Category Archives: Domestic science

Sloe recovery

It was 6th December 2015 when Cumbria was hit by devastating floods. We remained dry but the river Eden was in the order of 30ft above its usual level and the water was up to the second storey at the castle (see earlier posts ‘Eden; a troubled paradise’ and ‘Gate expectations’ in the Tales from the river bank category for photos).


The river has changed the landscape and the sloe bushes along the bank  which were the source of our Christmas sloe gin and sloe vodka were swept horizontal, weighed down by the detritus carried by the river. After the water receded the bushes looked beyond help. However, Spring has arrived and we noticed that the sloe bushes have started to recover and amongst the tangles of captured flotsam are flowers.


Still life ….

We are hopeful of a good crop of blue loveliness this Autumn.


…..Still life

It was good to see other signs of new life along the river …. two families of Greylag geese, ancestors of the domestic goose.


Greylag goslings


Periodic Table ware …

It was St Valentine’s Day last Sunday and Phil surprised me with a beautiful Victorian hyacinth vase. It’s very unusual as it made from Uranium glass which glows under UV light ! I set about researching this as I’d never heard of it before and found the following on a site called


‘Uranium salts (Uranium Dioxide), as found in their natural state, are a vivid yellow. So it’s easy to understand why it has been added to glass as a yellow colourant since the early 19th century. There have been claims that its first use was as early as 79 AD following the discovery in 1912 of a glass mosaic in an excavation on a Roman Villa near Naples in Italy but this has never been proven. Some others consider that its first use was by Josef Riedel at his Bohemian glassworks in the 1830’s. There is no doubt though, that in 1835 experiments with uranium as a glass colorant were being carried out by Whitefriars Glass Works in London and that in 1836, a pair of uranium glass candlesticks were presented to the Queen. Production of uranium glass in Britain ceased by the end of the second world war but a small amount is still being manufactured in the USA and Czechoslovakia.
One of the most significant aspects of uranium glass is that it is radioactive and does give a positive reading on a geiger counter. This may cause some concern as to its safety with regard to health but research from 2003 confirmed that the radiation levels detected were low and quite safe with normal use.

The other significant aspect of uranium bearing glass and that which is of major interest to collectors, is that it glows a vivid bright green under Ultra Violet light (blacklight). This is due to the Ultra Violet radiation exciting the outer electrons of the uranium atoms which as a result give off energy and which is seen by our eyes as a bright green glow. This is called fluorescence. The more intense the UV the brighter the green glow and the less that the original yellow colouring can be seen. Uranium glass also has a slight green glow in daylight due to the Ultra Violet component of daylight acting on it. This glow is paler due to the effect of the other components of white light also striking our eyes.’

My vase is pink through the top section and this is due to the inclusion of gold in the manufacturing of the glass. It’s known as Cranberry glass and is made in craft production rather than in large quantities, due to the high cost of the gold. The gold chloride is made by dissolving gold in a solution of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid (aqua regia). The glass is typically hand blown or molded. The finished, hardened glass is a type of colloid, a solid phase (gold) dispersed inside another solid phase (glass).

He never ceases to surprise me !


Cups half full (optimists)

Now we all love a boiled egg and hot buttered soldiers for breakfast but we didn’t have any egg cups.Then we saw these perfect replicas of our own Eglu on the Omlet site and couldn’t resist !



George our Lavender Pekin bantam is going to have to up her game a bit though !

SAD Irony

Wednesday progress with the green house base was scuppered by rain so we went to the Brunswick yard, our favourite Architectural salvage and Antiques emporium in Penrith. I spotted these and Phil bought them for my Wedding anniversary present. Not an iPad, not an iPhone folks but an iRon…..3 of them to be precise. Chatting to Adam the proprietor, these little beauties were de rigueur in the Victorian era.

Mrs Potts patented SAD iron, made in West Bromwich, England

Mrs Potts patented SAD iron, made in West Bromwich, England

Here’s the history. The sadiron (today it is one word) is one type of iron. There are many others, developed for special uses, like goffering irons that pressed ruffles or specially shaped irons for sleeves. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the sadiron is a smoothing iron, solid and flat, as opposed to a box iron that is hollow and meant to hold coals (so it didn’t need to be heated and reheated on the stove). It says that the word sad once meant heavy or compact. Webster’s defines sadiron as a flatiron pointed at both ends and having a removable handle, and dates the term to 1738.

Evidently an American woman named Mrs. Potts invented a removable wooden handle in 1871 that made it easier to iron and it didn’t burn your hand (women used rags or potholders but still, those things must have been dangerously hot!), and you could put one sadiron on the stove to heat while you moved the handle to the hot one.

Nice catch !

Nice catch !

The body of the iron was cast hollow and was later filled with material that was a non-conductor of heat, such as plaster of Paris, cement or clay. Mrs. Potts claimed in her patent that this material held the heat longer so that more garments could be ironed without reheating the iron.

Comes with guarantee stamp 'will not break'

Comes with guarantee stamp ‘will not break’

So at the youthful age of 19, Mrs. Mary Potts solved the pervasive problem of hot handles and burns to the hands as a result of ironing. The wooden detachable handle and sets of 3 irons resolved the hot handle issue. Her irons were produced by every major iron producer in America and also produced in Germany, England, Canada, and Australia. Mrs. Potts was never completely compensated or adequately paid for her idea. There are currently 265 Mrs. Potts’ Sad Irons cataloged in the book, The Mrs. Potts’ Sad Iron Collectors’ Guide that is available for sale at

They're numbered so can be used in sequence

They’re numbered so can be used in sequence

Our collection is missing its stand but you never know at Adam’s yard, we might get lucky !

Hard cheese !

Lime and ginger cheese cake

Lime and ginger cheese cake

…….. £1.00 to enter my cheese cake and £3.50 each on the door bought us 4 puddings each and bottomless tea cups. We all voted for our first and second favourites. Sadly didn’t win a certificate this year but really enjoyed the puddings !

Say cheese !

It’s the annual Armathwaite Pudding Festival today and I’m entering my lime and ginger cheese cake, which was awarded ‘best cheesecake’ last year. This year’s special category is ‘best tart’ but I’m not that clever in the kitchen so i’m going with a tried and tested creation.


It’s a winner and it’s dead easy; guaranteed to work every time and it’s my signature dish ! All you need are…..

200g ginger biscuits crushed …I whizz mine in a blender, 50g butter melted, 500g marscapone cheese, 40g icing sugar, grated zest and juice of 2 limes.

Mix crumbed biscuits with melted butter and press into the base of a 18cm loose bottom tin. Mix marscapone, icing sugar, lime zest and juice in a bowl and beat together. Spread over the base and chill for 30 mins. It’s that simple! Decorate with grated chocolate, grapes, lime zest …what ever you like.

Will let you know how I went on……



Wet play


I’m not much of a domestic goddess but as it was teeming with rain today I decided to make some chocolate naughtiness to eat in the summerhouse.

You will need a 24cm tart tin with removable base

250g ginger snaps, 175g butter, 200g dark chocolate chopped (I used Lindt 70%), 200ml single cream, 50g stem ginger finely chopped, 6 cardamom pods with outer skin discarded.

Melt 100g of the butter over a low heat. Blitz the ginger snaps in a liquidiser and add to the melted butter. Mix.

Press the ginger mix into the tin and up the sides. Place in oven at 160 c 375 f for 10 mins. Remove.

Heat cream and cardamom seeds. stir through the chocolate until it has melted. Once combined, stir in the 75g butter until it melts and the ganache comes together.

Sprinkle the stem ginger over the ginger base. Pour the still warm ganache on top.

Chill for 2 hours in the fridge and remove from the fridge an hour before eating. However, if you can’t wait like we couldn’t, it’s good to go after about an hour in the fridge …. Squidgy loveliness with cream ! Mmmmmm