Friday, 20 March 2015

A Solar Eclipse, Vintage Postcards, and Victoria Sponge for the First Day of Spring

Gentle Reader ~~~ 

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

Yes, Happy First Day of Spring, my friends, and we are celebrating in style with a Solar Eclipse here in the UK. Where I am, in the Shire, it was only a partial one, but amazing and an awesome reminder of the timing of our existence in our wonderful universe.  I did my best to capture some images, but we had, once more, sea haze that hampered clarity, but here are my two best shots. It is not worth the risk to anyone's sight to look at the sun without proper protective glasses, so I just aimed my camera and clicked ~~~ 



During the time of the eclipse, the bright, early morning sunshine began to dim, quickly, more quickly than twilight sets in of an early Spring evening.  It fell eerily silent, birds stopped their morning chatter and looked toward the sky in confusion and began to roost as they were lulled into a false sense of time, a strange calm fell across the land as the shadows of the false evening deepened and lengthened, and I allowed myself to feel that sense of the fear experienced by our ancestors who thought the sun was being stolen from the sky.  As the morning darkened, the eclipse deepened, the day that just a few moments earlier was warming up dropped into a sudden chill that increased with the growing eclipse. Then, an hour later, as quickly as the dark descended, the light and warmth returned to us and all is well, once more, with the world.

I hope you will like these following images ~~~ and I promise, as the weather is improving so will the reports on what I'm up to in the garden! I keep saying that, don't I? I am incorrigible, but it is still chilly in the wind Little by little I'm squeezing in a few hours out there ~ but even after two hours on my hands and knees weeding just one border, it looks as if so little has been done. Oh, and I am aching in muscles I didn't know I had ~~~ please, stop giggling, yes, you, in the corner, stop giggling!

I am not a fastidiously tidy gardener in that I do not remove all the dead seed heads in the Autumn, oh, no! I leave them all for the birds so they can keep on foraging for their food as long as the weather permits. This is a good thing for the birds, because if we feed them too much over the Winter they can become lazy, relying on us to find their food for them.  Of course, I am the first to put out plenty of seeds if the weather turns bad, and I keep the feeders filled during breeding season too, to help them get plenty of food for their babies in the nests. So the first order of work is to start with some general tidying up of everything!

In the meantime, I have some vintage postcards to share with you. My Godmother passed them to me, and she is uncertain how they came in to her hands, and has returned them to me.  I am thrilled she did as they are all sent between my Grandmother and Grandfather, her sisters, brothers, and my mother. I don't know much about them, except that the majority of them were sent as birthday greetings. I don't know if this means that greetings cards as we know them were not readily available, or if these were available as an alternative, but you will see that many of them are purposely printed with birthday greetings ~~~ here they are ~~~

There is a cryptic message on the back of this first one which leads me to believe the sender was making a tounge~in~cheek reference to my Grandmother and her future husband ~~~ for she was tiny and he was a tall man ~~~


I think it was quite common to create compositions representing literary characters, and this is captioned Little Nell ~~~



A picture postcard of Little Haven, Pembrokeshire ~~~ 



The back of one of the cards, complete with postage stamp ~~~


{The James who signed this was James Nicolas who went on to become one of Wales most notable Archdruids and poets. He was a wonderful man}

And more birthday wishes ~~~













A picture postcard of Llandudno Promenade ~~~ the dress looks quite Victorian, don't you think?











When I am gardening, I love to take breaks to drink plenty of tea and eat fortifying slices of cake. Here is my recipe for one of my most favourite cakes to eat, whether when gardening or not.  It was a favourite of Queen Victoria herself, indeed it was made for her and named after her ~~~ Victoria Sponge ~~~ here are two versions, the one I learned in school, and the one I use most of the time.  This is a picture of my cake, with the book Mary Berry's Baking Bible in the background showing Mary's version ~~~ I think I did good!




First, the recipe I use most of the time by Mary Berry, because it is the easiest and most successful one I've ever used, you will find it here on the BBC website, and it is a very good bake.

My old recipe, this is the one I learned in school, many decades ago, is only a little more complicated in that you have to weigh your eggs!  There are other small differences too, such as beating by hand! 

For two six inch round cake pans take the weight of two {room temperature} large eggs in butter, self raising flour, and caster sugar.  
Because you are weighing your eggs, the weight actually varied from sponge to sponge!  This is why I prefer Mary Berry's recipe.

Grease and flour well two six inch cake pans.  Light a moderate {gas mark 5} oven. 

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon {yes, that is how we made them in the 1960's} until the butter becomes pale in colour. Add the sugar, and cream together until the sugar is incorporated to the butter. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add a little at a time {to avoid curdling} until they are incorporated into the butter and sugar.  Next, sift the flour and with a stirring motion {no more beating} gradually add into the mixture.   Batter needs to be a dropping consistency, and a little water or milk may be added to achieve this.  Spoon into waiting prepared pans and bake for about 20 minutes, or until cake is coming away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I like to listen to see if the cake is still 'singing' and the skewer method best.

Cool in the pans for a few minutes, then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack before filling with strawberry, raspberry, or apricot jam.  Cut into slices and enjoy!

For larger pans, weigh three eggs for seven inch pans, and weigh four eggs for eight inch pans. Increasing baking times slightly.

Here is a single layer cake I made, filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries ~~~



So, Gentle Reader ~~~ you now know what I will be using to keep up my flagging energy levels in between the digging, and the weeding, and the sowing of seeds ~~~




29 comments:

  1. Hi Deb! We had a good view of the eclipse here too. A little solar fun to brighten the day. What a wonderful selection of old postcards and yes, you did wonderfully well with the cake, it looks better than Mary's!

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    1. Thought you might! We got lucky with the clouds, more or less. Did you get the Aurora Borealis the other night?
      Blushing now, my cake better than Mary's! Missing FB, but there we go, I'm logged on as my garden page and can't log in as me!

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  2. super post, with lots of info. Love those vintage cards, so very pretty. It's a shame the cost of postage is so high nowadays. I send as little mail as possible due to that. A Victoria Sponge Cake is a classic that everyone loves. Have a super weekend.

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    1. Thanks Gill, yes, Victoria Sponge a firm favourite in this house, with home made jam too! I try not to think about postage costs.

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  3. Loved the postcards, Deb, and I'll be over soon for a slice of cake!

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    1. Will get the tea kettle on now ~~~ xoxo

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  4. Dear Deb,
    Loved the vintage post cards and the history behind them.

    Your cake sounds yummy-I will have to try it.

    Yes postage is high ,but some times a card in the mail is still worth it.
    Just the personal feeling.

    Your photo of the eclipse was great.
    All your blogs are coming across the pond-just great.

    Your messages here are even better-F.B. is ????

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    1. Thank you, dearest friend! Do try the cake, I am sure you will enjoy it! xoxo

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  5. How lucky for you to see the solar eclipse, Deb. It is quite eerie when the birds take note of the darkness. Thank you for your photos and for not damaging your eyes. We are having a rainy first day of spring, and hopes for lovely weather this weekend.
    Your Victoria Sponge is just gorgeous! I love the juicy strawberry filled one. One of these days I must make one.
    The vintage postcards are just priceless! I know you must treasure those beauties. Lovely graphics and messages on each one. Thank you for sharing them. ♥

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    1. We were incredibly lucky, but it was a bit fuzzy due to sea mists that swirled about all day long ~ unfortunately, as these events don't come along that often, there isn't really time to practice with the camera ~ you do what you can {unless you are a professional, of course}
      Queen Victoria certainly knew a thing or two when she had Victoria Sponge made for her!

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  6. Deb, I will right over for tea and sponge!!! Love fresh berries, better than jam.

    I like the postcards. I wish I could have seen the Aurora Borealis. I have not seen it since I was a child. :-(

    Thanks for the recipes. My daffies did come up in time for St. Pats.

    Margot~~~by the sea.

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    1. I will get everyone to scoot along at the table and make room for one more! We will be quite a jolly crowd, I think!
      Glad the daffies did their thing in time! Deb

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  7. Hi, Deb ... I think my earlier comment didn't make it through cyberspace. I mentioned that I found it interesting that the recipe link used the term 'sandwich' instead of 'sponge,' and that yours looks scrummy; your cake with strawberries and whipped cream is especially appealing. The vintage greeting cards are a special kind of keepsake, linking us to gentler times perhaps. You and Rachel and The Queen's English captured the partial eclipse nicely. Toodles...

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    1. Oh, dear ~ I'm afraid I've heard a few people say comments aren't making it, must be the solar eclipse playing games? I think 'sandwich' and 'sponge' are interchangeable for the same thing here, I've not heard one is specific to one type of bake, but will try and find out. Here's a little secret ~ topping a layer with cream and fruit is a great save face if the layer has sunk ~ you will never know it happened!
      Rachel's photographs of the eclipse were amazing, weren't they?
      ~~~Deb

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  8. Oh yes, a jolly crowd!!!

    More rain today. To wet to work outside…

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  9. Oh, Deb! It would be so sweet to squeeze in at your table for just a little slice of Victoria Sponge, too! Your cake looks delightful! I have never tasted a Victoria Sponge. So, I am thrilled to have the recipes from you and Mary B. The vintage postcards are such treasures, Deb! I love the images, the delicate embossing, and the sweet sentiments. Wouldn't it be fun to letter a few of the Victorian sentiments on our handmade cards today? It's so special to read the messages sent from one family member to another so long ago. What a joy! Happy Spring, sweet friend! ♡

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    1. okay ~ I'll get everyone to budge up a little more! We'll be squashed in like sardines, but as long as we have room for just another slice of cake, it doesn't matter! So pleased you like the cards ~ I thought you would! ~~~Deb xoxo

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  10. Your cake does look scrumptious! The postcards are a real treasure. The solar eclipse was not visible here in the States? We got about 3 inches of snow today instead!

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    1. Don't worry, Cathy ~ I think you have a solar eclipse coming in a few years, was it August 21 2017 they said? It will be visible across the entire contiguous United States too! Still waiting for snow in the Shire!
      ~~~Deb

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  11. I wonder what the Victorians would have made of the rather garish and often crudely vulgar greetings cards that are so popular today.

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    1. I wonder indeed ~ for I know what I make of them. I try to set many of my standards to those of the Victorians, and greetings cards is one of them. I try to make all of my greetings cards, too, each one personalised to the recipient.

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  12. Our eclipse wasn't very dramatic after all the hype about us being cast into darkness when really it just went a little dull

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    1. Ours was a damp squib as far viewing was concerned ~ we are often scuppered by cloud cover or sea fog here. The main thing I found was the drop in temperature and how it affected the birdsong.

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  13. Hey, save room for me! I'll bring the vintage Valentine's cards I have. Sounds like a fun time.

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    1. Yay! You are here, sweet friend ~ saved you a seat, you are just in time as more cake is coming out of the oven! Would love to see your vintage Valentines {hint hint} ~~~Deb xoxo

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  14. What a lovely blog you have and I do like the vintage postcards. But now I want cake!
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Thank you Amalia! I hope you have some cake soon ~~~

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  15. Such lovely vintage cards, and those strawberries looked delicious.

    All the best Jan

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  16. Deb,
    I miss you! Are you OK? Busy in the garden? It got cold again yesterday. I saw snow flakes today, 4 at my house and 4 the beach. I went to see my artist friend today. I bought a new painting of a mermaid.
    Fondly,
    Margot
    PS I got e-mail from "Surfers Against Sewage" from England. Is that a problem along the coast of England??? Just wondering.

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Thank you for stopping by today ~ I love reading your comments