Friday, April 17, 2009

Pink Pills for Pale People

Clearly, I am destined never to clean the kitchen. Oh darn. Never mind, my garden is looking much happier for all the attention it is getting while I procrastinate over cleaning the kitchen. Today, while digging up the scarlet runner bean plants, because I want to plant more red currants instead, I found an old glass medicine bottle, inscribed with these words:

Dr Williams'
Pills for

I have never been more charmed by a gift from the gardening gods. And here I think I can put my finger on what is wrong with the modern pharmaceutical industry. Their product names are way too complex. Pink pills for pale people - this is a product description I can really get my head around. And clearly, once upon a time some quite pale people lived here...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Of The Therapeutic Value of Eating Easter Eggs in Bed

The benefits of my new routine are becoming more apparent every day. This morning, a rainy school-holiday day, I sat up in bed reading, eating Easter eggs and throwing the wrappers on the floor, secure in the knowledge, that come hell or high water, after breakfast I would be tidying them all up. And I needed to eat Easter eggs for breakfast, because, due to the rain, I had declared today The Great Semi-Annual Clothes Sorting Day. This event is both feared and despised by children and their parents alike, as twice each year, at the turn of the season, all the new season's clothes need to be brought out of storage and tried on (aaargh) to see if they still fit. With three girls, (one of whom, thank goodness, has stopped growing), I have a lot of stored clothes. Most of them are under my bed, in cardboard boxes, with the size and season marked on them. After these are sealed up and shoved back under the bed after sorting day, all the other clothes that turn up in the wash, or under beds, or hand-me-downs that are given to us, I throw into a large tin trunk that once belonged to my great-grandmother, and now lives on our front balcony where it makes a fine seat.

So this is the battleplan: first, pull all of the boxes out from under my bed (I will be so pathetically glad when we have cupboards). Posy does this, chugging them along like trains into the loungeroom, and sneezing, because they are covered in a six-month veil of dust. I vacuum the tops of the boxes while Rosy brings in armfuls of clothes from the trunk. Now for the fun. An hour and a half of sorting and trying on. At first this is fun, and Rosy powers through her piles. Then it starts to be not fun, and Posy is a)screaming because she has new clothes that she doesn't want to try on, or b)screaming because Rosy has a new dress/tights/skirt etc and she doesn't (although she did two minutes ago). When it becomes extremely not fun for anybody we stop for lunch.

After lunch we are faced with immense teetering piles of clothes that need to packed back into boxes or into drawers, along with piles of summer clothes from drawers needing to go into boxes as well. I think we need less clothes. Oh yes, we also have large piles of clothes which are too small for the smallest child which are going right out the door. I really love that bit. There is no baby in the family who will ever grow into those clothes. No, I am not the tiniest bit sentimental about that. It is two in the afternoon already, and I never want to see another item of clothing ever again. At this point, my only consolation is that all this thrifty clothes hoarding means that I only need to go buy one single item of clothing for one of my daughters, and we are all sorted for clothes this winter. And then the blessed news that The Boy has miraculously not grown out of his winter school uniform. We shall be able to pay the orthodontic bill after all.

Now the only thing left to do (apart from bribing Rosy to put her winter wardrobe away - luckily there are still Easter eggs left), is to vacuum six months of dust from under my bed and put all the boxes away. By then the rain has stopped, and the glittering garden calls me out. So I spend an hour and a half tramping about in my fetching black gumboots, constructing a very darling little herb garden, using the red bricks that we saved when we pulled our kitchen chimney down last year. I had the idea for this garden this morning in bed while reading gardening books and drinking tea. I was very pleased, because I have not known what to do with this tiny patch of ground, and for nine years it has been an eyesore, filled with whatever self-seeded in it, existing in a rainshadow, sitting right at the entrance of the house. Tomorrow I shall fill it with herbs, and it shall be a joy and a delight forever. All because I was able to sit in bed eating Easter eggs without a care in the world. See? Routine is a wonderful thing...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Well, of course, it was Good Friday on Kitchen Cleaning Day, so I started on Saturday afternoon. I vacuumed, then washed the windows, and that was as far as I got before I started throwing up. Which just goes to prove how unnatural and unhealthy cleaning the kitchen really is. It was all very sad, because I missed Easter Sunday lunch with friends, and only managed a brief glimpse of the little girls hunting for eggs before I had to fall back into bed again.

Now, school holidays, which we were all so in need of. I am loving our new routine, but it really is very tiring for someone as lackadaisical as me. I am very proud of keeping on day after day, and proud of the girls for working so hard. I am loving the Well-Trained Mind books, but the grammar and writing ones are quite repetitive. I realise that this is necessary for absorption of abstract concepts, and really, it's done quite well...but, the girls got very bored going with the same format every week. I am trying to think of ways to make it a bit more fun. We were taking lessons off just before Easter to make cards, or to play a game of Monopoly or one of our endless supply of educational board games, which perked everyone up a lot. And the Domestic Goddess, such a treasure, organised Easter egg decoration this year, in charge of blowing, dyeing and decorating eggs with melted wax crayons. I am so grateful that she is the eldest daughter! I carefully arranged to be somewhere else, doing something relaxing, like the washing.

And now, holidays. I was wondering how it would go, as I had no intention of doing anything more entertaining than cleaning out cupboards. Luckily, we had a tonne of dirt delivered over the back fence by our wonderfully helpful neighbour-with-an-excavator. We intend to put in a lawn over the weekend, but in the meantime, two small girls and all their friends have spent countless hours playing in huge piles of dirt with all the neighbourhood Tonka trucks. I don't let them back in the house once they are in the dirt, but they don't even want to, so I have been serving lunch in the backyard. I allow them back in at bathtime, once they have shed all their clothes at the back door. I am seriously considering having a pile of dirt delivered every school holidays. It is so peaceful and quiet inside.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cleaning? Not so much.

So the story goes - I am nominally following a 1940's inspired cleaning regime. So far, I have three excellently clean bedrooms, which are more or less staying that way, due to frenzied nagging on my part. For the past three weeks I have been meaning to 'thoroughly clean the kitchen on Friday'. Well, the first Friday I just stood in the kitchen and sighed a lot. My kitchen is not very rewarding to clean. It is 'on the waiting list' for renovation. Really, it would have more chance of getting fixed if it was on the waiting list for elective surgery. One day it will be our bedroom. Currently, a large part of it is covered with plywood where we ripped down the chimney in order to renovate the room behind it. That, plus the fact that the oven is still standing on the cupboard just where we ripped it out of the wall, and the fact that all the appliances in the kitchen are connected to extension cords draped artistically along the walls, give it that charming but authentic slum tenement look, so sought after by avant garde kitchen designers everywhere.

So, first week, sighing. The highlight of the second week was discovering that both my refrigerator crisper bins fit in the dishwasher at the same time. Stirring stuff. We now come to the third Friday, where again, I did, well, nothing. In my defence, I have been very conscientious in my morning and evening routines. With the dishes done, the sink gleaming, the table clear, the stovetop shining and the floor swept, the kitchen actually looks looks cleaner than it has done for years, and any further effort seems like gilding the lily. Also, Friday I picked up my fornightly box of organic vegies. I buy a huge box, far too much for us to eat while it is all still fresh, because I really want to be able to eat just from the box, and from our garden.

So, Friday night and Saturday every other week the kithchen resembles a witch's cavern as I chop, dice, stew, double, double toil and trouble through a giant box of fresh produce, occasionally stopping to consult 'Stephanie', world's fattest and most useful cook book, on how to work witchy magic on some tricky vegetable. I have discovered that peeling and chopping pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower, and throwing it in the freezer in icecream containers, still raw, preserves it beautifully, and gives me two weeks of pre-chopped veg, which is marvellous for busy evenings. Cooking 'from the box' has given me a whole new way of planning meals. Instead of planning meals from cook books, or my rather boring stock meal plans, I have to think of ways to use what is in the box and the garden. My theory is that the world's fabulous regional menus all developed out of desperation. 'Aaargh! We have three hundred and forty seven beets in the garden! Quick, make them into a soup and invite all the neighbours!'

This week, a giant bag of beautiful green basil clearly indicated pesto. Serendipitously, I also had a giant bag of walnuts from a friend's walnut farm, so I had the children in a production line, shelling walnuts, stripping leaves off basil and stuffing it in the food processor. We made four big batches of pesto, which I freeze in ice cube trays, then tip into ziploc bags to store in the freezer. Each cube serves one person for a lunch of pasta and pesto - a green and pungent echo on winter days of summer warmth. Skip the parmesan if you are freezing pesto, just add it in lashings as you serve...

We also have about a million tomatoes from the garden, and with a bag of eggplant in the box I made a giant pot of ratatouille, which the children were so excited about. I told them they should be grateful I was broadening their culinary horizons, but I tell them this so often that they kind of blank out while they think up various cunning ways of disposing of it when I am not looking. I am now trying to think of creative things to do with beetroot. The soup idea? Not so popular here.

So, there are my excuses. I think they add up to - I really couldn't be bothered, and then I was too, too busy. This week I shall have to do better with the excuses, or maybe actually clean...