to bake again so I chose choc-chip biscuits this time.
You know, I've not made choc-chip biscuits in many years, no idea why. 

As well as the bread and the choc-chip biscuits I looked for ways to use up what was left in the fridge to avoid wastage. The offerings below show the blueberry crumble cake (our dessert for the next few nights), coleslaw (without the dressing, which will be added later), quick pickled radishes (the pickling liquid had just been poured over), marinated green beans, and thrice cooked chips which at the time of the photo had only been cooked twice so far (boiled then deep fried quickly before letting them go cold) as the 'thrice' cooking is just before serving. 

I am hopeful that this thrice cooked technique gives my husband's chips a nice crunch as he's truly missing his chip-fix right now.

I made them last week but they more like wedges and I peeled the potatoes, whereas this batch were small potatoes which were about to start sprouting so I cut out the little eyes only and kept the skin on. Less wastage.

On Saturday I unpacked all the stored seed packs that Woolworths gave away last year and divided them into zip lock bags so that I can save some space and also plan out what to prepare for planting first. With Mr E home on school holidays we are aiming to get a bit further with garden bed preparation out the back as winter is our growing season in the tropics...

This week my big task will be to pull everything out of the linen cupboard and sort through it.
Then I will re-organise our small linen space so that it functions better for my daily and weekly needs. At the moment there's stuff being pushed in wherever I find space and that's making it difficult to keep ordered. And I do love order.

Will you take up this week's task with me?
Is your linen cupboard in need of a makeover or reorganisation?

Well, dear friends, I must away to dress the coleslaw and prepare spicy koftas using a bean mix. I'm salivating thinking of that!

God bless you and may He keep your heart hopeful, your countenance joyful and your spirit in total peace...

Loving hugs

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Beth said...

Good memories for you. Tea features in my memories of grandparents too. Enjoy your Woolies seeds. We had a pretty good run with most of ours and have even been able to harvest seeds when the first plants went to seed!

Kay said...

Such a lovely story, you were blessed with wonderful grandparents and love. x

Tania said...

I just adore your Nana story. While reading through I drifted back to when I was a child living on our farm. My mother made all of our meals and treats, and they were always very tasty. Ahh the memories. I always make a pot of tea, it just feels right. Even my visitors like the treat of having a good cup of real tea. I have an over sized teacosy too.

I love seeing all the yummy food creations that come out of your kitchen, you are indeed a talented cook.

I have been organising garden beds and planting out winter crops. I usually let the beds rest over winter, but not this year. I feel it is important more than ever to grow our own food.

So good to see and hear you had rain. We have not had any for a while, and it would be lovely right now. Love your gorgeous bird visitors <3

Linen cupboard sorting has been added to this weeks to do list.

Thank you for such a lovely post, it was most enjoyable to read.


Angela said...

Our marks and Spencer stores have been giving away very similar seed pots recently. Today, because we're both fully over the virus now, husband and I went to the shop for the first time in THREE WEEKS. The lady in M&S was so kind - "you will have missed these" She said, and gave me SIX pots! I hope to grow cress for my sandwiches

RBrown said...

Thank you for another day of blessings. It is refreshing to read and wonderful memories of your grandparents. May the Lord bless and keep you. In the Southern USA it is bursting out with blooms. My husband has planted some letteuce, cabbage, beans, beets and squash. I have 2 bananas that are getting too ripe so will bake some banana blueberry bread with walnuts.

Remembrances said...

Thsnk you! The story of your Nana and Pop reminded me so much of things my grandparents did for me when I was young. And the toilet in the yard made me laugh as that quite the "thing" in some areas here in the U.S. many years ago! People planted flowers in them and some folks even lined their driveways with toilets full of flowers!

profumo di lavanda said...

Bellissima la tua storia del tè con Nana.
I bei ricordi della nostra infanzia sono indelebili nel cuore e nella mente.
Bella anche la tua torta crumble ai mirtilli. È possibile avere la tua ricetta? In Italia abbiamo altri tipi di torta e questa mi piacerebbe provarla.
Un abbraccio Jenny, Dio ti benedica

MelissaM. said...

What a lovely story of your Nana and Pop and your teatimes. Thank you for sharing!

I’d say use the toilet as a planter for something that will cascade so far down all around it that it is a nearly hidden, nice, white, plant container, and isn’t even recognizable as a toilet any longer. =^_^=
Do you grow cascading phlox in your part of Australia? I still remember how lovely they were when I was living in Arkansas, in the southern part of the USA. Just do an online search for images of “cascading phlox” and you will see what I am speaking of.

nancy n. said...

What a beautiful sweet memory of growing up with your Nana. It brought tears to my eyes. Times were so much simpler then. Stay safe and well .

Lilac Joan said...

What a delightful time in Nana's kitchen. Brought memories of Sunday night suppers at my Grandma's house. She made buttermilk biscuits (bread not cookies) and I always added sugar to the butter. What a wouldn't give to have one now. She also made ole fashioned tea cakes. Wonderful memories. So thankful for my loving parents and grandparents. I have been blessed.

Dots said...

Jenny, you are one amazing woman! Love your Nana stories. So glad you had a loving grandmother and grandfather. Wonderful memories for you. And in some ways it reminds me of my family that has been gone for quite some time now. Good memories.
All your cooking is just wonderful. I like your jam drops! I like 'chips' too! I have those at least once a month. I fix a lot of potatoes here. I have not fixed focaccia yet. But it has been on my mind to try to. I love bread. So I need to have it in the house. So I may read about that. I had it once months ago and really liked it.
So that's something I want to do.
Be well, Jenny.

TerriSue said...

I organized my linens about a month ago. I bought a mangle recently though and have been catching up on ironing that had been stacking up for years. Mostly linens, hankies, and aprons. I have almost all of my hankies ironed now which is a job as I have hundreds. Now I am going to sort them into ones to keep for the present, ones to put back for when these wear out, Ones to give to my daughter and ones to keep as gifts. My granddaughters all like to use handkerchiefs so it makes an easy gift, especially now that they are already pressed and sized. I don't starch handkerchiefs but I do use sizing on them as it does crisp them up some without making them scratchy for your nose. The mangle takes hours off of the time I used to spend ironing plus I do it sitting down which is so much easier on my back. I was even ironing my dishtowels today as they take up less room in the drawer when I do and it is so fast with this thing. I ironed sheets yesterday for the same reason, takes up less space. I never would have been able to do that standing at a conventional ironing board with an iron.
I am also looking into planting. I have my seeds out and whenever it stops raining here I will be going out and breaking ground. I am quite excited about it.
Have a wonderful day!

Anorina @SameliasMum said...

Those are such sweet memories of your grandparents. Thank you for sharing them with us.
For your ornamental garden toilet, how about a lovely planting of succulents with some long strings of beans or pearls cascading over the edges?
Good luck with your pumpkin patch. We had a pretty good harvest of pumpkins this year and hubby has already got ideas on how he'd like to grow them bigger and better, next year.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I loved reading this! I was born when my parents were in their 40s and both had children from a previous marriage. So I never knew my grandparents. If I did, I wish they were just like yours. What beautiful memories.

I hated tea until I was well into my 30s. For here in the States, the only tea was Lipton tea bags. They made for an excellent iced tea but horrible hot tea. It wasn't until better tea became available in the new style of tea bags that I came to like tea. I also have good loose tea now, too. Although regular black tea is still not my favorite, it reminds me of the "tea dust" in those bags. Yuk. It has to be a green tea blend or at least a good Earl Grey. Coffee is a must in the mornings with tea in the afternoon and decaf tea at night in cold weather.

Anonymous said...

Such wonderful memories were evoked by your lovely story. Thank you. As for the toilet bowl, I remember seeing a mailbox near where I used to live with a toilet bowl below it and in big letters "Bills" with an arrow pointing down. Every time I saw it I would smile. Have a wonderful day Jenny.

Anonymous said...

Loved the memories you shared of your grandmother...brought back memories of staying with my grandmother to have a job in town. Her house was also quite small but she made it cozy, it was always tidy & spotlessly clean. Furniture with arms covered in doilies she had crocheted. I'm still very fond of the pretty blue bachelor button flowers that always grew in her garden. Funny how she seemed so old to my 17 year old self, but really was only 4 years older than I am now! Thank you for triggering how special she was in my life. - Diane from northern Minnesota

Glenise said...

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your beautiful story of your wonderful Nana. When I stayed with my Nan and Pop i loved it. So many fond memories of a much simpler lifestyle. They had hardship but just got on with life the best they could. I hooe tnis current world situation when it ends brings a correction to our world tbat is badly needed and people will live simpler lives and care and cherish each other and end tbe greed and selfishness thst seems to overtaken so many of us. God bless you and yours Jenny. Stay safe and thank you.

Joanne said...

Hi Jenny,
Your writing really captures the moments spent with Nana. A joy to read...and brings back memories of my own Grandma.
Thanks for all the delicious looking photo's ! and those out in the garden :) Feels like we're visiting !

Lin said...

Lots of yummy goodness in your kitchen Jenny and a lovely Nana story. My Nana had an open fire in the winter and it was always fun to use her big toasting fork to toast bread or muffins in front of the fire. I was not so fond of the outdoor toilet though! Stay safe my friend. xx

Debby said...

Thank you for your Nana story. It warmed my heart this morning and flooded me with fond memories of my Gram and Puppy! Blessings.

Tammy said...

Love reading your Nana stories. And your food pictures look so delicious and fresh.... Love and miss my grandmother very much..Mom and I were talking about her recently and how she would adapt to so many modern things in today's world. Or what she would say about them. Your garden looks good...Still wish we could have chickens...i always get envious of everyone else's chooks.

Joy said...

I noticed the toilet, and thought to myself, "Is that a toilet in her yard?" And I thought of asking about it, but thought that might be too personal of a question. Then I scrolled down and you admitted you had a toilet in your yard. Lovely story about your Grandmother. Your breads etc. look so delicious, what a cook you are! And being here in the U.S., what a treat to see those birds!

Nanna Chel said...

Jenny, no need to reply as I know you are busy. Yes, I would use that toilet as a planter says she who has three baths around this place as hubby is a hoarder. I know they are great for growing plants in them but moving them into the garden is an issue. Much easier with a toilet. So glad you had some rain as I know that Townsville often misses out on the North Qld rain. I try not to bake anything as I know I will eat most of it myself and end up like the side of a house with all this self isolation at present. I hope you can see your girls on Skype etc. during this time.

Susan said...

The thing that struck me about this post, Jenny, was the word abundance. Abundance of joy, abundance of gratitude, abundance of birds, abundance of good things everywhere. I'm so grateful for your abundance, and mine. A lovely Nana story. I bet your own girls will have plenty of those, a well.

Sherri said...

Hi Jenny, I have been hand pollinating my pumpkins this year, after I noticed the pumpkins turning yellow and dying when they were small, and I have just come inside from applying milk spray which I am using as a fungicide as I don't want to use a commercial spray. I also applied some potash to encourage flowering. We have half a dozen lovely pumpkins coming on at the moment with hopefully more to come.

nannajs said...

I like the planter idea for the loo.
I had a chuckle with the Linen cupboard, its amazing how bored we are with social distancing when we clean out cupboards. I have done the Linen cupboard, the kitchen cupboards, bedroom and now into the sewing room. That one is a big job, but looking good, a shame the rubbish is only collected once a week. tay Safe

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Plant something that will hang over the sides of the toilet (like ivy). Put something with 'color' in the middle. My grandmother also cooked like your Nana. On Sunday nights, the kitchen was closed (cereal or peanut butter and bananas, made by my grandfather). Once my kids got old enough to make a sandwich, I also adopted the kitchen is closed on Sunday nights.

Bovey Belle said...

What an uplifting post - I loved reading about your nana and her kitchen and the love you shared (and the bread and jam!!) I never knew either of my grandmothers as they sadly died before I was born, but I had a step-gran who I remember fondly.

I loved reading about the storm you have been cooking up in your kitchen. I have made bread for years, but since getting a Panasonic breadmaker, used that so I could get on with other jobs when the bread was cooking. Now I have the luxury of TIME, I am raising it to dough in the breadmaker, and then shaping and topping and baking in the oven so we get a lovely crusty loaf. MUCH nicer!

I have instructions not to bake any more cake or biscuits until what is made is finished but it is lovely to see your output.

As for gardening, our eldest daughter moved back home and I have a Head Gardener, and we have lots of different seeds started - a far bigger selection than I have ever grown. She is missing the productive allotment she had in Yorkshire, and we are Extending the Plot here now to make room for more plantings.

Our wild birds in the garden aren't as exotic as yours (this IS rural Wales after all) but our Swallows are back, and the summer visitors keep company with the birds who stay all year round and bring such joy.

Finally I am catching up with the unfinished patchwork projects too!

Bovey Belle said...

Oh, many year ago at the Centre for Alternative Technology in mid-Wales, I saw a loo planted up with herbs, and some small trailing flowers over the edges. It looked lovely. (Mint might be a candidate so it couldn't wander anywhere!)

Carol said...

Love your photos and Nana stories, you paint a delightful word picture of your special relationship with your grandparents. Now I'm thirsty for a pot of Lap Sang Souchong tea, my favorite.