Vinegar – magic in a bottle!

I was rummaging in the slightly chaotic kitchen cupboard where I keep my vinegars, herbs and spices when I discovered that I had about ten different bottles of vinegar of varying antiquity. There, alongside my favourite balsamic, were also bottles of apple, red wine, white wine, cider, white and malt vinegars, plus a couple of others too tattered to identify. I’d obviously bought different types of vinegar for different recipes over the years and then not used them again. Never being one to waste anything if I can help it, I started Googling vinegar and its uses and, as so often happens with the internet, was amazed at all the fascinating things I discovered!

Laundry
Did you know you can clean your washing machine with vinegar? No, neither did I! If you pour 450ml of white distilled vinegar into the dispenser and then run a full cycle, without clothes or detergent, it will clean out soap scum and disinfect the washing machine.

White vinegar, either distilled or full strength, is also amazingly useful for removing stains. I found too many to list them all here, but to give you an idea, white vinegar can tackle bloodstains, ink, rust, orange juice, black coffee and beer! 

Cleaning
I think most of us know that vinegar is useful for cleaning windows and you can also buy household cleaners based on vinegar. But why not try making your own?  Simply fill a recycled spray bottle with 2 parts water to I part distilled white vinegar and a couple of drops of washing up liquid for a quick clean solution.

Outdoors
As we seem to be enjoying a bit of an Indian summer, you might still manage the odd BBQ, or lunch outside. To keep flying insects at bay, you can place bowl filled with apple cider vinegar near some food, but away from your guests, and by the end of the day you’ll find lots of uninvited guests floating in the bowl!

Health & beauty
The healthy and beauty benefits of apple cider vinegar seem to be endless! From constipation to corns and from arthritis to warts it seems to be a cure-all. If you look online, or consult a reference book you’ll find lots of suggestions on how to use apple cider vinegar. Here are just a couple I came across: 

  • If you suffer from arthritis, try placing 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water, and stir vigorously, then drink. This mixture is said to help relieve pain.
  • If you have warts, put apple cider vinegar on a plaster and wrap over the wart. Replace the plaster each night and, after about a week, the wart will have gone!

Vinegar has been revered throughout the ages – it is mentioned many times in the Bible. The Romans used it, as did Hannibal, and it came to the rescue in all sorts of ways in the Middle Ages, not least as a protection against the germs of the Black Death. So, the next time you put it some malt vinegar on your chips (naughty!) or more healthily some balsamic on your salad remember, there’s a lot more to vinegar than just a nice taste!

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday’s junk is tomorrow’s collectable!

What makes things go in and out of fashion? Why do we hate lava lamps one decade, and regard them as retro and hip the next? Why did I once decorate a wall with cork floor tiles? And whatever possessed any of us to wear loon pants?! Yesterday’s junk so often becomes tomorrow’s most collectable ‘must have’ and if only we could predict these trends we’d all be very rich!

A current fad, and one that I must admit I rather like, is ‘kitchenalia’ – basically our mothers’ and grandmothers’ kitchen gadgets, crockery and utensils. Who would have thought chipped enamel colanders would be highly prized, or that old pieces of blue and white striped Cornishwear would sell for small fortunes? 

I have found myself in various retro shops recently, all selling things that I binned years ago – and selling them for far more than they originally cost. It’s enough to make you weep! Joking aside, it’s rather lovely seeing such things again as they instantly bring back memories. An old metal flour dredger – my Mother rolling out pastry. A set of pastry forks – afternoon tea at my Grandmother’s. A ‘vintage retro shabby metal baking tray’ – hang on, I’ve still got one of those! If you have a look on ebay, there are some lovely old items, but there are also some hilarious ones where people think they really can sell anything. I have to tell you that at the time of writing this, the ‘vintage retro shabby metal baking tray’ (battered, grubby and not that old!) was on sale for £7.50!

Old-fashioned kitchen scales are rather lovely – they look great and are still perfectly serviceable. Stoneware jars make lovely ornaments, we were lucky enough to find some in our loft when we moved here and I like their colour and solidity, but useful – they are not! I think it will take me a while to come round to wanting a stainless steel tea service, but you never know… You might yet see me in a pair of loon pants again one day!

I wonder what it is that brings things back into fashion, or how old they have to be to become ‘antique’? What do you think? What do you predict will be the next ‘big thing’? What old bits of junk have you got that you are hanging onto in case they become highly-prized?

PS. My latest novel ‘A Violet Death’ features quite a bit of kitchenalia – now there’s a coincidence!

 

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Putting on a bit of a show…

July and August are busy times down here in Devon. Of course, the tourism industry is huge in this area – we are blessed with beautiful countryside and a dramatic coastline – but it’s the strong sense of community and tradition in the countryside that also come to the fore at this time of year.

The rural community is still closely aligned with the farming world and country shows, town carnivals and village fetes are all still important (and popular) events on the social calendar.

Growing giant vegetables, showing your best breeding ram or entering your dog in the agility class are all part of the fun,­ although some people take it very seriously indeed! People go to enormous lengths to build carnival floats, groom and polish their ponies and traps and produce flower arrangements of great ingenuity. It is heartening to see such ‘traditional’ ways of life still carrying on so strongly in this technological age.

My partner in crime writing, Julia Wherrell, took the afternoon off to wander around a show local to her up on Dartmoor, the Chagford Show, and took some fun photos to give you a real feel for what goes on. She spent quite a lot of her afternoon in the produce and craft tents and when not in there, she was admiring the prize sheep and cattle, oh, and chickens of course. She says she most definitely did not go near the beer tent(!), but might have swung by the cream teas!

They always say ‘write about what you know’, so if you happen to be a fan of our Swaddlecome Mysteries series, this sort of rural entertainment will be well known to you! 

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Memories of Mrs Tiggywinkle!

When she created Mrs Tiggywinkle, Beatrix Potter secured a place in our hearts for this funny little prickly creature. For all us children who read about her, the hedgehog will forever be something cute and special.

Just down the road from where I live is a lovely children’s attraction called Prickly Ball Farm – can you guess what that’s all about? Yup, hedgehogs! In fact, they have a hedgehog hospital where you can go and see the fantastic work the staff do to rehabilitate sick and injured hedgehogs to bring them back to health before releasing them back into the wild. They often care for up to 80 of the prickly little beasts at any one time and it takes a lot of time and love to nurse these little creatures.

They are always happy to receive donations of old fleeces, blankets, towels, hot water bottles and food bowls. They also ask for any unwanted newspapers, shredded paper, sawdust or straw to help with the daily clean out of all the hedgehogs. And while you are there, you can learn more about hedgehogs and their habitat from one of their daily hedgehog talks.

Of course, as with all such attractions these days, they have to offer a whole range of interesting things for visitors to see and do and Prickly Ball Farm has grown to become a very popular attraction. They have a wide variety of animals including ferrets, pigs, chickens, ducks, pygmy goats, ponies, donkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and even foxes! As well as getting to see all the animals, they run activities throughout the day so visitors can get a real ‘hands on’ experience with everything from pony grooming to walking a ferret and feeding the goats.

Spike’s Farm Shop sells everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to home made products from the café, local produce plus a range of prickly gifts and souvenirs. And just as the adults are starting to flag, there’s a very nice café with an excellent range of home made cakes! It’s a sweet day out and just a little bit different. Once my granddaughter Grace is old enough to appreciate it, Granny Joanna will be using her as an excuse to visit!

You can follow them on Facebook

 

 

 

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The language of flowers…

I saw a post earlier this month on Facebook about the rose being the birthday flower for June and I thought “Aha!” Time to remind myself which flowers are for which months, as it can make a lovely, apt, birthday present for friends who love their gardens or, like me, just love having flowers in the house. It also reminded me about the ‘language of flowers’…

Sometimes called ‘floriography’, the language of flowers is all about sending messages through the arrangement of flowers. Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years but interest in floriography really took off in Victorian times. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings that could not be spoken aloud in buttoned-up Victorian society! Armed with floral dictionaries, Victorians often exchanged small ‘talking bouquets’, called nosegays or tussie-mussies, which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. It’s a rather lovely idea and such a shame that now, most people just text or tweet each other – so unromantic!

But there… for those of us that still have a bit of romance, or poetry in our souls, here’s a list of birthday plants for each month, plus their significance. This isn’t definitive and you’ll find some differences, but you’ll get the general idea!

January: Carnation
The flower is said to symbolise love, fascination and distinction. Carnations come in every shade and each colour can symbolise a sentiment or emotion. Pink means affection, a white carnation mean good luck, whereas a yellow carnation denotes disappointment or exclusion.

A Victorian tussie-mussie.February: Violet
Although this month is associated with St. Valentine’s Day and red roses, the flower for the month is violet. The flower symbolises faithfulness, humility and chastity. Giving violets in the Victorian era conveyed the message ‘I’ll always be true’.

March: Daffodil
This month is synonymous with the onset of spring and accordingly the flower associated with this month is the daffodil also known as jonquil or narcissus. A gift of these flowers conveys the hidden meaning of friendship and happiness.

April: Sweet pea
The sweet pea is said to symbolise pleasure or good-bye. In the Victorian era, these flowers formed a part of the bouquet that was sent to someone to convey gratefulness.

May: Lily of the valley
The flower conveys sweetness and humility. In the Victorian era, they conveyed the romantic message ‘You have made my life complete’.

June: Rose
Roses are available in many colours and each has its own special meanings, but the underlying message the flowers convey is that of love and passion.

Pink larkspur for contrariness!July: Larkspur
With its simple form, feelings of open heart and ardent attachment are attributed to it. Again, there are different meanings for each colour. Pink denotes contrariness, white expresses a happy nature, and a first love is usually symbolized by purple.

August: Gladiolus
It stands for sincerity and symbolises strength of character.

September: Aster
The name of the flower – which looks like a star – is derived from the Greek word for star and, in the language of flowers, it symbolises love, faith and wisdom.

October: Marigold or Calendula
The marigold stands for sorrow and sympathy.

November: Chrysanthemum
Compassion, friendship and joy. Chrysanthemums have different meanings. Red is for love, white means innocence, and yellow denotes unrequited love.

December: Narcissus
The narcissus symbolises sweetness.

 

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