Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's Spring Clean the Living Rooms!

Do you like my slightly 'Dick and Jane' title? I am going for sprightly, as, let's be honest, spring cleaning needs a really good sell. I worked out while dusting the walls this morning that I have the same number of rooms to clean as there are weekdays over two weeks. So, a room a day. I may go back to work exhausted, but I will be happy, satisfied, and ever so smug.

As always, I have started with the living areas - there is ever the possibility of Life interfering with best laid plans, so starting with the most public, most used, and therefore dirtiest rooms makes sense.

Day One: Living Room

Cleaning always works best starting at the top and working down, so this morning I started with the ladder balanced on top of the coffee table to reach the living room light fixture. Don't tell my mum. The light fixture was, of course, filled with dead bugs and covered in bug poop. I washed it in warm, soapy water, and cleaned fly poop off the ceiling. I sometimes wonder what my fifteen year old self would think if she could see what I am doing with my/her life..

Then I dusted the top of the walls and ceiling where all the spiders make cobwebs, then wander off.. where, I wonder? I have a nifty, telescopic duster thingy which is excellent for this, and also dusting off the top of the curtain pelmets. More perching on the step ladder as I clean fly spots and finger marks off the walls.

Next, it being the end of the fire season, I swept all of the ashes out of the hearth with my lovely art-deco dust pan. All the ashes go in a bucket to be tipped onto the redcurrant and gooseberry bushes later. They love all that ashy goodness. And I get to play at being housemaid. If only there was a footman to flirt with..

Now that the fire has been cleaned out, everything else gets dusted. Then washing the windows. These are the only original windows left in the house, and tend to get mouldy in the winter. Ugh. Nasty. After this I have a cup of tea and take Posy and the dog for a walk in the sunshine. Vitamin D for the housemaid is a necessity.

Now vaccuuming, moving all the furniture and taking all the cushions off the couch. When the children were little they loved this and made forts out of the couch cushions. Posy enjoys all the treasures she finds behind the couches, and I finally discover where the missing thermos lid got to. How did it get behind the couch? How? And how much furniture can we squeeze into the dining room so I can shampoo the carpet later? Note bunting from Posy's birthday party. She won't let me take it down.

Lunch. I am reading Up and Down Stairs, history of the domestic servant in England from medieval to modern times. It is an excellent choice while spring cleaning in the 21st century, because all my jobs pale in comparison to the average day of the average housemaid any time over the last four centuries.

After lunch I take my baby girls to the airport and send them on their way to their dad for three days. It is rather awful seeing them fly away, but an hour later they arrive safe and sound, and I know they will be having a whale of a time. Meanwhile, I have warned The Girl (who stayed back because she is working) that I won't be cooking while the girls are away. We will eat boiled eggs and read books every night.

When I get home I shampoo the carpets with my friend Cindy's carpet cleaner (thanks Cindy, you are a star!) which makes the house smell like wet dog, so then I walk the dog and spend that last hour of sunlight weeding around the orange trees and admiring the beautiful view from the highest point of the garden.

Tonight I will leave the furniture in its state of derangement while the carpet dries, then tomorrow I can put it back, and move on to cleaning the dining room..

Day Two: Dining Room

While Posy isn't here to notice, I sneakily remove the birthday bunting. Today I get to dance on the dining room table. First I start with the cobwebs on the ceiling. The budgies really hate that giant blue duster. Maybe they think it is a giant blue budgie with sinister designs? Then I stand on the table to wash the light fittings, and again with all the fly poop on the ceilings. This is the warmest space in the house, and flies love it (yes, in Tasmania, even the flies need to keep warm). Clearly, there is an issue with flies in the summer here. Our windows aren't designed for fly screens, and anyway, I love opening them straight into the fresh air. Luckily, Benson-the-wonder-puppy adores eating flies, and last summer when he first came to us we had a lot less flies in the house..

My technique with getting any kind of stain off, including fly spots, is this. I only ever use a bucket of warm soapy water (a squirt of dish detergent) for cleaning. Cheap, and just as effective as sprays. First, I wipe over the area to be cleaned, then leave it for a few minutes. When I go back for a second pass, stains generally come off quite easily. The formula for this is: water + soap + time = clean without too much elbow grease.

Next, The Girl helped me to move the first sideboard so that I could clean behind it. Oh, deary, deary me. The detritus and dust and, er, treasures, of at least two years that had accumulated behind that sideboard! Budgie feathers, dirt, oranges that had rolled off the fruit bowl and quietly fossilised, a dozen marbles, lego, pens, almonds and acorns.. but mostly an appalling accumulation of dust. The Girl sensibly remembered several other things she had to do, so that left me to gingerly sort through the debris, vacuum, scrub walls and floor, and wash the windows. My window washer recipe: one spray bottle filled with 45% water, 45% methylated spirits, 10% ammonia. Spray, and dry with an old nappy.

That left only seven more windows to wash before elevenses. But I got to enjoy the pear blossom.

Next, I took down my extensive vase collection from the other side of the dining room, and washed it all. Then I succumbed to spring fever and took the dog for a walk in the sunshine, and had lunch in the sun as well.

After lunch another sideboard to pull out and clean behind. Seriously, those budgies have lost their own body weight in feathers, and they all float gently down behind the sideboard to lodge in very decorative cobwebs. Finally I can put everything back, scrub the table and wipe down the chairs. I will wait to mop all the living area floors at once in a few days when I clean the hallway. So we are done - just in time, as we have to visit the grannies to take them some shelves and eat afternoon tea. The Girl needs to get her millions of driving hours up before she heads off to university next year, which means lots of cups of tea with grandma.

Tonight while we are eating dinner I am gloating over the glorious cleanliness of my living areas, but tomorrow... well, tomorrow I tackle.. the kitchen..

Sunday, September 27, 2015

House and Garden Rescue

Working, way too much, just about sums up the month of September. Appreciating daffodils and tulips, magnolia trees and fruit tree blossom wherever I find it. Loving Spring!

But as of last Friday afternoon at 3 o'clock, it is school holidays. Two weeks! And I am going to spend all of it in the garden:) But hang on, no I can't - the house is a bomb. I have just hung on by my finger nails with the housekeeping over the last few weeks - vacuuming, laundry, food, dishes, bathroom, tidying. That's all I could manage, and it is starting to show. The house needs some love, the garden needs... editing. It's Spring, and every weed known to man is rejoicing.

I could spend two weeks in the hammock reading all the books, but instead I plan to rush about like a whirling dervish and make the house and garden happy. And this will make me happy too. I may, of course, schedule some hammock time as well.

So yesterday I set about rescuing the house from its slightly slummy state. At 9am I was still sitting up in bed, drinking tea and reading my book (a history of domestic service in England. Fascinating), but by 9.15 I was dressed and had put the first load of laundry on. I threw all of the girls' school uniform on to soak, and by 10am had mowed the back lawn.

Meanwhile, the girls were celebrating spring break as well - by 8.30am Posy was in the hammock reading her book, and by 9.30am they were both playing cards, dissolute children that they are. At 10.05am I had laid down the law - if any of the girls' possessions remained in the living area after five minutes, I was going to throw them outside. As I grimly stalked down the hallway with an armful of Posy's belongings at 10.11am they realised I meant business, and scurried about, tidying.

By 10.30 I had vacuumed all the living areas, and by 11am I had emptied the bins, hung out a load of washing, and watered all the pot plants. By 11.30 the dishes were done, benches, stove top and table wiped down, and there were fresh Spring flowers on the table.

Then my friend Cindy dropped in, timing her visit well:) Don't you love it when visitors arrive after you have cleaned up! Not that Cindy would care, of course, but still, it's always nice to show your best face. And she brought lunch! Frankly quite welcome, because in my enthusiasm I had forgotten breakfast. By 12.30pm Rosy had walked, bathed and de-flead the dog, and The Girl got up and made muffins for afternoon tea.

By 1.30pm the dishes were done again, tables and benches wiped again, laundry that had been sitting in the basket for days was folded and put away, and I tidied my bedroom, which had been looking decidedly worse for wear.

Finally, I could escape into the garden for a bit of R&R. Again, as with the house, I feel that garden rescue should start with the most public areas, so started with the garden bed right by the front of the house, and also weeded the gravel path. Word to the wise. Don't put in a gravel path, unless you want to start a plant nursery. Plants self-seed in a gravel path like it is the most expensive seed mix. Honestly, if you want to propagate a difficult plant, just shake the seeds over any old gravel path, and you will have instant success.

At 2.30pm the grannies arrived for afternoon tea. Yes, my parents bought a house, lived with us for a month, and moved in last week! It is a house with the most adorable little garden, with dozens of rose bushes, and hundreds of daffodils, and yes, that may have had a tiny bit of bearing on my wholehearted recommendation of the property.. now I have two gardens to play in:)

After the grannies left, I walked the dog, finished weeding the path, and then realised my clockwork had run down for the day. Served left-overs for dinner, did the dishes again, washed my hair, and was in bed by 8.30pm with my book.

I am loving the holidays! Hard work of a different kind, on my own schedule, out in the sunshine, and at the end of it I forsee a sparkling house and a happy garden.

Posy attempting to avoid chores by pretending to be asleep in the hammock with the dog..

Friday, September 4, 2015

Not Just a Pretty Face


Cherry plums



Spring, and I am already greedily anticipating loads of Summer fruit from my own yard. Spring. It's all about fruit futures:)

Well, ok, the spring blossom is pretty nice too..