Small, Comforting Pastimes

Last week I woke up one morning with an inexplicable desire to clean the kitchen. No-one was more surprised than I was when I found myself washing windows and mopping the floor. Well, actually, Posy was possibly more surprised than I was, but only marginally. But never fear, the kitchen is not entirely clean and uncluttered, because before I got halfway through, I thought I would get the ladder out and wash the outside of the kitchen windows. I mean, once you've done the insides, it's depressing when your view is still covered with spots and smears on the outside of the glass. It was when I was up the ladder and polishing the windows enthusiastically that I realised that the whole kitchen wall, which faces all the weather, really quite desperately needed painting and it's going to be winter soon, so actually, best seize the day etc, and so then of course I found myself spending the next three days up a ladder and painting the outside kitchen wall. I knew I bought twenty litres of house paint last year for a reason. It's extraordinary how these things happen. It occurred to me on day two that late last year I had my tea leaves read, and while no mention was made of plagues and quarantine I have a very definite memory of being told I would be painting the house. So here I am with one more wall painted and I still have a messy kitchen.

Posy is making the most of her school holidays by watching all of Netflix and all of the internet. In between doing that she has been baking bread and began a sourdough starter. She is now the official baker of the household:

She bakes more beautiful bread than I have ever dreamed of. Over a period of twenty four hours she took up the ukulele and then put it down again. She has made dinner several times. She has run out of bleach so can't dye her hair any more shades of blue, green or purple, but now she has taken to cutting her own hair and mine and is doing an excellent job of it. She has started scouring the bookshelves and rereading the kinds of books she hasn't opened for years. Right now she is reading Little Women. I would love to post a photo of her with her punk hair, ripped jeans and Doc Martens reading Little Women but I am not allowed. Rosy popped by today to pick up her old collection of colouring books to keep her going through the uni holidays, and I am getting reports of my two older children in Melbourne holed up in their share house. They have made a fire pit in the back yard to roast steaks and toast marshmallows, and The Girl is starting a knitting group to teach the boys how to knit. She is sending a message to her boyfriend's mum to send emergency quarantine knitting needles for them all.

I have got out the sewing machine to do mending and in the process of breaking three sewing machine needles while mending Paul's work pants have discovered that there is such a thing as dedicated sewing machine needles for denim (who knew?) and also that standard sewing machine needles come in different sizes (again, what?). I have learnt this in conversation with The Girl, and then mentioned it to Paul who said, "Oh, yes, I have a packet of denim sewing machine needles in my box of beads and sewing notions." Well, of course he does. So now his pants are mended, I have ordered new sewing machine needles and have learnt so much more about sewing machine needles than I ever dreamed of..

It sounds like I have been very busy but bear in mind that painting a wall takes half a day which leaves the other half a day for sitting in front of the fire listening to audio books and eating chocolate. The premier of Tasmania instructed us all to stay in and eat chocolate over Easter and I am nothing if not compliant when eating chocolate is involved. Even mending doesn't take that long. It does of course, take a good two years to get around to it, and then each job takes about ten minutes. Or less. It also takes ten minutes to break three sewing machine needles in succession. Ask me how I know. And now I won't be able to do any more mending until the new sewing machine needles arrive in the post. Oh, dear.

All this sitting about in front of the fire has alerted me to the fact that I need to brush the cobwebs off the dining room window. Also, the other half of the kitchen needs cleaning. I think this will take at least a week in between all that patriotic eating of chocolate.

Whether Easter is the beginning of spring and a turning towards the sun for you, or whether it is the time that the year swings towards winter and darkness I hope that you are able to rest and reflect and find some small, comforting activities to keep you anchored to reality and to each other in these strange and uncertain times.


Treaders said…
I think you put it perfectly. Nothing actually takes that long but getting round to it takes a couple of years! That's been what I've found. 101 things to do but I'm doing well if I get one thing done a day. But in the end I don't mind, it's perfectly acceptable to do nothing isn't it? I think you've known that all along but it has taken me ages to discover. And yep tell me about sewing. I've been making face masks for my neighbours, putting up seeds for my veggie garden and then just enjoying reading. The pandemic is horrible but there are positive sides to it too.
Kathy said…
Oh I loved reading your post...about cleaning the kitchen with one thing leading to the other. It's funny because apart from the financial and terrible health issues that are happening I think it's actually been so good that people have been forced to stop, slow down, and just be. Our lives are pretty much the same with the exception of seeing family and me going to the shops once a week instead of popping in a few times however it's good for people to have no where to go, to rest and recuperate and just have time to do nothing, read a book, potter in their own home. I also laughed at the Premiers orders to sit inside at Easter and eat chocolate...I'm with you..."yes Sir will do this to save lives". I LOVE chocolate...however as of Monday I'm back to get into the healthy eating and do my 30 minutes of home workout so when this is all over I am fit and healthier than I am now. Have a good week. Kathy, Brisbane
GretchenJoanna said…
Great descriptions of many homemaker/homesteader/human things I'm also experiencing recently. I laughed out loud over the mending basket, and your obedient chocolate eating. Today I did several jobs that have taken ages to get to. I'm feeling very leisurely suddenly, having accomplished so much - or is it because the sun is finally shining? As you are going into winter, it's perfect that you have an artisan bread baker in residence. Especially when the chocolate runs out!
Anonymous said…
Jo: Always so entertaining to read your post. I see so much of my life in yours (although, cough...I am older), and can relate to your "clean the kitchen, paint the wall, mend, and eat chocolate" saga. Patriotic duties are eat chocolate we must.
Thank you for the laughter, and the kinship.
Be well,
Meg said…
Oh, how utterly sensible a recommendation is staying in and eating chocolate! I am technically not in but rather eating chocolate out on our verandah enjoying the Autumn weather. There's lots to do inside but I technically can't see it from here!
Jo said…
Anna, a little bit of procrastination makes you live longer, I am sure. The comfortable conviction that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing tomorrow makes life far less stressful:)

Kathy, I am like you, life hasn't changed a lot, but before I used to feel guilty about not wanting to leave the house and feel sociable, now I feel full of community spirit... by being home alone:) a wonderful paradox for an introvert. I'm also wondering whether I should stop snacking, but I am thinking not.. the batteries ran out in my bathroom scales, so I'll never know if I'm gaining weight or not:)

Gretchen Joanna, that marvellous smug feeling when you have accomplished domestic tasks and feel justified in spending a very long time with a cup of tea in the sunshine? There should be a word for that.

Patricia, it is good to write down my ridiculous life knowing that there are many kindred spirits reading who know exactly what I mean:)

Meg, it is always best to position yourself out of line of sight from domestic tasks when enjoying sunshine and eating chocolate:)

simplelife said…
I love the slower pace, that allows for distraction and meandering from one half completed task to the next as and when the impetus strikes.
Painting an outside wall is worth many moments of fireside listening and nibbling.
I too am loving the release and lifted weight that comes from having to stay home, and being from the North West our restrictions have been increased. My body is quite confused there is the anxiety and fear of actually becoming infected at the same time as the calm and peace that comes from going slow and staying home.
cheers Kate
Mary said…
It's interesting to hear how others are coping with stay-at-home, especially your youngers. Regarding Posy - I am a long-time fan of Louisa May Alcott. She was such an adventurous and creative
individual that I think if she were living now she would possibly have some pink or blue hair and ripped jeans (and tattoos).
Skipping from one task to another is usually my best way to get things done, especially ones that have been lingering for a while.
Whenever I get to enjoying this slower pace too much I talk to or think of my daughter. She, her fiance and their almost-year-old daughter haven't been out of their Brooklyn apartment for a month now except to go out on their front steps or back deck. But still they are making it work.
I hope your parents are doing well.
Penelope P. said…
Always a joy when I click on my list and find a post from you! Even more so in these weird times! It feels like my gift from the universe for today! I started clearing the kitchen today. Only managed one side when food was demanded for lunch ( very nicely I might add!) This means that the side has stuff on it again, so I’d better go out and do some gardening...(I also noticed that the windows need cleaning, but having read this I don’t think I’ll risk it !)
I ,too, have mastered the art of staying in and eating chocolate. I also know about using different needles for different fabrics on my machine, but as that usually involves finding said different needles I usually keep trying until one breaks!
My daughter has just finished reading Little Women, and is pressing me to read it too. She’s amazed I’ve never read it, but I was too traumatised by watching a children’s T.V adaptation as a child and how sad it was when Beth died! Perhaps now is the time to steel myself.
Thanks for brightening my day. PennyL in Dorset U.K
Jo said…
Mary, staying in for a month with a one year old is pure heroics. There should be medals available..

Penelope, you are perfectly safe to read Little Women as Beth doesn't die until the second book, Good Wives. The movie adaptations usually take a lot of material from the second book because that is where all the romance and drama is..
Mary said…
In the US both books are published as one under the main title Little Women.
Jo said…
Mary, really? I had no idea. Penelope, proceed with caution then.. maybe modern editions do that elsewhere as well, especially following all the movie adaptations. I only have my old vintage copies to go on.
Evi said…
Bwahaha!!! I just have to tell you that you've made my day!!! Truly well written! And I'm in need of something funny today because we are pretty near to total lockdown here in Tas north west and it's also VERY bloody cold!!!! At least it is when I have to go outside for wood ;)
Jo said…
Evi, so cold. Snow cold. Bit early for that, in my book. I'm anxiously shepherding broccoli to the stage where it 'broccolis' before winter sets in but I think I've lucked out there.
Sending you good vibes of cosy domestic happiness for your locked down household this week.
Anonymous said…
You painted the outside of your house!!! So very clever and capable. I have been informed via a friend whose husband works in emergency that they have seen an increase of injuries from ladder falls over the "stay at home" isolation! So some people are not so capable.

I knew about the different needle types - mandatory sewing in the first two years of high school way back when. But translating that knowledge forty years later into actually loading a bobbin or threading a sewing machine? Nah!

I wish I had a daughter who would bake such lovely looking bread.
Jo said…
Lucinda, yes, I was quite pleased not to have fallen off the ladder:) You may not have a daughter, but maybe you could interest one of your lovely male children in baking bread??

Popular Posts