Monday 29 December 2008

Old Long Since (Auld Lang Syne)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old times since ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne,
my dear,for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Rick Stein

The Machinist and I have decided that our favourite chef would have to be Rick Stein. His views on food and family are unsurpassed.

I love the way he describes the food he is fortunate enough to sample as he travels. Chestnut flour, water, herbs and olive oil, mixed by hand for over half an hour is described as having "... a flavour like the middle of a pine forrest...". His mantra is fresh food simply cooked.

Rick's philosophy is that "... cooking and eating together are generous activities, which should be taken seriously, but should also resound with joy..."

And the memories of the places he has travelled, the people he has met are kept and stored, just like food is kept in preserving jars - to savour well past their prime

Click here for Rick Stein's website

Saturday 27 December 2008

Genealogy and Thunderstorms

More genealogy research today. Much more. More finds. More contacts. My wish is to create a family tree for my dad - Grandpa. It's the little things he mentions that have actually resulted in different leads. Sometimes, like a rabbit warren. Sometimes, with great promise. I've learned that you just can't rush these things.

And what a better day to go back in time, than one with skies full of thunderstorms and the deafening sound of rain - heavy rain - on a tin roof. Oh, and the company of two dogs. Two spoiled dogs that were constantly underfoot, in case the lightening should strike them. They seem to sense thunder and lightning before it happens. Bob gets a wistful look in his eye, and Polly starts to pant...

There was no chance, then, for these two furry friends accompanying us by moving from the warmth and comfort of the old schoolroom, where they can often be found under the desk, when the Machinist called us to help sweep out excess storm water from the workshop floor.


Thursday 25 December 2008

Christmas Time Means Family

Christmas is all about family, isn't it?

Christmas cuddles between the Youngest generation. And after the festivities it was home to genealogy research and the ordering of more certificates from the UK BMD records, in hopes that one day, it will be "genes reunited" for me. Real, living family.

Looking through past notes and records, I did a whole lump of genealogy research at the same time last year.

Yes, it must definitely be the season ....

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

Christmas eve at the shops - just me and the Machinist with the Grands. Firstly, though, scrumptious fare at The Roses cafe, where they make hand-shaped pies with voluptuous fillings.

And while we shop, amidst the lights, and glass and glitter - the Young Adults are preparing Christmas Eve dinner: ham (with a bone in it) smothered in orange marmalade, mash, baked yams, green beans. Followed by cinnamon rolls (Norwegian) with a selection of gluten free, for those of us who are the celiac maniacs.

How I love Christmas!

Monday 22 December 2008

Diet? What Diet?

I had searched my baking books for a chocolate cake with a difference. Nothing too lengthy, but distinctively different and most importantly, moist. Then I came across this "how to" video from the dependable Nigella. I had no sour cream, and so substituted with pouring cream. The result was.... memorable.

Firstly, though, I made a couple of coconut cream pies, with whisked eggs, cream and dessicated coconut, topped with toasted coconut:

Then, while the oven was still warm, in went the chocolate cake. I used one pan and had to cut the cake. See the steam? I had to wait until the sponge was cool before dousing it with the chocolate icing:

Finally, the chocolate cream icing, also made with cream. Mmmmm.... it's always wise to make a little more than needed, to leave some for the licking bowl.

Sunday 21 December 2008


"Does our heart, our nature, move us to use our hands to help others in need, in sickness, to make the lot of others brighter, to help make lighter the heavy burden which others bear? Have we clean hands in that sense?"
"If we see that something is necessary, do we go out of our way to do it? If we are asked to do something, are we dependable? Can we do those things quietly, without attracting undue notice?"


Wednesday 17 December 2008

The Pedlars and Gypsies of England

I always thought a Pedlar was the same as a Gypsy, but they are not. A Gypsy is often a Pedlar, but a Pedlar isn't always a Gypsy.

Gypsies and Pedlars weren't welcome in many districts of England in the early sixties. In our small Midlands village, some locals would chase them away, or call the police, often thinking of them as trouble makers. Mam always made them welcome, though, and often bought their wares when she could afford to. On one occasion, a newsreporter interviewed my mam and asked her opinion on the Gypsys who were camping nearby (actually, in the fields at the back of our house. You could see them clearly if you climbed right to the top of the tallest cherry tree in our garden). The good rap my mam gave them, obviously helped to save them from eviction, because I'm told that they eventually moved on of their own accord...

Mam knows this poem, word for word, and learned it when she was around 8 years old at school in England. She has often recited this poem to us:


I wish I ived in a caravan
With a horse to drive, like a pedlar-man
Where he comes from nobody knows,
Or where he goes to, but on he goes!

His caravan has windows too,
And a chimney of tin, that the smoke comes through;
He has a wife, with a baby brown,
And they go riding from town to town.

Chairs to mend, and delf to sell!
He clashes the basins like a bell;
Tea-trays, baskets, neat and trim;
Plates, with alphabets round the rim!

The roads are brown, and the sea is green,
But his house is like a bathing-machine;
The world is round, and he can ride,
rumble and slash, to the other side!

With the pedlar-man I would like to roam,
And write a book when I came home;
All the people would read my book
Just like the Travels of Captain Cook!


Monday 15 December 2008

A Day in the Life of the Machinist's Wife


Wake and have tea with the Machinist.

Put smalls in dryer, larger clothes on the washing line.

Pull some weeds on the way to the washing line.

Stroke the kitties, who are lying on their backs, rolling around and waiting for fuss.

Pull more weeds. End up pulling piles and piles of weeds and leaving them next to the washing line post.

Greet Grandpa through the rose arbour.

Make coffee and chat a while with Grandpa, then see him on his way home.

Go to the office. Sort paperwork. File. Pay bills on line. Update accounting system, save work, exit accounting system.

Make lunch and call the family in to have lunch.

Greet Granny. Sit and reminisce with Granny. Take Granny on a garden tour, cut some flowers and then take her home.

While at the shop / Grands cottage, discuss plans for the gallery and admire the work that the Young Adults have completed; sanded windows, jack-hammered floor.

Return home. Wash dishes, prepare dinner.

Fetch washing in off the line, fold and leave on the kitchen table, awaiting owner collection.

Dish up food, eat, stack dishes. Let the Young Adults off the hook for kitchen cleanup.

Retire to the lounge. Chat with the Machinist a while.

Go online to source gifts.

Achievement satisfaction rating: 36%

Note to self: Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps it will be less dis-jointed and more productive.

Pumpkin Fever

Our small village is revving up for the start of the annual Pumpkin Festival. Today, we hosted the launch of the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival 2009. My daughters are the coordinators for the Pumpkin Ball, and I am coordinating the stall holders. For the next six months, local residents can expect to see lots of orange...and green.... in many forms.

The pumpkin website is
Ah, pumpkin fever..... Gotta love those pies!

Saturday 13 December 2008

Not Yet Floored the Floor ...

I've been thinking a lot recently about people and what events in their lives shaped them to be the way they are, while leaving certain impressions on others. I've also been thinking about what happened in their lives, for them to do the things they do.

Each time we work on the shop, I can't help thinking about it's former owner. About her experience as a shopkeeper in a small country town as ours. Why she carried out certain renovations to the building, and how she coped with multitudes of maintenance jobs, while conducting day-to-day business transactions.

One of the many changes / renovations we have made to the shop is lifting up the ceramic tiles that were on the floor of the main restaurant area. Our intention is to "industrialise" the floor, by taking it back to cement, finely sanding and then applying a non-slip, transparent finish. The Machinist hired a floor sander, but as he suspected, the equipment didn't address the problem, as patches of paint (not necessarily floor paint) and tile adhesive melted and stubbornly, would not budge when the heat / friction of the sanding pads were applied. After a couple of hours of sanding, chipping paint, blisters and choking on adhesive fumes and cement dust, we still faced this:

As a result of the trevail, the Machinist disappeared for half an hour and returned with his own contraption: his trusty Hilti drill, fitted with a long rod with a 150mm chisel on the end. For removing paint only, he also made up a long-handled chisel; with ultra-sharp tip.

And if this doesn't seem enough hard work, here are a few pictures of the old restaurant, fully gutted, awaiting a completely new look:

Friday 12 December 2008

Where's Etienne?

I had such a chuckle at this picture:

Now where, pray, do you think Etienne, the escargot is dashing off to? What destinations does this petit gris have on his travel itinery?

The rain has been steady all day. It's wonderful and comforting and peaceful. I went to the front door to just watch the rain (as I often do when it rains). To my left, is the native garden and part of the large arbour:

Straight ahead is the courtyard and front gate. Note the Number One Son's riding jacket sprawled over the chair. Note the carpet of banksia petals, waiting to be raked. Hey, just keeping things real ....
To my right is a perrenial border, leading to the lawned garden:
Then, exhilarated and turning to go back indoors, look who I found on the door post -
It's Etienne!!

Thursday 11 December 2008

Old Country Places

"To have a small country place requires determination and faith in the future, and a cash income, small or large. You can't make a fabulous fortune raising things, whether it be mushrooms or muskrats.

Of course, if you buy an old house, you must be very strong minded, or it will eat up all the money you have as fast as you get it. An old house demands.

You may dream of living in it as it is, camping out, but just move in and you will be bending every effort to satisfy the little darling"

Gladys Taber - The Book of Stillmeadow

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Acai Berry Fool

I was doing a google search the other day and found a couple of websites with information on Acai berries - the mother of all antioxidants. I ordered some. I take a heaped teaspoonful in the morning and (when I remember) another one at night. Although I haven't noticed anything different over a short period, mam was watching me work in the garden, hauling heavy wheelbarrows of soil and scooping them out.

"When you order your next lot of that good stuff, will you order some for me, too, Helen?" she asked.

Mam, being a mam, had obviously noticed something about me that hasn't come to my attention as yet.

Often waking in the night with so many plans and ideas, and finding it hard to fall asleep again, I have decided not to lie in bed and wait for sleep, but rather - to go and do something. That something could include making lists, researching, doing the washing or trying to read a book. Sometimes, I can occupy myself right until the sun comes up, devising game plans and great intentions for the day ahead.

One game plan was to have the acai berry drink really early, so that I wouldn't forget it and end up taking it past mid-morning. I felt so righteous, taking the glass of good health so early, and not long after, that pleasantly sleepy mood came over me. I succumbed.

On waking from slumber, I heard the Machinist say "Cup of tea, Helen?"

"Yes please"

"Would you like me to bring it here?" (he's so considerate with my hayfever and insomniac ways)

"No, it's ok, I'll come to the kitchen"

I felt lethargic, and not the usual jump-out-of-bed-and-greet-the-beautiful-morn self. I rubbed my eyes, fluffed my hair and headed to the kitchen, where I could hear the sound of the kettle boiling. The Machinist looked at me. Then he looked again. Then he said nothing.

I smiled at him, again, fluffing my hair and battering my eyelids. Still, he said nothing.

I went to the bathroom, glanced in the mirror and gasped at the person looking back at me. The acai berry had left a wide purple 'moustache' on my face, that would put Heath Ledger, as the Joker, to shame.

What a berry fool ....

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Happy Birthday to Emma-Lee

It was my eldest daughter, Emma-Lee's birthday yesterday. I had wanted to post something about Emsie and her special day, but by the time we were home, had watched several movies, and gutsed out on scrumptious food, I had missed the blogger time/ day cutoff.


When Emma was three, she would run as fast as the wind, - barefoot - and seeing as she was born in South Africa, we nick-named her Zola, after Zola Budd - the champion sprinter (who, incidently, could have easily had Mary Decker eat her dust!). Emma changed her sporty ways for books, art in various mediums and - well - dreaming.

She has the most vivid imagination, the quickest wit, the bestest ears for listening, - especially when others need comfort and support, a tender heart - worn best on her sleeve, an irresistable humour and a hearty chuckle that causes those who hear it to roll around on the floor...

At the moment, Emma is following her dream; 3D animation for gaming and film.

I love you, Emsie! Go for it!

Sunday 7 December 2008


In the schoolroom (the room we started off using as a schoolroom when we first started home-schooling the children) there is a cupboard full of see-through plastic boxes. The boxes are labelled and every so often (because I like changing stuff around), I sort and re-pack the boxes, as our needs change.

One box which has remained constant throughout my box storage career, though, is the one full of information on opening a shop - my own shop, which will be the culmination of nine-years-worth-of-dreaming. The information in this particular box is detail information; the finer points, the decorative style, the supplier contacts, the floor plans, the legalities, the real fun stuff. The information to be used as the opening day draws nearer. I'm not saying that preparations for the refurbishment of the shop aren't fun. (Well, some are, some aren't). But, oh, - the fine detail...


I had a peek in there this evening and found myself nodding approvingly (longingly), as I probed through the paperwork and samples (nodding is surely better than talking to yourself - it's less worrying).

This moment in time is bittersweet, because there is a lot of dirty and dusty work ahead, scraping, grinding, painting, scrubbing, plastering and who knows what else, before we can apply the decorative touches, but it is also nearing the time that contacts have to be made, orders placed and deliveries arranged.

There is a recognition and acceptance that my insomnia, - it's root cause in mirth - reigns!

Friday 5 December 2008

Pet Parade

This is Miss Blossom - a thoroughbred Pekingnese. She has the heart of a lion. Now living with the Grands...

This is Miss Polly. She is a Staffordshire terrior, crossed with a Silkie. She is my shadow.
This is Bob. He is a Staffordshire terrior. He was 'adopted' for the Machinist, but likes to hang out with us girls...

Thursday 4 December 2008

Beautiful Young People

This is my homeboy, Sam (right), with his best friend, Luke. They're always having a good larf and somehow make others larf with them.

They love to do this:

And ride these:
Sam's dearest friend, though, whom he loves to be with is his gorgeous Hayley. She's sweet and funny and delightfully playful. They've known each other for over a year now.

Today, was Hayley's year 10 Formal. Sam and Hayley have been looking forward to going for some time. Luke was also invited to the Formal.
It's seldom an occasion we see the lads dressed like this, though.
They look rather smart and - well - civilised...

Sam wanted to impress his lovely young lady so much. He even took his hat off...

I'm sure he was VERY impressed with her. Isn't she beautiful?

Hope you have a wonderful evening, young 'uns!

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Wind, Dust, Weeds and Flies

For the past two days, the girls and I have been doing more clearing in the parking lot at the Shop. This involves digging out weeds from the cracks in the tarmac, removing tons of dirt, in different stages of decomposition, cutting down branches that hang over the parking lot, loading, then unloading all of the above on the next door block which adjoins the Shop Block (Another story for another time).

A strong westerly has been blowing, resulting in many dusty, puffy mini whirlwinds, causing havoc with our tender sinuses. It's really gruesome, - digging, raking and loading soil, leaves, twigs and pushing wheelbarrows, while our hands are tied and noses are running. As if that isn't bad enough, there are about five flies at one sitting, feeding on said snot.

Yes, really gruesome.

Fortunately, we were finished by midday, just in time for lunch. Later, though, the Machinist and I returned to the Shop, to trim and mow the Grand's garden, as well as spray poison on tiny tufts of grass that have started to show on a previously weeded side of the parking lot. As the Machinist sprayed the Roundup on troublesome spots, I walked alongside him, telling him how to spray ... as well as pointing out areas that he had missed.

Ha! Just kidding...

Half way through the ghostbusting.. er ... I mean weed spraying, the sprayer stopped working. The Machinist disassembled the various parts of the sprayer, but couldn't find any reason for its refusal to work. He was utterly baffled.

Poison Content: check
Pressure pump: check
Release valve: check
Spray wand: check
Spray nozzle: check
Lizard floating in poison:

What the...

Sure enough - there was a tiny lizard, clogging up the top of the inner tube.

And with that, the Machinist emptied the rest of the poison (and tiny lizard) over a stubborn cluster of blackberry roots and plum tree stump and we called it a day.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Happy Birthday to Sarah

Today was my middle daughter, Sarah's Birthday. We have a family tradition of waking the birthday person and singing happy birthday to them, while bearing gifts. (I've told of this before).

I had a number of photos and more to say about Sarah's birthday, but I've forgotten, because our internet has been down, and if I don't do it the same day, facts escape me! Besides, the little scamp has beaten me to it, as she has written about her birthday here:

One thing I wanted to show you, though - not that this has anything to do with birthdays and presents, but it is something about my homegirl that always makes me smile:

Her workboots!

She is feminine and classy, has great taste in many things, is friendly and fun, motivated and encouraging. She is of slight build with the hugest biceps I've seen on such a tiny young woman. She works hard in whatever she does, with good conscience. In the workshop, alongside the men, she likes to retain her feminine look; - wearing foxy earings and pillar box red nailpolish. It is her workboots, though, that make me smile each time I see her in them. They are such a far cry from the beautiful shoes she owns, and the personality she possesses.

But I guess that's one of the umpteenth reasons I love her - for she has such flexibility. So it's not "put on your dancing shoes, birthday girl", but rather "put on your steel-toed, hob-nailed boots, Esmerelda"

As Sarah explains to me: "Mam, if you want to get some, Redbacks are the best. They are so comfortable and conform to your foot shape. You'll have to buy some thick socks, though. You can wear thinner socks, but the thicker socks are even more comfortable".

Yeah. Whatever.

I love you, Beaver Marple!


Australia - the movie - go see it!


 Table talk amongst our children is and always has been, -  a rabbit warren . We start off in one hole and end up in another -  quick smart....