Sunday 13 November 2016

The Kitchen Sink

We have a stainless steel double sink in our scullery; a deep main sink, and a smaller one next to it. I use the larger sink for pot and dish washing, and fill the smaller sink with bleach or disinfectant water for soaking the dishcloths. This is much more hygienic than using the dishwater to rinse the cloths in when wiping kitchen surfaces, as the dishwater contains a lot of grease from the pots and pans. Grease that sometimes cannot be seen floating, especially when the water is hot and soapy. It is so very tempting to dip the cloths in this prepared sudsy water, but submitting to this urge results in the countertops looking streaky. The grease particles are well behaved; they stay wherever they are spread. Until the next wipe.

If you don't have the benefit of a second sink in your kitchen, a plastic bowl, the shape of your sink unit is an ample substitute. There are round and rectangular bowls available to suit the shape of your sink. Kitchen sink bowls are so handy. Mobile too. The bowl can be filled with 'counter and benches cleaning water', and can be carried around to each kitchen destination requiring cleaning. While your sink is left to do what it does best; hold water for the soaking and later washing of dishes, pots and pans. Alternately, your bowl can be used for washing fruit and vegetables.

Many housewives in England use bowls at their kitchen sinks. It is a domestic tradition. If they have a round sink, they have a round bowl. If they have a rectangular sink, they have a rectangular bowl. My sweet mam used a bowl. She claims that if you place cups, saucers and other 'delicates' into the bowl, they wont have to mix with 'tougher' pots and dishes, which may cause them to crack. Items can be stored in the bowl in the same way they can be stored in the dishwasher. This frees up the sink and draining board and thus provides inspiration to tackle any necessary chore involving the kitchen sink. Mounds of stainless steel, pottery, porcelain, plastic and china, not to mention potatoe peel, spinach spines, carrot peel etc. are very off-putting.

My personal experience with kitchen sinks has been a learning one. I have 'gleamed' much. As a newly wed I thought that if my sink was clean and shining and all gruesome looking food particles were cleaned off the sink, tap and draining board, that everything was truly clean. Alas - that is not so. There's much unseen life there. What I do now, and what I taught my kiddos to do, is firstly, thoroughly clean and disinfect the entire sink area. Then, give the base of the tap and water spout a 'towel rub' with the cloth. Have you ever seen what comes off of there? It's like that song we used to sing - " and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue.....I can see the crud crumbs, see the slime balls, I wonder, can you, too?"

After the rub, I drizzle clean water over this area. Even more crud slithers away - down into the sink. As I watch this, a childhood song comes to mind - and it is as if the goopers are singing the song themselves - "row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily down the drain, as Helen cleans and gleams". Off they go -down the plug hole! And just when I think they've all surrendered, another lost soul sets sail, down to the depths of the grease trap; via the grey water rapids....

After the 'sinking', I like to use my tea towel to dry the taps, spout and sink area so that it shines. Ready for the next shift.... 

Thursday 28 July 2016

Look For The Silver Lining

The sun is trying to peek through fast moving clouds, and even though it's currently a smirk, I'm hoping that there is the possibility of it revealing a greater smile.

While I adore the rain and drizzle, I find that accompanied with dark and troubling times in everyday life, for longer than geographically normal, it gets overwhelming.  Life becomes The Dark Cloud Looming Syndrome.

In more ways than one.

Times like this - the uncertainty, the not-knowing - the waiting -  make me realise just how much I'm a creature that has to have things "settled" - in mind and deed.  Truth be told, I'm concerned about both of my parents, and there's not much I can DO, - especially just yet.  And that, my dear Watson, is a formidable thing.

Their care from here on is a major concern to me.  It will involve and affect all of us. It already does really.  The coordination of visiting, picking up, dropping off, helping in other ways - is constant and has to be planned and executed only after consultation with the Machinist and Young Adults.  

There are still times of mental mayhem. Guilt driven pandemonium.  I have, I think, always honoured my parents in deed, but not always in my heart.

Is this common, I wonder?

It's difficult to get on with things at home, even the fundamentals, as I'm expecting to be disturbed, interrupted.  Not necessarily in a bad way, but it does affect momentum and achievement.

My Mam would often sing this song as she was doing her housework.  I loved to hear her sing it.

Look For The Silver Lining by Judy Garland

As I wash my dishes, I'll be following a plan
Till I see the brightness in every pot and pan
I am sure this point of view will ease the daily grind
So I'll keep repeating in my mind

Look for the silver lining
Whenever a cloud appears in the blue
Remember somewhere the sun is shining
And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

A heart full of joy and gladness
Will always banish sadness and strife
So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life

So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life

Wednesday 27 July 2016

The Old, The Young and The In-Betweeners

We planned to leave in convoy.  Sarah with Lyla in her car, and I - in my brother's car.

I've enjoyed driving my brother's car.  It is roomy, not too low to the ground and smooth.  Furthermore, the boot is so big, it can fit two wheelie walkers, side by side, without threat to the upholstery.  Plus shopping.  It holds All of our shopping!

Sarah had a medical appointment, a date with the grocery stores and it was her day to visit with the Grands.  I, on the other hand was accompanying her on her medical appointment and planned to pick up Grandpa so that we could both visit Granny in hospital.

Mam had been admitted to hospital last night.  Paramedics had attended her at home, directed by a wonderful system called "Care Call".

(When Mam or Dad press a button on pendants worn around their necks, a call centre is alerted, details taken and an ambulance is sent straight away, if needed.  Care Call then contact me - as the "Responsible Person" to let me know as many details as possible).

This is her second stint in hospital within one and a half weeks - due to completely different medical emergencies.  It has been extremely hard getting answers as to her diagnosis.  Nurses are run off their feet, doctors are doing rounds.  Nothing new, even though one sort of  expects time and surveys, coupled with political promises to improve conditions within hospitals.  Eventually, anyway.

After being told that Mam was due to have x-rays, an echocardiogram and other tests, I stalled picking up Dad to visit her, as I knew this would fluster her.  Being of the old school, she simply hates to "impose" in any way - including having visitors in her room at the same time as doctors nurses and other professionals and 'important' people.  Just in case we get in the way or under their feet.

She looked pale.  And tired.  Her green eyes were deep set within her beautiful aged face. When she blinked, her eyelids closed and reopened as if in slow motion, just like you see on the movies.  She seemed small and frail - nothing like the wiry woman I'm so accustomed to.  The pillows looked too plumped, and seemed to envelope her frame.  She was sitting with both arms upward facing, exposing blood filled needles within mini syringes, - taped to her crepe-like skin.

And how, pray,  had she earned all those tiny bruises on her forearms?

"Hey up, Ma, what are you doing in here AGAIN?" I teased
"Hello love… it's my COPD.  I couldn't get breath.  They had to come for me.  Was it Sunday, Brian?", she enquired of my dad, who was wearing his puzzled brow, trying to remember himself.
"No, Ma - it was last night - Monday"
"Monday?  It seems longer than that…"

For the next couple of hours, Dad dozed off  on in a high backed hospital chair, while mam and my conversations were prone to double handling: Mam's hearing aid was spitting and whistling, rejecting a used up battery, and most of my contribution was repeated,  LOUDLY as she simply couldn't hear me.  I was becoming ever-conscious of not only the lady in the bed opposite Mams, but wide eyed and enquiring looks from hospital staff as they passed in the corridor.

The lady in the bed opposite took the opportunity of getting involved in our subject topics and I was immediately promoted to the LOUD translator.

"She's a happy soul.  I knew it", Mam observed, as "Debbie" was mid sentence in explaining her current unplanned weight loss problem.  "I knew it from the moment I saw her…"

"My mam says you're a happy soul"
"Oh that's nice of her.  Are you Irish?"
"No, we're from the midlands…"
"Oh, I thought you were Irish. I wasn't sure, though.  Anyway, I'm Debbie.  What's your name?"
"Mam, this is Debbie"
"Debbie, Ma"
"Debbie Lewis? Yes, I can see it on your board…"
"Debbie, this is Joan"
"Hello Joan, pleased to meet you"
"I can't hear a word she said, Helen.  My hearing aid is playing up…"
Debbie laid her head back on her pillow, closing her eyes and smiled at the same time.

She really is a happy soul.

And later…

"Ma, Sarah is popping round to your place.  Would you like her to bring anything else?"
"I can't really think.  It's hard to think when you're like this.."
"I know it is, Ma.  It'll all be ok"
"Could she bring my green cardigan?  I got it ready with the other clothes I was going to wear before I came in here."
"Sure she can.  I'll ask her to bring them, too - and I'll wash the clothes you came in last night"
"I've got a couple of shirts and pants.  Blue shirts.  Oh and some socks…" Dad joined in.
"She's talking about MY washing Brian…"
"Oh, of course.  You can pick mine up later."

As I was about to answer him, his eyes had already closed and he was dozing again.

Later still…

"Isn't she a sweetheart.  She knows you, Helen.  She knows her mama.  Look at her smiling at Helen, Brian…"

Lyla continued smiling at me.  Staring at me intently.  Her eyes smiled too.  Sarah went to heat her bot-bot.  I fed and burped her.  Facing me, all rugged up in a pale pink hooded woollen jacket with woollen pants to match, she continued to smile at me as I sang to her softly.

That Evening…

Walking into the kitchen at home, Keiralea cam running to me "Mama, Mama, I was waiting for you!"
"Hello my daaaarling", I responded, picking her up and gently fairy kissing her head.
"Why do you do that, Mama?"
"Because I love you"
"I love you too"


Friday 22 July 2016


I'm sitting here scoffing a gluten free Victoria sponge cake, laced with plum jam and topped with a showering of icing sugar. There's a cup of hot tea (no sugar) sitting on the other side of the pc and as I savour each sip, I'm thinking about what's ahead. The Diet of all Diets is approaching fast. On Monday actually ('cos all good diets start on Monday's).

Diets are not new to me. Fasting diets, Jenny Craig, Gloria Marshall, No Sugar, No Lactose, No Grain, No Pain, Low GI, No GI, GI Joe.

If I'm not on a diet, I'm thinking about going on one.

Professionals now tell us that we shouldn't consider a diet a diet; it should be more of a lifestyle change. I really do understand. But it's like the word 'fat'. People don't use that word much anymore. It's curvy or larger lady or bigger lady of full form. Still, though, we can't get away from it; fat is fat, just like pigs is pigs.

The Past:

 I set a plan. I make a date to start the plan. I start the plan. Sort of. But not quite.

The Present: 

The thing is, I have to get my head around it - I need to 'psyche' myself up for this.

I'm not going to go on the guilt trip, though.

I'm not going to think 'oh well, nothing lost plenty gained' and lose any drop of motivation I ever possessed. No, Alfredo. I need to do this and I will do this.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Vintage Glassware

I love the shapes of these glass jugs, as well as the sugar container.  They remind me of days gone by.  Mothers of old would use them regularly, sometimes covered by lace doilies with beads attached to add weight and stop flies and fruit flies from falling into the milk.  

The Nature of Our Village

Many many years ago - in a land far away - my own Mam would take us children on regular Nature Walks.  We lived close to a park which led onto a river.  The river bank was rife with a variety of lifeforms. I would always imagine "Tales of the Riverbank" whenever we were there.

We also lived close to a canal, - deep in some places, shallow in others.  Birds in reeds, frogs and spawn on rocks and in the water.  Tadpoles were ever present.

Mam usually wore an apron with a large pocket.  So many treasures, picked up as we walked were stashed in her apron.

She passed the love of nature, walks and picnics on to us.

The legacy continues - albeit in a foreign land with different flora and fauna:

The Host to our local treasures:  The Village streets and the paddocks beyond....

The Barn

This is the inside of our barn.  I don't know why we call this little building at the bottom of our garden "the barn".  It's not that livestock were ever raised in here.  Nor did we store hay or grain inside these walls.  Living things have entered herein, though.  At one time, our Emma's horse would frequent part of the barn, but she never liked to stay inside for long.  Maybe she found it austere.  

With master cobwebs like this, I would too.  Not to mention the decomposition of fallen willow tree leaves on the 'sky-light' part of the roof.

She preferred the outdoors. The beauty of the paddock.

I would too.  If this was my only other option.

The Machinist uses the barn, though.  A lot of his 'I-can't-find-a-place-for-this- I know - the-barn!' items are stored in - the Barn.

Generations of cats and kittens would play and frolic in the barn, too.  As did mice (not for long, though).  And once, while moving brand new fence sheeting off the bare-soil floor, the last sheet revealed a sleepy Tiger snake.  (I will never forget it.  Nor will my daughters.  I won't forget the terror of the snake.  They won't forget the terror of my voice when I saw the snake).

The Barn has played host to useful things, too.  Like props we used when we ran our cafe, The Daily Pie

We would use this light - like a beacon at night when we were expecting customers for evening functions.....

It's original home was in a local Theatre within our Shire...

And of course there is the faithful, hard working, manual-labour lawn mower.  Oh, the number of lawns this fella has mowed.  If only he could talk.  He would tell you!  He'd be glad to brag, too.

Which is more than I can say for this old dear.  I suspect he needs some attention....

Then there is the fire fighting pump.  He's pumped about his important role in the protection of our property against prospective bush fires (that's a lot of 'P's').  We're glad he's here, though.  But shhhh....don't tell him, or else it may go to his head.  He already thinks he's the cleanest, shiniest piece of equipment in the room.

Another guy ready for action.  I think my son was 2 when he learned to use the chain saw.

Just kidding.  That would mean that I would have had to start it for him by pulling this chord.  That would never have happened.  I'm not that tenacious.  Or patient.  Especially when there is no fuel in it to keep it running, and I wouldn't even know the difference.

And what is this treasure, hiding under that semi-rusty shelving?  Oh, that's right.  I remember now.  It's a birthday gift.  A potting wheel.  Never used.  Except for the assortment of beetles, spiders and other critters passing through it's parts.

All this to say - the Barn is on our Projects List for this year.  We've been slowly but surely clearing it out and I'm happy to report that these last items may be the Barn's last occupants before the Big Makeover.  The walls will be lined.  A ceiling put in.  A floor, too.



Thoughts On Homeschooling

We didn't know what we were in for - years ago, when the Machinist and I made the decision to homeschool our children.  At the time, our eldest child was in first year high school.  The other two were in Kindergarten and year one - at our local village school.  We hadn't gone to great lengths to actually research homeschooling either, and nor were we then, or now - qualified or professional teachers.

We were moved towards this decision, from a variety of sources - all confirming that we were doing the right thing for our family.

It really doesn't matter why parents decide to homeschool their children.  We had our own personal thoughts, views, reasons which were then and even now - ours alone.

Every family is different.  What is right for one, may not be for another.

The most important thing that matters is that there is a love and vested interest in offspring.  It's not even about education, but rather - to instil a love of learning in each child.

What we know, without doubt, is that if a child loves to learn, delights in every new snippet of discovery, is happy and well balanced - knowledge and understanding will follow.A child can be trusted to learn, as it is in their nature.

We have no regrets about taking our children out of mainstream schooling - to the learning environment of their home.... Absolutely none.

Non je ne regrette rien

And nowadays we continue in the tradition of instilling the love of learning in our grand-daughter and those still to come, whom we love already....

Goodbye, Summer

Summer has gone.  Even these foxgloves look tired and worn out. You know what they're singing?  "Bend me, shape me, anyway ya want me...Long as ya love's all-right..."  Referring to the westerly summer winds, of course.  Oh, and the bees, that were giving them love.

See the brick edging?  These were recycled from an old chimney in our kitchen.  Young Acorn actually laid these bricks.  I'll wager, though, that she doesn't remember 'planting' a ten cent piece in the cement that holds the bricks upright.  She will probably hound me to show her when she reads this post, and I'll probably keep her guessing.  No egg hunt for her!  Just a ten cent piece hunt. Ha!

Two faithfuls: Snow in Summer and Ajuga.

Hold on.... What...?

Oh, it's Rowdy Rusty on his pogo stick.  He's hiding behind the Daphne.

Some of our pets are buried under these plants.  It's Pet Cemetery corner.

RIP faithful friends!

Ceramic chicks having a natter....

"Ya know, Mable... I'll be glad when this heat is over.. "
"You said it, Fred.  This sun will crack me up...unlike your corny jokes..."

The potted succulent cheer squad.


And so... summer really is over.

It's gone.

As is Sasha - the Family Cat.  She has vacated the front garden and now resides in the rear garden, where she now reigns over new territories AND a devoted canine.


 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....