So nothing’s back to normal and everything is all at once. In this topsy turvy world we’re still trying to cope with, it feels less scary due to the mass rollout of vaccines however the children remain unvaccinated and positive cases continue to rise. Since my last post things have returned to a relatively normal state, the children are back in school (though this week I have one self isolating due to a positive case in her class) most shops and venues are open, the cleaning help is long gone and I’m able to focus more on keeping house and taking care of everyone without the added stress of mass remote schooling and lockdowns.
Life has changed a lot for me in the last 10 weeks, with more time to take care of myself, and the glaring reminder of my unhealthy state in the form of an early vaccination invitation, I have become someone I never thought I could be. I’m suddenly the woman who gets up at 5am to do a full on workout; the woman who walks right past the car at 8am to walk her children the mile to school and takes a detour through the park on the way home to soak up the fresh air, and does the same again at 3; the woman who eats her 5 a day and enjoys it. I’m feeling so much fitter and healthier already and have so much more energy. It’s a real commitment, to spend so much time looking after myself, but it’s definitely been worth it so far.
It’s the time of year again when the garden really starts to come into its own. This year we have installed another raised bed along the western fence and the peas, spinach and lettuces are coming along nicely. We have lots of strawberries fruiting and some lovely cabbages finally sporting their compact heads.
The herb bed has gone completely wild in a beautiful and unexpected way, it’s currently sporting a lovely array of sage, chive, parsley and chamomile flowers which are so pretty I couldn’t bring myself to cut them back. The rhubarb is running rampant and there looks to be plenty of blackcurrants and gooseberries ripening as well as autumn raspberries shooting canes up inches a day. The roses, lavenders and clematis are blooming, and the Busy Lizzie, geraniums and begonias are just coming into flower all around the patio.
We’re into our final term of home education now, with the youngest three at school and hollie preparing for vi form in September. She has bee offered a place based on the grades she achieved last November and the school have agreed to allowing her out to sit her final five. She’s currently braving a transition week and despite her nerves, she’s really loving it. I will write a further post on coming to the end of our home education journey, and some reflections on that very soon.
This is an unusual post for me to write because I am not the sort of home-maker and mother that advocates cutting corners. There are plenty of places on the internet where you will find people willing to tell you that life is hard, raising babies is tough, to cut yourself some slack just for getting through the day with everyone alive etc. This is not one of those places. I am a believer that high ideals call us into our potential, that in setting the bar too low we are robbing ourselves of the achievements we are capable of, of our best selves.
With that said however, there will come times when high ideals become impossible ideals, when trying to be everything we wish to be on our best day is entirely unachievable and will lead us into overwhelm, defeat and depression. To continue, in these times, as though we can achieve what we normally would rarely ends in success, more likely it ends with us frazzled, short tempered and beat down, and does not endear us to our loved ones. Sometimes good enough has to be good enough. That is not to say we permanently accept a lower standard, but we accept that we are human, and that life ebbs and flows in its challenges and we must work with the tide rather than against it if we are to achieve the best out of life.
I am writing this now because I am currently in one of those times, where I have had to let go of best and embrace good enough, and I think many of you will be too. As you will know if you follow this blog, we home educate our four children who are still at home (we have 6 in total), however last summer our 6 year old daughter chose to begin attending school, yes in the middle of a pandemic! Also we always send our children to preschool when they are three as it is the last chance they get to experience independence from their family for quite a few years, they just go for 3 hours a day. Therefore during this second round of school closures due to the Coronavirus, we have two daughters aged 8 and 16 following their usual home education programme, one daughter age 6 doing remote schooling and one daughter aged 3 also doing remote schooling for her pre-school curriculum. Remote schooling has come as quite a shock to me, 4-5 hours of daily learning for my 6 year old, that requires my full, undivided attention plus the 1-2 hours of preschool for my 3 year old and then the needs of the children who I am responsible for home educating has meant that I am effectively working an unpaid 12+ hour day educating my children, with very little time for anything else.
Many parents are currently pushed to the limit in similar situations, to say nothing of working from home and the added stress of actually living through this very stressful and isolated time in history. Initially this was such a shock, I pretty much went to pieces, I had totally not expected remote learning to be so demanding! To be perfectly honest I thought it would be kind of great to have someone else doing the hard work of planning and checking on the learning and that very little would be asked of me, unfortunately while the schools have implemented access to the curriculum from home, and please don’t think I am criticising teachers for their immensely hard work on this, they have not factored in that same curriculum’s unfitness for independent learning in a home environment. So yes for the first few days I struggled in a big way, as I’m sure huge numbers of you are also struggling. I was exhausted, I couldn’t manage even the most basic things on my usual to do list and I was stressed out; something had to give. Then I cast my mind back to times when I had felt like this before and I had a hand to face light bulb moment!
You see I have a plan for scenarios like this, I have a plan for ways to cope during sickness, or grief or postpartum, when exclusively breast-feeding or when I’m ‘teaching’ kindergarten with a child. The first year of learning to read is very hands on, but once the basics are learned our curriculum values independent learning for the core subjects which frees me up as more of a learning supervisor or facilitator than a teacher. My main hands on responsibilities thereafter being enrichment or practical activities and an accountability partner with my children to ensure that they attain the goals they have set for themselves within their learning, which allows me much more free time to keep up with my household duties. I knew what I needed to do I just hadn’t realised I was in that place, where it was necessary, immediately. It was a relief to feel I had the means to take back some control and regain my (and our home’s) equilibrium.
So here is what I immediately put in place. What you might need to do will look different depending on what your usual routines and expectations are, so please don’t compare too much, just work with where you are at and what you can handle.
I stopped cooking the meals from scratch, I ordered boxed, jarred, and pre-prepared food wherever possible in as healthy a format as was available to me. Yes this is more expensive, less healthy and also means one of my children is required to eat a microwave meal on occasion, from a list of those which don’t contain rapeseed oil as she is allergic, not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but fed with a sane Mamma is better than hungry with a crazy one. Good enough (for a short time only).
I hired a cleaner to cover the basics, luckily at present we are still able to have hired help come into the house. I have a friend who regularly cleans for us during times when I feel I need the extra help, at present I would be completely lost without her. When I say this to people often they have the immediate reaction that a cleaner is a luxury beyond their means but I would encourage you to look again. If you take the view that a clean and tidy home is as essential as clean water, and food it is surprising how high the £20 a week it costs can jump up your priority list, if only for a month or two, I do appreciate that it is genuinely beyond the means of many, I have been in that position myself, however not as many as might think, if it is a real priority.
I have stopped ironing entirely and all deep cleaning. I can tidy, I can keep on top of the laundry (just about), I can get dinner on the table and clean up after it but I cannot spend the 10 hours a week ironing that I did, and I can’t currently wash skirting boards or clean out cabinets. As I’m sure you will guess, after much hard won improvement in this area in recent years, this goes against the grain, I don’t want to relinquish those standards, but one must accept the reality of the situation, as long as it’s not forever a lowering of standards for a short time is sometimes the healthiest option.
I passed on jobs to the others in the house. As women we often feel like we must keep it all together and not put on our family too much, but in dire need it is pointless to be killing ourselves through overwork while our better halves and children continue in their (almost) usual lives. I am firm believer that as a family you are a team and if one player is doing too much of the work, the team actually suffers. I ask a lot of my children, in normal every day life. They have regular chores and are expected to get up and pitch in when asked. I’ve found that while at times it has made me the ‘worst mum in the world’, that they benefit immensely from the sense of community derived from being a much needed component in a working machine than they would from being allowed to sit outside of that responsibility. They are truly part of a family that needs them, and being straight with them even from quite young, that Mum needs help or the wheels are going to fall off, is a challenge that they rise to with great personal satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got kids that will do what’s needed without being asked and kids that have to be reminded and cajoled, a LOT! Having the chore mechanisms in place in advance is certainly a great boon when it comes to times where overstretched and overwhelmed, more is required, but even if you normally don’t ask much from your kids, I truly believe that it’s never too late. I appreciate that single parents with very young children aren’t in a position for this to be much use, but it’s never too early to foster a sense of pride in helping, so remember this for when times get a bit easier and you feel able to introduce some things they can help out with.
I cut back on additional subjects and prioritised time outside and the core curriculum. Being a home educator gives me the means to pare down when necessary, just for a short time. The children are stressed too, they hear us talking, they can’t spend time with friends, their exams have been cancelled. Bringing things back to the absolute necessities gives us room to breathe and gives me the chance to ‘walk the walk’ of a slow and simple life. So while the teachers may feel two science experiments a week, daily spellings, and times tables practice are crucial, I am the one who makes the final decisions about what gets done and what doesn’t. We can all do the art classes of one child together, we can watch a video of every other science experiment, we can play multiplication games when we have a spare 5 minutes. As long as we’re fulfilling the basics, getting fresh air every day, and finding time to follow our passions, then learning is happening, and no one is being switched off from education in any irreparable way, a cost far higher than any work that might be ‘missed’.
I gave up any extra commitments. I’ve stopped baking, and sewing, and knitting and only read for pleasure and nourishment. Yes these things give me great pleasure, but for a short time I have to prioritise what is necessary. I do things for fun when I need some fun but the time for that is limited and that’s OK. Yes I should not neglect my own needs, and those needs include personal fulfilment, but I pick and choose carefully things that will give me the most up-lift in a small amount of time and prioritise them. I’m trying to spend less time on social media which is real time thief and also not watching too much television which can be a big temptation after a long hard day. Obviously with it being a kind of lock-down it goes without saying that we’re spending most of our time at home but during other times of busyness and stress, letting go of some outside commitments for a while is a good way to keep a handle on everything.
I stopped planning too far ahead. I try to wake up each morning just focused on what is possible that day. While future plans can be uplifting, I am the kind of person who tends to overestimate what I’m capable of so keeping to the short term prevents me from storing up stress and trouble for my future self.
I ask myself each night ‘what will I most appreciate having already done tomorrow?’ I am going to be exhausted at the end of each day, the temptation is to leave that load of washing unfolded or those dishes in the sink, but my future self will pay the price for that, so I pick one thing and get it done no matter how tired I am, and I’ve never yet regretted it.
I take time to de-stress, and be grateful. Whether it’s relaxation exercises and a gratitude journal or just an early night feeling grateful for my warm comfortable bed and good roof, creating space to breathe is essential.
I keep a regular rhythm to our day. Mealtimes, and times for work and play keep the wheels turning and gives everyone especially small children the sense of security necessary to their little souls in troubled times.
I take weekends off, no matter how far ahead or behind we are, at least one full day preferably two is spent without the least thought of ‘school’. Both children and parents need time to properly decompress.
I do small things to make the house more homely. Whether it’s lighting candles, getting a special dessert, or diffusing a relaxing scent; a sense of home and belonging, a safe space in which to relax is as necessary as breathing.
Lastly but certainly not least, I take my burdens to God, every day, multiple times. I am not strong enough to get through this alone but with His help I can move great mountains.
I hope that my own plan for handling times of survival mode will help you to come up with your own plan or at least help you to feel more able to take the reigns in your home, within the chaos. It is important to strive for high ideals but we must be realistic in the circumstances presented to us.
If you’re a housewife like me or enjoy taking care of your home, you may have looked online for ways to up your game or make improvements to your daily routine and homemaking skills. You don’t get far on searches of that kind without coming across the concept of the ideal 50’s housewife. In post-war Britain, women were encouraged to remain at home to free up much needed jobs for the returning war veterans, and with wage increases a few years later, as industry began to recover and exports like car manufacturing increased; even poorer working class families could manage more easily on a single wage. The notion of the ideal housewife then crept into the national consciousness as television and print advertisers realised that women had a large amount of the spending power in home based products and played on women’s desire to be respected in their home spheres.
In the modern age the common perception of women of the time is that they had a big preoccupation with cleanliness and routine, slovenliness and untidiness was wholly unacceptable, that they dressed well, and took great care of their looks and on the flip side that they were very repressed, probably deeply unhappy and unfulfilled, that their work was drudgery and that they were tied to the kitchen sink. But how true is this perception of them? What was life like in reality? And what can we learn from the way that they did things?
Gather a basket for tidying. As the rooms of the home are tackled, pick up items that aren’t where they belong and place them in a basket. Redistribute them where they should be as you enter a new room
Straighten up the living and dining room, including picking up potential clutter, light dusting, fluffing / straightening pillows, and watering plants or flowers
Make the beds
Tidy the bedroom, including light dusting
Hang up any clothes that may be about or ensure dirty ones are in the hamper
Do a light tidy of the bathroom including removing and replacing used towels, refilling toilet paper and soap (if needed) and cleaning the sink and basin area including soap dishes
Review the menu for the current day and the next and compare it to what’s currently available in the home. Make note of anything that needs to be prepared ahead of time or marketing (shopping) that needs to get done
Begin long-advance preparations for dinner (such as making dessert)
Wipe down kitchen work surfaces and inside the fridge
Dispose of garbage
Rinse dish cloths and hang to dry
Sweep or mop the kitchen floor
Handle errands that might take you out of the home (such as marketing, volunteering, going to the post office, getting an item fixed, etc), bookkeeping, correspondence, or indulge in a hobby
If returning from the grocery store, wash vegetables, wrap them and put them away. Place rest of groceries or purchases in their proper place
Have a quick lunch <- Yoinks?
Start advance food conditioning like crisping vegetables or thawing frozen foods
Handle weekly chore for the day (more on that below!)
Set the table for dinner
Arrange the living room for evening enjoyment (such as “the Mister’s” newspaper, book, and cigarettes)
Do a quick sweep of the floors and ensure entrance ways are clear
Prepare a special dish for dinner
Freshen up before the husband returns from work. Consider changing into something more festive if the day dress is plain
Set out a tray with equipment for making cocktails, should “the Mister” want to serve drinks before dinner
Greet husband “gayly”
Clear table and wash dishes
Pour boiling water down the sink to ensure pipes are flushed
If necessary, pack the husband’s lunch for the next day. Set aside a lunch tray in the refrigerator for yourself if having leftovers
Set table for breakfast
Ensure breakfast foods are available and do any make-ahead preparations for it
Shoot yourself in the head Enjoy an evening of relaxation
If that isn’t enough, each day there is a once-a-week chore to tackle, which is basically a deep clean of a particular room. It’s not your typical “wipe the tub” cleaning. Nope. It’s stuff like:
Use metal polish on bathroom fixtures
Clean and disinfect all kitchen appliances
Scald and disinfect bread boxes and garbage pails and bins
Replace flowers with fresh bouquets
In addition, laundry should be done at least twice a week (including bedding) and floors should be mopped / vacuumed on a similar schedule.
There is also a recommendation in there to try to squeeze a 10 – 30 minute nap in the afternoon (if not because you’re actually tired but to “look more refreshed” for he-who-wants-to-be-greeted-with-prettiness when he gets home).’
So how realistic is that schedule? Did women really achieve 21 things before lunch and clean their ovens every week? Well I decided to do some research of my own to find out!
As both my grandmothers were young housewives and mothers in the 1950’s, I basically went about pestering all my aunts for information about what they could remember about their mother’s lives and routines. Here is what they said:
“Mum had set days for doing things. Monday was wash day. She had a twin tub and I can remember prior to this she also had a mangle. She used to boil whites in a big pan on the gas stove and then use the mangle to take out the excess water. Before she had a twin tub I think she had a spin dryer so the hand washing could be spun. Don’t forget they didn’t have so much washing, a vest and pair of pants [underwear] lasted a week. You put fresh ones on when you had a bath which was once a week! … Collars were detachable from shirts so a shirt would last a week and just the collar washed.” – Aunt Diane
“Mondays and Thursdays were always washing days. Tuesday and Friday ironing days. Beds were changed weekly, top sheet becoming bottom sheet etc. Blankets washed in summer.” – Aunt Carol
“Monday was always wash day. When I was the same age as Rowan  and Lara  that meant hauling out the wash tub from under the worktop into the middle of the kitchen floor, opening the lid, folding out the attached mangle, filling the tub with water, switching it on to heat and adding the Persil. In went the clothes, which were agitated by a rotating wheel device set inside the tub for the required amount of time. Then the clothes, bed linen etc. were hauled out of the hot soapy water, pushed through the mangle to wring them out then transferred to a separate spin dryer and transferred to the washing line. … If it rained then the washing was put onto a slatted airer, fixed to the kitchen ceiling , raised and lowered with a rope. Frankly wash day was hot, hard work. I think [your] Granny also used the left over hot soapy water to mop out her kitchen floor and clean the outside toilet … the indoor bathroom toilet came much later. … Tuesday was ironing day which probably took up all of [your] Gran’s day while we were at school.” – Aunt Susan.
Cleaning and Daily Routine:
“She had a routine for household jobs too, like set days for changing beds, polishing, hoovering, ironing, cleaning the bathroom etc. usually just once a week … She would go down to the local shops every day to buy food for our dinner that day. Days before fridges. Her daily routine was, she would get up and get dressed straight away … After breakfast which Dad made before he went to work. He would light the fire and make a huge pan of porridge which was heated up when we got up. Dad would be gone around 7 and he brought Mum a cup of tea every morning before he went to work. Us kids would get a cuppa and a biscuit on a weekend only. Mum got up around 8. After breakfast she would go shopping for our dinner then come home and make it. [The main meal was served in the middle of the day] Her chores were done usually in between going to the shop and making lunch. Afternoons she tended to do some knitting, darning/sewing, decorating etc. She did all our decorating! Routine was a major thing back in the 50’s.” “She polished and hoovered once a week but it would be different days for different rooms, not all in one go… She did air the beds and open the windows every morning”. – Aunt Diane
“She very much had a routine. She would go downstairs at about 6am to light the 2 coal fires downstairs and then start the breakfast for everyone. … Mum would then clear up breakfast. Monday’s and Thursdays were always washing days. Tuesday and Friday ironing days. Beds were changed weekly … Between wash days she had cleaning days, polishing wood furniture, scrubbing front step, polishing lino, cleaning outside drains , sweeping paths etc. all happened on particular days. Once a month wallpaper was wiped down, particularly in the hall where people rubbed up against it. Think we had a window cleaner for the outside windows, but inside windows were cleaned monthly. She’d clean the car once a month. Between all that, she used to make our school dresses, knit school jumpers, do gardening etc.” – Aunt Carol.
“Wednesdays and Thursdays I think were set aside for cleaning, bedrooms and bathroom one day, downstairs the next with washing down of paintwork on the doors, staircase, and so on as well.” – Aunt Susan.
Groceries and Meal Preparation:
“She also had set meals on set days, i.e. Sunday – Roast, Monday – cold meat left over from Sunday with mash and peas and pickles, Tues, I can’t remember, wed – meat (pork or lamb chop maybe) pot[atoe]s and veg (mushy peas that had been soaked overnight with a cube of something). Thurs (worst for me) neck of lamb stew, meat was so fatty, Friday – Fish fingers, chips and peas. Saturday we’d have smoked haddock. She went to town every Sat morning and went to the market and fish market. She would get tripe for Dad! … She would go down to the local shop to buy food for our dinner that day.” – Aunt Diane.
“We 3 children had had our hot school dinner, so we were given a sandwich tea in front of the t.v in the back room. Mum and Dad would have a cooked meal in the front room… There used to be a Co-op on Holbrook Lane, and she’d take her order there each week, and just carry home in a shopping bag immediate needs. The rest was delivered by van. They used to do fresh fish there as well. There was a butcher on the opposite corner. Remember we didn’t have a fridge, so daily fresh food was bought. There was a veg shop, and what you’d call a deli today, in the shops opposite the house. Milk was delivered each morning and bottles were stood in a bucket of cold water with a wet cloth on the top in the cupboard at the bottom of the stairs… I can remember coming home from school and being sent over the road for a 2 lb bag of spuds for tea. We always had a Sunday roast and whilst the oven was on a fruit cake, a sponge cake and an apple pie were baked to last all week. Sunday tea was always salmon sandwiches, cucumber soaked in vinegar, tinned fruit and condensed milk, maybe jelly and blancmange if we were flush that week.” – Aunt Carol.
“Grocery shopping also had to be fitted in frequently as there was a pantry and store cupboards but no fridge until a later date. I do remember that Mum had her grocery book. She filled in her order on a new page each week. Walked up to the Co-op which was on Holbrook Lane opposite the park. She would hand this book over to the assistant but I’m not sure whether she paid then or the following week after the order had been delivered. I think the order must have gone in on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a Friday delivery in a small van and was mainly for staple items. Gran would shop separately for fresh meat and vegetables and carry them home herself. Milk came to the doorstep in pint bottles and when I was the same age as your little girls the milk cart was horse drawn.” – Aunt Susan.
Rest and Relaxation:
“Before kids came along they would go to another couples house or they would come to Mum and Dads and play cards or go to the cinema. Things were simpler. There were no gyms or other distractions and Mums didn’t meet or go round each other’s houses. [In the evenings] Mum loved listening to The Archers and Dad would fall asleep! One of my memories is whenever I hear the theme tune to The Archers because when it came on at the start of the programme it was bedtime for us… [On Saturdays in town] She would let us go on the roundabout and then she would have a cup of tea and a cake at Lyons Cafe … That was her one treat…” – Aunt Diane.
“They would chat and listen to the radio. Mum would knit or dress make. After we three were in bed, dad liked his classical music records…” – Aunt- Carol
“I can’t remember her ever going to the hairdressers when I was growing up … I remember her putting rollers in her hair and wearing a hairnet in bed… If she was going out she wore powder (in a compact) and red lipstick. No eye make up and never nail varnish.” – Aunt Diane.
“She called herself a soap and water girl. That and a bit of face cream was all. She was still wearing her 1940’s hairstyle until the 1970’s when Sue and me treated her to a very posh hairstylist in the centre of Coventry, and she got the short style you would have known… No weekly hairdo” – Aunt Carol.
I can remember my Granny saying “All you need to be beautiful is a clean face and a smile.”
So from what I found, whilst a 1950’s housewife certainly cleaned thoroughly and worked extremely hard for her family, it probably wasn’t the all out marathon described as ideal in the magazines of the time, and they certainly weren’t all done up like Stepford wives every morning. So why the idealisation?
The 1950’s was the last time that being a housewife was looked at as a worthy vocation and viewed positively as a valuable contribution to society, nostalgia for that respect and regard for the hard work entailed in keeping a home has probably made us a little rose-tinted in our perceptions of how things were. However I don’t think things were as awful for them as many people today would say. Both my grandmothers were satisfied in their roles I believe, in fact both my Grandma Lily and an elderly neighbour of the same age said that they had been ‘lucky enough’ to stay at home and not have to work. We mustn’t forget that some married women did indeed work in the 50’s, the wives of the lower working class men would go out and clean or do laundry for wealthier women to top up their husbands wages and these women were very much pitied by their slightly better off counterparts as they still had to do all the work at home as well. As you can see from the examples I gave each family did things slightly differently depending on their personal preferences and routines, and certainly not every woman was up at the crack of dawn. While women’s rights and equality has come a long way I don’t believe my grandmothers were unhappy or unfulfilled in their lives, and the simplicity of having a clearly defined, admired role in society without the pressure to go out to work like today and the lack of constant bombardment from social media and advertisers to make you dissatisfied in your life appeals to many women today. They did however give the modern housewife a lot to live up to and admire.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this personal perspective on 1950’s housewives as much as I’ve enjoyed researching and writing about it. Please do like, and comment below with your thoughts.
Do you long for a slow paced, stress free, summer, filled with hazy, lazy afternoons, Pimms on the patio and picnics in the park? Me too! Well limiting stress, slowing the pace, and enjoying life to the full requires a little planning. Not too much planning or you’ll become a slave to your schedule, but a little careful planning and preparation can help you be ready for relaxation and enjoyment, through the long hot summer that you dream of. So here are some suggestions for things you can do to prepare for Summer.
Things To Check And Replace:
Check sunhats and sunglasses for the whole family are still well fitting and not too worn out and replace as necessary.
Check your first aid kit and restock bite cream, medi-wipes, cold packs and plasters as necessary in preparation for the inevitable (mis)adventures of summer.
If, like me, you like to make jams and pickles then now is a good time to check your jars and lids for wear and tear and replace any not still in pristine condition. It’s also a good time to purchase the necessary extras like pectin as well as flavourings like pickling spice or vanilla pods and of course sugar.
Check your ice-cube trays and lolly moulds to ensure you have enough and that they’re still in good condition.
If you are going away you will need to check your luggage is clean and in good condition, and also purchase any additional clothes necessary for your trip long in advance so that they can all be washed and packed ready to go. Also if you will be travelling abroad check your passports and renew them if they are close to expiration.
If you travel in the UK like us, and use a roof box, it’s a good idea to check that it’s still in good condition and all the fixings are still present and in tact, the last thing you want is the stress of a broken roof box the night before you go away.
Check over any children’s outdoor toys, games and paddling pools etc, give them a bit of a clean up and decide if you’d like to purchase anything new. It’s good to have everything ready to grab as soon as the weather turns nice.
Check your picnic hamper and blankets for anything that needs replacing. Impromptu picnics just don’t happen if your basket is still stuffed at the back of a cupboard in need of a good clean.
Things To Buy:
Stock up on plenty of sun lotion, bug spray, after sun, cooling spray and citronella oil (see recipe section below). There’s nothing worse than running out of sun lotion on a particularly hot day and having a dash to the supermarket leave you flustered and running behind.
This is pretty obvious, but everyone will probably need new sandals, flip flops etc. as well as comfortable shoes like trainers or plimsolls for long meanders on sunny afternoons through the daisy speckled fields and parks.
A not so obvious necessity, especially here in Britain is a thin waterproof or showerproof mac for each family member. Something easily carried in the crook of an elbow on days when summer showers threaten to dampen the spirits.
Stock up on plenty of good quality oils and vinegar to make those summer salads really zing!
Stock up the liquor cabinet to make summer cocktails on the patio the work of a moment. Also stock up on things like chocolate syrup for making iced mochas and pouring over ice-creams.
If, like me, you have extra refrigerator space tucked away in the garage (or wherever) then stocking up on cans of beer, ciders, as well as bottles of wine for summer sangria and other mixers and juices will be very handy for any impromptu summer BBQ’s or picnics.
Stock up on freezer bags and containers to store that extra produce before it goes bad.
Replace old water bottles to make sure everyone stays hydrated.
Stock up on a variety of flavours of jelly and invest in some cute moulds, jelly and ice-cream really can’t be beaten on a hot summer afternoon.
Things To Do:
Stock your freezer with home-made picnic goodies like sausage rolls, quiches, pork pies and scotch eggs. These can be quickly defrosted and popped in the picnic basket for delicious home-made treats on the hop.
Begin making tubs of home-made ice-cream to get ahead on the summer rush.
Start preparing your feet for summer with a regular pedicure night. A good foot soak, scrubbing away that winter skin and finishing off with some home-made foot lotion (recipe below) will have those tootsies all soft and prep’d for your sandals.
If, like me, you have little girls, then sewing some cute summer dresses is a really nice way to show them a little summertime love.
If you’re a knitter or crocheter then knitting short sleeved or sleeveless boleros for your littles or for yourself is another lovely way to get some crafting in before summer.
Make ahead and freeze meringues and shortcakes for quick and easy summer desserts.
Make up some bottles of glass cleaner and get those windows sparkling in the sunshine (recipe below).
Keep weeding! Those pesky weeds can suddenly erupt right under your nose until your garden has become a jungle seemingly overnight. It’s best to get a head start on tackling them as soon as they start coming up in the spring so that maintenance is merely a little pluck here and there throughout the summer months. Long hours of weeding in the hot summer sun are not fun!
Feed your roses and treat them for aphids. If you want plenty of luscious blooms all summer long, then your flowers need a good regular feed with a high quality organic fertiliser, and those nasty little bugs need to be dealt with as soon as they appear, with an organic spray or the introduction of predators like ladybirds. Look for green clusters on any new growth, especially on roses.
Write a summer bucket list! Get everyone involved in planning the fun memories they’d like to make and the goals they want to achieve this summer, dreaming up fun activities and days out really gets us in the summery mood.
Get a membership for the National Trust or the National Heritage, and spend all summer long exploring historic sites and beautiful gardens.
Summer proof your car. Get your air conditioning refilled, stock up on coolant and screen wash, pull out your sun shades and keep your car clean and cool!
Switch over your linens and clothing for summer. Give your duvets and pillows a good wash (take them to the launderette if they don’t fit in your machine), store them away and replace them with fresh, cool summer cottons and thin blankets.
Clean up the BBQ and then give your wooden patio furniture a new lease of life with a coat of teak oil. Give your patio a good scrub, I use washing soda and a stiff brush, and clean up that parasol to have your outdoor space feeling fresh and inviting for the warm weather.
Plant herbs and summer salad vegetables. Salad leaves, herbs and salad veg like radishes are some of the quickest easiest and least space consuming things to grow, you really can grow them on a windowsill, and they taste so much better than anything you can pick up in the supermarket.
Fill your indoor vases with summer flowers and switch up table linens for something light and breezy to bring the outdoors inside.
Finally I always read an Summer Anthology of poetry or prose (See my ‘Summer Bucket List 2019 post for full title) and start listening to summer playlists to get those summer vibes rolling.
For more fun ideas for summer I recommend ‘The Summer House’ by Alison May, available on kindle and at brocantehome.net
1 tbsp Aloe Vera Gel
12 drops Jojoba Oil
4 tsp Coconut Oil
2 tsp Shea Butter
6-10 drops YL Lavender Essential Oil
Scoop all the ingredients into a jar and stir until combined.
1/4 tsp salt
15 drops YL Purification Essential Oil
5 drops YL Lemon Essential Oil
60ml Spray Bottle
Put the salt and the essential oils into the bottle, fill with the water and swirl to combine. spritz over your body.
1/4 tsp salt
20 drops YL Peppermint Essential Oil
60ml Spray Bottle
Combine the Essential Oil and Salt in the bottle, add the Distilled Water and swirl to blend.
Hand and Foot Lotion:
10-15 drops YL Stress Away Essential Oil
1/4 cup Shea Butter
1 tbsp Beeswax
2 tbsp Sweet Almond Oil
Combine Essential Oils and Sweet Almond Oil in a bowl and swirl to blend. Melt wax in a double boiler with the Shea Butter, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add oils mixture, stir and cool in the fridge.
300 ml Spray Bottle
5 drops YL Orange Essential Oil
5 drops YL Lemon Essential Oil
75ml Hydrogen Peroxide
Put all the ingredients into the spray bottle and swirl to combine.
[ALL RECIPES ARE SHARED WITH PERMISSION FROM ‘OILS & BEYOND WITH THE SYMONS FAMILY’ ON FACEBOOK. I RECOMMEND YOUNG LIVING PRODUCTS AS I AM FAMILIAR WITH THE QUALITY OF THE BRAND, OTHER BRANDS ARE AVAILABLE]
Well here we are finishing up what for us is week 11 of lock-down due to the Covid 19 virus. Restrictions have begun to be lifted and we’re expecting my husband to return to work on 1st June. We can now go out for exercise as much as we like but play areas are still closed. Here in the KatesKitchenTable household, we have just broken up for our half-term holiday and the children and I are looking forward to a week without the structure of our academic endeavors.
My Week In The Kitchen:
We’ve been eating a lot of comfort food, unfortunately lock-down and good weather has me longing for things like pizza or spaghetti and meatballs, but home-made and served with a big salad and a glass of wine, it’s making home a pretty good place to be right now. We had two types of muffins this week, carrot with a cream cheese frosting and plain with white icing and sweeties on top.
My Week Home-Educating:
Being stuck at home for the most part, apart from our daily hour-long walks, we have focused heavily on our academic subjects, so as to get ahead for the summer when hopefully our freedom will be restored and we can have more time for exploring. Both Rowan and Lara have worked really hard this last half-term, Rowan has been working extra hard on her Maths and she’s now learned all her multiplication tables up to 7. This week she’s also been working on the correct usage of the greater than and less than symbols.
Lara has particularly enjoyed her science this week. She’s been learning about the functions of the eye. Hollie has been preparing to sit her mock exams in English, Maths, Chemistry, and History when we return after half-term.
A very brief kitchen diary this week as we’re currently battling tonsillitis again here. Last week was half-term for us so we spent it having fun with friends and resting for the most part.
My week in the kitchen
It’s been a very uneventful week in the kitchen and not much time for cooking. I made these Muesli Cookies which are really simple to make and very tasty. We also had these Black Forest Ice-Cream Sundaes for dessert on Friday – layers of cherry pie filling, vanilla and chocolate ice-cream, and chocolate brownie all topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles – extremely decadent but soooooo good!
My week home-educating
As it was half-term and half of us were ill by the end of the week we’ve enjoyed a few pyjama days and lots of time watching movies and reading.
Lara got her new glasses, isn’t she a cutie?!
Cocktail of the week
An oldie but a goodie, this week we had Tequila Sunrises. Super simple and very tasty: simply mix a shot of tequila with orange juice and pour over ice, carefully pour grenadine into the side so that it settles to the bottom and garnish with cherries and an orange slice (we’d run out of oranges at this point so were a bit short on the garnish).
Hi everyone, I hope you all had a good week despite all the winter storms. Life has gone on pretty normally here at the kitchen table. Here is another roundup of what we’ve been up to this week.
My week in the kitchen:
A busy week in the kitchen as usual. Our menu plan looked like this (pretty much all homemade from scratch) …
Monday: Breakfast – porridge and maple syrup with orange juice, tea/coffee. Elevenses – Oranges. Lunch – Roast chicken and salad sandwiches on wholemeal sandwich bread with an apple and hot blackcurrant cordial. Tea-time – Tea and fork biscuits. Dinner – cheese and tomato pizzas with a green salad. Pudding – poached apple and custard. Supper – Milk and biscuits.
Tuesday: Breakfast – boiled egg and soldiers with orange juice, tea/coffee. Elevenses – bananas. Lunch – roast beef and rocket sandwiches on wholemeal sandwich bread with a plum and hot lemon cordial. Tea-time – Tea and chocolate chip cookies. Dinner – Lasagne with a green salad. Pudding – jam tarts. Supper – milk and biscuits.
Wednesday: Breakfast – muesli with orange juice, tea/coffee. Elevenses – pears. Lunch – Tuna Pasta Salad with an apple and hot blackcurrant cordial. Tea-time – tea and scones. Dinner – chicken curry and naan bread. Pudding – stewed plums and greek yoghurt. Supper – milk and biscuits.
Thursday: Breakfast – pancakes with leftover stewed plum and yoghurt with orange juice, tea/coffee. Elevenses – satsumas. Lunch – ham and tomato sandwiches on wholemeal sandwich bread with hot chocolate and marshmallows. Tea-time – tea and raspberry and white chocolate cookies. Dinner – chicken fried rice. Pudding – toaster pastries. Supper – milk and crackers.
Friday: Breakfast – cereal and orange juice, tea/coffee. Elevenses – bananas. Lunch – crudites and dip with wholemeal bread and butter, sweets and blackcurrant cordial. Tea-time – tea and jammy dodgers. Dinner – sausage traybake. Pudding – was meant to be strawberry mousse but an emergency trip to the vets meant it ended up being strawberries and cream. Supper – milkshakes.
Saturday: Breakfast – bacon and egg rolls. Elevenses – satsumas. Lunch – chicken sandwiches on wholemeal bread with an apple and lemon cordial. Tea-time – tea and popcorn. Dinner – Valentine’s date night – Indian take-away (the children had grilled chicken, fries and salad.)
Sunday: Breakfast – cereal and orange juice, tea/coffee. Lunch – roast beef, roast potatoes, yorkshires, carrots, broccoli, and gravy with apple crumble and custard to follow. Tea-time – tea and strawberry wafers. Dinner – wholemeal buttered toast. Supper – milk and biscuits.
My week home-educating:
This week was worms week in our exploring nature with children curriculum. We learned about their physical make-up, what they eat, how they live, and how useful they are in the garden.
We also learned how to multiply by 3, about farming around the world, Noah’s ark, and about opaque objects and shadows.
We went to the skate park with our scooters to meet friends.
We played Lego.
And we went for our annual opticians checkup and learned all about what an optometrist does and how to keep our eyes healthy. Very surprisingly Lara was diagnosed with a lazy eye (this was her first time at the opticians) her eyesight in her right eye is actually extremely poor and she will need glasses for the rest of her life and has been referred to the hospital for treatment. We had absolutely no idea she had any problems with her sight. It just goes to show how important visiting your optician can be.
My week in home-making:
This week in the exciting world of keeping house, on top of my usual jobs, I washed the master bedroom windows, cleaned the front door and scrubbed the step – much to the amusement or horror of our new neighbour over the road who stared at me totally unabashed, perhaps she wants to be friends or maybe she was admiring my scrubbing brush, who can say? Haha! I disinfected the bins, cleaned the dishwasher inside and out and also washed the back door (without an audience thank goodness). I made up some more homemade rosemary and orange shampoo and conditioner, I really love this blend for my fine hair and it smells amazing.
My week in books:
I am currently reading Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin for an online book club I’m a part of. What it says on the cover:’ Fascinating Womanhood offers timeless wisdom, practical advice, and enduring values to meet the needs and challenges of a new generation of women – happy, fulfilled, adored, and cherished – who want to rediscover the magic of their own feminine selves.’ This book, which seems to be a product of difference theory thinking, along the lines of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, despite being originally published in 1965 advocates complementarianism and a return to strictly defined gender roles to improve your marriage relationship. A lot of women reading this book today would be amused and horrified by its contents, calling for women to be traditionally feminine and to bring out the masculinity in their husbands. The writer bases her text on the premise that men have a very different view of what the ideal woman is and by becoming more like an ideal of femininity one can awaken a protective masculinity on one’s husband and deepen his affection. Andelin bases the ‘ideal woman’ on female characters in fiction by masculine authors, on the premise that they will have based these characters on real women. It’s my belief that writers actually rarely base a character entirely on someone they know and the ‘ideal women’ cited in these texts are idealised for a literary purpose and it’s perfectly possible that had the authors met their characters in person they may well have hated them.
However, the numerous testimonials about the effectiveness of the strategies outlined in this book are hard to ignore. It’s easy to see why wholly accepting the flaws of ones marriage partner and ceasing to complain about them can lead to a happier marriage. It also makes sense that dividing the labour down traditional lines could lead to much less conflict in a marriage when both partners fully accept those roles. Less obvious is how being more feminine and encouraging masculinity from your husband improves the relationship. I’m not done reading it yet, and I’m unsure of exactly where I stand with this topic but the book is interesting and easy to read. If you’ve read it please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
Cocktail of the week
We celebrated valentine’s in style with a romantic meal for 9 (haha) and love potion cocktails. This cocktail is 1 part peach schnapps, 1 part vodka, 1 part malibu rum and 6 parts cranberry juice over ice with strawberry hearts to garnish. Very tasty, but you only need one hehe!
Kate’s Kitchen Valentine’s
We decided to delay our Valentine’s date until the next day this year so as not to interfere with Friday night dinner, we ended up just having an Indian take-away and a glass of wine at home once the children were in bed and it was lovely. We’d agreed not to buy gifts, but my darling romantic hubby still came home on Friday morning with a single red rose and a book of ‘coupons’ for me which include things like breakfast in bed and an uninterrupted nap! I’m very much looking forward to using them lol! How was your Valentine’s?
Welcome to the first of a weekly round up of what we’ve been doing here at Kate’s Kitchen Table.
My week in the kitchen:
This week we mostly ate from the freezer meals I made a few weeks ago, cottage pie, lasagne, beef stew and dumplings. For our Friday night family meal I used my new chef’s blowtorch for the first time to make creme brulee. On Saturday we had guests for dinner. I made The Pioneer Woman’s Comfort Meatballs served with Jacket Potatoes. The meatballs are more like meatloaf than the meatballs you might serve with pasta and have this amazing tangy ‘sweet and sour’ style sauce over them, super tasty! For pudding I made a pavlova topped with cream, strawberries and raspberries – a taste of summer during storm Ciara haha!
Sunday was my husband’s birthday so we spoiled him in the way he likes best … with food haha! For breakfast we had bacon in soft white rolls, and for Sunday Lunch I Roasted 2 enormous chickens and served them with roast potatoes, yorkshires, sage and onion stuffing, pigs-in-blankets, savoy cabbage, sprouts, carrots and gravy and made a strawberry trifle for pudding. His birthday cake was a really simple sponge traybake with white icing and dolly mixtures and jelly beans on top – his favourite sweeties hehe. Unfortunately I’ve been pretty terrible at taking pictures this week so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it all went down well hehe!
As always I baked …. a lot! lol
My week home-educating
This week was candlemas week in our exploring nature with children curriculum. We found snowdrops on our nature walk and drew them in our nature journals, discussed the history and significance of candlemas day and made beeswax candles, read a slightly more lighthearted version of Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snowdrop’ and learned about winter storms and what causes severe weather. We looked at the traditional rhyme: ‘If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, Winter will not come again.’ and talked about how people have predicted the weather in the past and how we do so now.
We also enjoyed a piece of art by Marianne Stokes called Candlemas Day which shows a woman in profile reading her bible with a candle in the background. We talked about the artists choice of colour and subject and had a go at drawing each other in profile.
My week in home-making
This week in the oh-so-exciting world of keeping house I managed to pretty much stick to my schedule which on top of the regular house cleaning, laundry and cooking, included cleaning the garage, washing the shower curtain, cleaning the fridge inside and out, washing the windows, and kitchen tiles, mending about 5 small pairs of tights,and washing the downstairs woodwork. Aaah the glamour!
My week in books
This week I’m reading ‘Home Economics Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st Century Household’. Here’s what the cover says: “Housekeeping is becoming more and more a matter of science, and the laurels are bound to fall to the woman who conducts her household in a business-like way.”
Let the thrifty sensibility of yesteryear be your guide as you shop for the most economical foods, choose wall colors scientifically, clean with natural products, look your best without breaking the bank, and budget your way to frugal efficiency. In this amazing collection of clever wisdom and practical advice drawn from vintage home-economics textbooks, you’ll find everything you need to get back to basics and run a healthy and happy household. Home Economics covers all the categories of delightful domesticity:
If I am to live a simple, low stress, slower and more contented life with so many people depending on me I have learned that I must be intentional, in many ways but particularly in preparing and planning for the future. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that plans (I love a good list)must be brief, easy to put in place and also must equate to action (I love a good bit of procrastination too lol) or things get very stressful, trying to fulfil all those dreams and obligations at the last minute. At this time of year when one can, this year at least, sense the first whisperings of the changing of the season in the air, my heart begins to feel the call to prepare for the coming cold, I long for full cupboards and freezers, no doubt some leftover trace in my blood, from the days when preparing and storing for winter was a necessity, although I sometimes wonder if I’m alone in this?
So anyway in order to live an intentional life with less last minute chaos I do a few things to prepare in advance for the coming season during the one that comes before it, I am currently preparing for autumn in various ways, some of which are included in the list below along with some that I’m adding in this year and some suggestions that you might enjoy as well.
Buy new wellies, waterproof jackets and umbrellas for everyone as needed, and give those not being replaced a good clean, replacing worn insoles etc.
Knit a new cardigan or jumper for everyone in your family, I prefer to use a more lightweight wool in autumnal coppers and moss tones, for this time of year as they’re pretty timeless and good for layering over short sleeves, should an Indian summer pleasantly surprise us.
Preserve the harvest – it becomes possible to serve up a large and varied selection of those most delectable of comfort foods, the autumn dessert, on even the most meagre of budgets by freezing or otherwise preserving those summer fruits necessary while they are in season, either from you garden, foraging, a local farm shop or market. When the summer sun makes pastry making a trial, and the prospect of putting a pie in the oven for an hour reminiscent more of Dante’s Inferno than Little Women, its comforting to know that it doesn’t matter because those peaches, and blackcurrants will still be there, safely stowed in your freezer to cheer a dreary November evening.
Check and restock your spice rack – warming spices for chilli, soups, stews and desserts (along with all your dried herbs) should be used up by their best before date, as they lose a lot of their flavour and health benefits when they get old. If you grow some herbs in your garden or on your windowsill you might like to have a go at drying and storing them yourself during the summer, as commercially produced non-organic ones can be very high in pesticide residues.
I like to stock up the pantry with ‘fresh’ dried fruits and things like treacle, syrups, brown sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa, and also freshen up the jars of baking mixes I make to speed up my time in the kitchen. If you’re anything like me then when it’s chilly and you’re just craving a warm freshly baked gingerbread man, the thought of going to the shop to buy golden syrup may be all it takes to put you off the whole endeavour. The less steps between me and delicious biscuity goodness the better I say!
During the summer I like to make ice-cream. the challenge is to also make enough to get us through the year ahead. I don’t know about you but churning ice-cream just doesn’t feel right by the time the nights start drawing in and the leaves begin turning (though oddly I have no opposition to eating it lol, but preferably next to a slice of hot cherry pie, yummy!) So I try to make enough, in a variety of flavours, to get us through to the following year. I say I try … I’ve never managed it yet … oddly enough the more ice-cream there is, the more everybody wants to eat it.
If, like me, you have little girls, then sewing them a new long sleeved blouse, dress or nightdress ready for autumn is a lot of fun, very satisfying and super budget friendly if you have a good local drapers to source your fabric at a reasonable price. Also there are some good simple patterns available for pyjamas for boys or girls, because what says hello autumn like a new pair of brushed cotton, blue, dinosaur patterned pj’s?
Plant some seedlings ready for your autumn/winter vegetable garden. If you want autumn crops of Brussels sprouts, autumn (and winter or spring) cabbages, autumn cauliflowers, winter radishes, kale and onions then you need to planting them at the appropriate times during the summer, to be planted out once the seeds have sprouted and as the summer veg makes way for them.
Towards the end of summer, I like to clean up all the radiators, inside, outside and behind, and make sure they are bled before they are put to use. I’d definitely recommend purchasing a radiator brush to get into all the nooks and crannies.
I also love candle-making and candles really come into their own in the autumn, I love to mix up autumnal scents with essential oils, mix them with the melted beeswax and make up little jar candles, the bonus being they also make excellent gifts, the beeswax burns nice and slowly so it lasts a lot longer than other kinds and neither the wax nor the oils give off any nasty toxic chemicals that can be found in other forms of wax, or perfume oils, or indeed the scented candles you can buy. In fact the essential oils may even positively impact your health and well-being, what’s not to love? I also make sure I’m well stocked with tapers for my candlesticks and tea lights for around the house use.
This year I’ll also being using essential oils in my new vaporiser for immune support and comforting scents, so I’ve stocked up my supplies this summer to make sure the right blend is available at a moments notice.
If you like to knit, crochet or quilt then why not make an autumnal themed throw for snuggling under on the patio when the the leaves begin to fall.
I restock the medicine cabinet with vitamins, essential oil blends and remedies, herbal teas, infant (and adult) paracetamol, and cold remedies in good time for the inevitable arrival of those autumn sniffles.
I like to get all our pets their annual checkups at the vets, its always a good idea to check their chips are still reading correctly, their vaccinations are all up to date and they’re in tip top condition before the longer nights make things a little more difficult.
For a bit of fun, or to brush up your knitting skills, why not try knitting yourself a new tea cosy? Tea and Cosy in the same sentence, that’s what it’s all about!
I take out my girls autumn/winter clothing in the next size up, mend, wash, and iron it ready for use, and gift anything that we won’t need or that I’ve realised is too used, now that I’ve seen it with a fresh pair of eyes.
I like to start collecting items for the harvest festival donations, we’re not able to contribute financially to all of the charities that we would like but adding a few non-perishables to our shopping trolley each week through the summer makes for a nice easy way to make a difference in our local community.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have anything to add or things that your family does to prepare for autumn. I will be posting an update very soon on how we’ve got on with that summer bucket list and all the fun things we’ve been up to this summer. Have a great week.