It all feels like a dream now…. it’s just over a month since my trip back to my second home. The eleven day stay was sadly over all too quickly. We had a wonderful time catching up with friends and eating and drinking far too much!
Instead of driving straight to our destination of Sighisoara, we spent a night in Alba Lulia, an incredibly interesting place and it was here that the union of Transylvania with Romania was pronounced on December 1st, 1918. It was a fleeting visit, but I’m glad we stopped off and wandered around for several hours. There was also a brilliant ice cream café!
Arriving in Sighisoara, at our usual hotel, Alte Post, we were made really welcome. It’s a wonderful little rustic hotel, serving delicious Romanian food. Having a sweet tooth, most nights, I couldn’t resist the ‘Papanasi’, doughnuts filled with soft cheese, smothered in sour cream and sour cherries. Yes, I put weight on, but how can you resist?!!
One of the hi lights of our trip, was a visit to Sally and Jim Turnbull at their home and business in Saschiz, just a short drive from Sighisoara. Their business, ‘Pivnita Bunicii’, translates as Grandma’s Cellar and they make and sell an appetising range of jams, chutneys, cordials and now, Kaspers Elderflower gin. I’m quite partial to a gin and came away with a small bottle to sample. The elderflower harvest was well underway and it was interesting to learn the process of turning the flowers into cordial.
Another fun morning was spent with Stephen McGrath, a freelance journalist living in a village in Transylvania. With his family, Stephen is busy restoring a Saxon village house to its former glory. Husband Brian came in useful and helped to move the huge old oven from the house into the barn.
We always have a few special days with our dear friend Johannes, a Lutheran priest and apparently, I’m now his new sister! He invited us to a special church service in the village of Pruden on Whit Monday. Refreshments in the garden followed. We spent a scorching hot day with approximately eighty guests, in a stunning setting, eating and drinking. Platters of cake weighed down the tables, along with homemade lemonade, wine and coffee.
As usual, every day turned into an adventure and a memorable occasion and we can’t wait to return!
It’s almost June and I’m getting really excited…..I’m going back to Transylvnia! Yes, I know it sounds like something from The Rocky Horror Show (acually one of my favourite shows, I’ve seen it eleven times)
I’m going back for several reasons; it’s a business trip (so I’ll be loaded down with soap) and to catch up with friends, both old and new that I have come into contact with through instagram. It will be a very busy week and a half and we’ll be staying in my favourite town Sighisoara, which is incredibly beautiful and steeped in so much history. Last month I was contacted by a newspaper publication in Sibui (a town not too far away from where we stay) who ran a story on my business and my link to Transylvania. They ran an email interview and requested a few photos of my products, so I was really pleased about that!
Obviously we will be making trips into the nearby village of Apold, the place that holds so many happy memories for me.
Meanwhile in Warrington, I have been very busy working on my soaps and new candle fragrances. I have extended the candle range to twelve fragrances now and I’ve had some really encouraging feedback from my customers. I had a request to fill a vintage, Wedgewood, Peter Rabbit cup for someone who will give birth to a little girl in June. It has made a lovely gift and obviously, when the candle has finished burning, the cup can be washed in hot soapy water and used for drinking. I have also filled a couple of Peter Rabbit egg cups and they make gorgeous little baby shower or christening gifts for children.
Recently I’ve been thinking about the best way to relax…something I’m not very good at. I enjoy curling up on the sofa with a good book, when I get the opportunity. Since setting up Apold Apothecary (as it’s not my only job) I’ve struggled trying to take time for ‘me’. But almost halfway through the year, I’ve decided that a little bit of relaxation will become a necessity. So I’ve made a list of ‘half way through the year’ resolutions and will do my best to stick to them (as it’s never too late)
On that note, I will strike a match, light a candle and put the kettle on.
In June I’ll be posting lots of new photos taken of my trip away!
The year is flying by and I can’t believe we are almost into May! I love this month with lighter nights, sunny, warmer weather and plants and flowers starting to flourish in the garden.
Since I last wrote a post, I’ve been so busy I can’t even remember one half of what I’ve been doing! Weekends have been taken up trying out some of the Makers Markets and fortunately the weather has been kind to me. Soap, like me, enjoys dry weather and doesn’t appreciate having to turn out in wet conditions! I always enjoy meeting new customers, mostly because I enjoy chatting about the products on my stall and well, basically I just like talking. It has been really encouraging to see the same faces return for more soap or another candle. It makes all the hard work worthwhile. A couple of weeks ago I was invited to take my products to a local church for a ‘Clean Up My Community, People Vs Plastic & Pollution’ event. It was an incredibly interesting day and to meet everyone else with the same ideas, about more sustainable living, was really inspiring.
We’ve literally just put (I make my husband help me, my daughter & I’d rope in my 10 month old grandson if he didn’t destroy everything….anyone with two hands will do) a large order of soap table gifts together for a wedding anniversary celebration for a couple who live locally. The rest of the week will be taken up getting ready for two more markets and hopefully we’ll get a couple of day’s rest over the Easter period.
I must just tell you about this…..last week I needed to hand wash a cashmere sweater, but I’d run out of the mild liquid wash I normally buy. Being impatient, I didn’t want to wait till the following morning, so I hand grated a bar of my unfragranced natural soap. With a hand whisk, I swished the soap flakes in a bowl of warm water to make suds and proceeded to wash the jumper. Result…..a beautifully soft and clean sweater and I no longer need to buy the liquid wash!
I’ll be taking a short holiday just after Easter, with my cousin and I hope to return totally refreshed and ready for my next event, Harford Spring Craft Fayre in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, on May 4th. I’m really excited to be taking part in this event and maybe I’ll see you there!
One of the highlights of our summer trips to Romania was an outing to a local market, in a nearby town. I remember it was always an exciting morning excursion.
The sights and the smells were intoxicating. Row upon row of organic vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, gerkins, onions and corn on the cob to name a few, were so fresh you could smell the earth from where they’d been plucked.
The noise was almost deafening as vendors shouted out prices, competing with the man or woman on the next stall. Chickens clucked, piglets grunted and bad tempered geese hissed.
I was always drawn to the basket weavers. I would stand in awe watching nimble fingers work their magic, deftly working long reeds and branches into works of art and attractive sellable items. The Roma were known and admired for this particular skill and earned a living from making baskets. Their work was highly respected and many relied on their services to both store and transport goods. I always came away with a small basket or two! My aunts usually bought a wicker carpet beater, the ideal gadget for knocking the dust out of carpet runners and rugs. I also witnessed it being used on naughty children too!
The market was always crowded, with people in a hurry, pushing and shoving and mixed with intense heat and the noise levels, the whole experience could leave you feeling a little dizzy.
When I was young, someone always had a firm grip on my hand. As the years went by, I’d wander around with friends and we’d usually make our way to an ice cream seller for a cooling treat.
The photo here shows my mother and father filling their basket with huge, fresh ripe tomatoes. I’m almost certain that when they landed back in Apold, they would have been made into a rich sauce to smother minced pork-stuffed peppers…..and that was my father’s favourite meal!
Here are four proud men walking though the village of Apold, on their way to church. They are dressed in ‘kirchenpelz’ (church fleece), heavily embroidered and appliqued coats worn by the Saxon Lutherans each Sunday. They certainly didn’t feel the cold in winter, sitting in the cool interior of the church.
Getting ready for the church service was a lengthy procedure. Women and girls would re plait their hair before adorning themselves with beautiful and exquisitely embroidered silk ribbons on the headdresses of their costumes.
My aunt Josie, who was rather stern but delightful at the same time, would line up the men in her life (husband and three sons) and check their necks had been scrubbed clean before putting on freshly starched white shirts beneath their kirchenpelz.
This inspection amused any onlookers and the young children of the family could be heard sniggering (out of Josie’s reach) secretly hoping she’d find a grubby neck.
Inside the fortified church, on the simple wooden benches, there was a seating order for the congregation. The village girls would sit in the middle rows, followed by young ladies and behind them sat the older women. Boys and young men would make their way upstairs and the older men would stay in the seats downstairs. I would have thought the younger boys would have been better seated downstairs where they could have had a close eye kept on them, thus preventing any bad behaviour! The oldest men of the community would sit in the seats closest to the rear entrance. This area was referred to as the ‘cellar of the elderly’. Seating to the immediate left and right of the alter was reserved for the pastor or priest and elected senior leaders of the church community, the ‘Presbyterium’
Following the service, there would be a little gossiping and catching up between the villagers, at the foot of the steep steps that led up to the church. When the family gathered back home, a special treat was in store. The best china cups (from England and decorated with pink roses) came out of the oak cabinet. We would all enjoy a cup of Nescafe coffee (also from England, brought over in bulk!), accompanied by my aunt Katharina’s amazing and deliciously warm doughnuts, fresh from the pan.
I’m relieved to announce that our 2019 signature soaps have been completed and tested. I have a long list of testers, always anxious for a free bar of soap! Hand made soap is certainly growing in popularity, especially when it is chemical free.
One of my personal favourites (and fresh out of the mould) is good old-fashioned lavender soap. Lavender, for me, simply sums up summer. There’s nothing better than brushing past a lavender bush on a summer’s evening and inhaling its gorgeous scent. From my office, at home, I can look out of the window, where just a few feet away, several lavender bushes flourish. A couple of summers ago, disaster almost struck, when I caught my husband, just in the nick of time, as he was about rip them from the ground thinking they were taking over. I’d be quite happy for the whole garden to be filled with lavender. I love to watch the butterflies, bees and other insects drunkenly dancing from one flower head to the next.
There are many medicinal properties associated with lavender. Research has suggested it may be useful to treat anxiety and restlessness and it’s certainly known for its calming effects, relaxing the body and improving sleep quality. A short while ago, someone told me the scent of lavender was useful to help anxious dental patients and that’s certainly one to remember!
Our Vintage Linen soap is already paired with a candle. The Vintage Linen candle was one of our best sellers during the Christmas period. The lavender soap is patiently waiting for its matching candle! What a great way to relax…in the bath with a bar of lavender soap, whilst the candle burns on the side. I really need this duo myself!
Travelling each summer to Transylvania was quite a long journey and so the last thing I wanted, when we arrived, was to get back in the car until it was time to make the journey back home. The photo above shows my preferred mode of transport. I travelled, by horse and cart with friends into the nearest town Sighisoara, an exhilarating trip of 15 km, on a late August afternoon.
We were running an errand for an aunt, collecting some embroidery thread. En route we’d stopped off in the village of Saes to have a drink with some friends. By the time we got back it was dusk and we were in trouble because we’d taken far too long! We spotted deer venturing out from the woods to feed in between the town and the village. I think they were telling us to hurry back home.
It was a wonderful way to travel, to feel the hot summer breeze on your face. Occasionally we’d come to an abrupt halt to allow a hissing gaggle of geese to cross the road and even a traffic jam of horse and carts going about their business.
Whilst staying in the village, there was a constant stream of eager family and friends patiently waiting to have a ride in the car. Some younger relatives, who had moved into city life, did occasionally return in their cars, but a car from England was something rather special. My Oma and aunts would put on their very best headscarves when it was their turn and become three important looking women, waving to passers by as the car slowly made its way down the dusty road.
When selling candles to my customers at markets, I was explaining how to get the longest life and burn time from them. I asked for addresses so that I could do a home check to see the candles were being cared for and treated well. Only one person didn’t seem amused and I quickly explained I was joking! But, joking aside, many were surprised to learn a few facts about burning candles:
Embroidery played a huge part in the lives of the women and girls in the villages of Transylvania. Today I have a vast collection of embroidered tablecloths, runners, cushion covers and small mats. I treasure all of it and hope that it will continue to be passed through my family.
I have far too much to display, so, every now and then, I’ll pull another piece from a drawer and give it a turn on the dining table. There is so much history attached to every single piece, with many of the cloths showing the dates they were embroidered. It was a tradition for a girl when she married to complete a piece and then work the date into the corner.
My Oma and aunts spent all their spare time on intricate pieces of embroidery. But, not only did they embroider, they also grew the flax and then produced the cloth aswell. Amazing! The photo above shows me on a summer’s afternoon pretending to use the spinning wheel (which now resides in my Transylvanian guest bedroom). At the time, I definitely didn’t appreciate how much work was involved.
The bear in the picture was incredibly well travelled (he’s still with me)!