Archive | October 2012

Dylan is two!


There was much excitement here in the cottage at the weekend.  My grandson Dylan is two years old and he had  a party with lots of friends. It was very noisy and fun.

This is his birthday cake.  He’s very into Ben and Holly’s Magic Kingdom at the moment so of course the cake had to reflect that.

Just look at his face when his mummy shows him the cake.  He’s so pleased isn’t he!

This darling little boy is the apply of my eye and I can hardly believe he is two years old already.

Daily Chores – The Washing Up


Most people these days, so it seems, have dishwashers in their houses. Not me. I’ve tried them and they don’t work for me. I prefer to do the washing up myself or even better, with a partner so we can chat over the day’s affairs. It then becomes a social time, a time for fun.

Over the years I’ve tried different ways of getting the job done and this is the way I find the best… always use a clean wash-up sponge every day and wash in hot, soapy water, starting with glasses and glassware. These need to be rinsed.  It is debatable whether or not to rinse everything else.  Personally I think it is a waste of time, except for the glassware, but dh swears by rinsing. Perhaps the soap is different in England.  It certainly seems less sticky to me.  Also, maybe you don’t need to put so much soap in the bowl – that way you don’t need to rinse it off everything all the time.

Once the dishes are washed, they go on the draining board to dry. I like to dry them with a clean tea-towel and I find that the best way is to start with the largest item; dry it, then move on to the next largest and so on down the pile until you get to the knives and forks and spoons.  Somehow the drying up goes much quicker this way. Look at the pictures on here and you’ll see what I mean.

This is my favourite washing up liquid.

Back in 2007, I wrote a ‘Letter from America’ while I was getting used to living there. I repeat it here for those who didn’t read it the first time. I hope it makes you smile!

Letter from America 18

I have never been a fan of dishwashers, other than the human kind!  To me they are a noisy, expensive nuisance, which are difficult to load and unload and, when opened up, they are incredibly good at knocking your shins, which are a tender part of the body.  Since we live in a rented apartment, a dishwasher belongs here.  It comes with the lease.  I wish it didn’t.  I wish it would go away and more cupboard space would replace it.  I wish, I wish, I wish… Sometimes I wish too often and too much, as you will see later…

I managed to get my computer hooked up and working satisfactorily.  It works, so long as every time I reboot it, I first remove the USB connections, all except the mouse.  It doesn’t mind the mouse!  All the others, it spits out with deference and sleeps, refusing to wake!  Next problem I encountered was the anti-virus protection.  I use Norton.  I have an anti-virus Norton programme and a separate programme, dealing with the firewall – also Norton.  Both needed their annual update, which means visiting the Norton website and parting with £28 to get the update.  This I did without too much trouble.  I updated the firewall, but I had second thoughts about the anti-virus software.  Since I last bought some, the programme has become much more complicated.  It was call “Norton Systemworks”, and it took over the whole computer whenever it felt like it and wouldn’t let you have it back until it was good and ready.  I think they must have had a lot of complaints because now we have “Norton 360”, which by rights should be easier on the computer and also on the nerves.  I don’t know what the “360” means.  Perhaps it means “the whole gambit”, or “the whole of your computer and nothing but the whole of your computer!”  Who knows?  Anyway, I didn’t buy either of those.  I just bought the anti-virus part and then spent the whole evening trying to install it…

The computer kept telling me that there was a previous Norton anti-virus programme on there.  Well I knew that, didn’t I?  I put it on there.  Finally, I got it to load and it was working.  So now I am fully covered, in a manner of speaking.

The nasturtiums in the planter pots are getting leafy and I saw some flower buds on them yesterday.  My beans are 4 inches high, but there are no birds nesting in the bird box.  I think they found somewhere better.

So now back to the dishwasher.   When I first got here, I was finding that the utensils I wanted use, were always in the dishwasher, waiting to be washed, and this became a source of annoyance.  We came to an agreement that the dishwasher would be turned on once a day, at bedtime, and that way all my implements would be clean and dry in the morning, just ready for me to use them.  Larry is in charge of it because I don’t want to have anything to do with it!

One night, soon after, I went to bed.  The dishwasher was humming and whirring in the kitchen.  I dropped off to sleep.  Not long after, Larry jumped up.  He could smell burning.

“Must be outside,” I grunted, and turned over. ‘ It turned out to be the label from a jam pot. The label had come off in the dishwasher and then caught fire during the drying process!

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This is what happens to silver spoons when they have been through the dishwasher! The spoon in the middle is how it should be.

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What do you think?  Are you a convert to dishwashers? or are you a stick-in-the mud like me?

Lighting the fires.


The last two mornings here at the cottage have been very misty and foggy. So, it’s time to light the fires and cosy up. Personally I don’t mind the dank, dark mornings and the early evenings when I have to draw the curtains at 4 o’clock. I’m definitely not a summer person, although I do like my garden during the summer months. That’s mainly for the flowers though, not the heat.  We didn’t get any heat in England this summer, nor much sun either, but I made up for that when I travelled to Tennessee and spent a few weeks with dh in the hot humidity!

After I’d been there for three days, I got a spider bite, which necessitated a visit to the hospital emergency room!

For the next 5 weeks I was unable to wear any sort of footwear except flip-flop sandals or Scholls! It is almost better now – six weeks later. I had to take strong anti-biotics. Just as the antibiotics were finishing, I developed a wheezy cough, which was annoying both day and night and would not go away! Eventually I went to the doctor who did a chest X-ray and an asthma test. Both were normal so he prescribed Nasonex, a nasal spray for allergic conditions. I had to take that once a day at night for six weeks! Considering I had arrived in Knoxville with a very sore back, I was not doing too well was I? and I began to long for my cosy cottage back in England.

Worse was to come! My dh started having panic attacks about coming to England. As you know we were going to bring the cat, Millie, and stay in England for three months with the idea that dh might like to consider moving here permanently. He just isn’t up to it!! So we are destined to remain apart and I’m not at all happy with that situation.

Anyway, I’m back in England, thrilled that I’m going to be an Oma again next May and for what comes in between, let’s just wait and see…

Here are some lovely pictures of the beautiful trees around the area where I live in Knoxville:

Woolly scarves and grandchildren…


Well he got it! the scarf I mean.  I wrote about it here… It arrived on Wednesday, which happened to be a special day for his mum! It was her birthday.  The parcel fitted through the letterbox so Dylan was able to open it himself.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of him opening the parcel but here he is at the end of a long, tiring day in London when he went to visit the dinosaurs!

Looks like they had a great time, doesn’t it!

Dylan came to my house today and we had lots of fun playing with his circus train. It was great to be with him again. In the few weeks I’ve been away he has grown a little and increased his vocabulary. He now understands ‘too high’ ‘too hot’ ‘too big’ etc. and he can count to ten, although it is parrot fashion. He doesn’t understand the concept of counting beyond two yet.

We had fish fingers and baked beans for lunch and he had chocolate pudding for dessert. That’s a sort of yoghurty pudding over here and he loves it.

In the afternoon I made him a tunnel for his train to go through. I upturned the clothes airer and put a dark green tablecloth over the top of it. It looked like a big hill or mountain and served the purpose really well.

Tomorrow night he’s coming for a sleepover.

Country Matters – a very English village


Some time age I went to Country Matters in Hexton.  Hexton is a tiny hamlet near where I live and Country Matters is like an Aladdin’s Cave of treasures, old and new, to rummage through.

They serve lunches…

and they sell eggs of all kinds…

and when you go in, there are all sorts of things to look at. Let’s look at them together…

Click to enlarge the photos.

Here is the local pub, The Raven.  It’s right opposite Country Matters.

The Lavender Tea Rooms were so busy that we went right home where an orange syrup and walnut cake were waiting for us.

A New Addition!


I have returned to England early to some great news!  My youngest son David and his wife Michelle are expecting a baby next Spring and so I am going to be an Oma again and Dylan will have another cousin.

My return to England was a little premature, by one week and dh and cat Millie are not with me. Suffice to say that our plans have changed somewhat.

However, I am happy to be back in my cosy cottage and looking forward to the new arrival with great anticipation.

Now to catch up on my sleep 🙂

Have a great week everybody! I’ll be catching up on what you’re all up to over the next day or so.

Oma

Home-made Tomatoe Soup from Oma’s Kitchen


In the winter months I make a lot of this soup. It tastes great and if you make enough of it, it will feed the family for four or five suppers.  Here are the ingredients:

Ingredients:

Tomatoes, quantity dependent on how many you’ve got or how many you want. The best ones to use are the Italian tomatoes because they have the most flavour. They also taste best if they are ‘going over’ a bit because then the sweetness is released.

1 large onion

1 red pepper

1 green pepper (optional)

flat dessertspoonful of salt (don’t overdo it.)

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 small tin of tomato paste (optional). I put one of these in if the boiled mixture looks a bit insipid. I like the soup to look really red.

1 squirt of tomatoe ketchup

a grind of pepper

1 teaspoon crushed chillis (optional). Do this if you want an extra kick in the soup.

Half pound of pork meatballs (optional)

Handful of rice, long grain

NB if you add the meatballs, bear in mind that the soup won’t keep for as long. I keep the soup in the fridge between eatings. Always boil the soup every day, whether you eat any or not. This will kill any bacteria and keep the soup safe to eat.

Method:

Put the tomatoes into a pan, large enough that the tomatoes come up to the middle of it. Add cold water to cover. Add other chopped ingredients and boil gently for half an hour.

Smells delicious at this stage.

When the boiling is done, leave to cool with a lid on.

When cool enough, put the mixture through a blender to purify, leaving a few bits of vegetable to chew on in the soup.

Return the soup to a large pan, add a knob of butter and if desired, some meatballs.  Pork taste best.

Ten minutes before serving for the first time, add a handful of long-grain rice. This will thicken the soup and soak up some of the flavours. Each time you reheat the soup, the rice will become thicker.  You may need to add more liquid (water) as the days go by.

Enjoy with crusty bread.

 

 

A Woolly Scarf to Keep You Warm!


The other day the wind was chilly!  I got to thinking about a little boy, 4,500 miles away and so I got out my knitting needles and some bright, pumpkin coloured wool.

I started to knit and the knitting began to grow…

The needles were sharp, just like the wind.  They flew on the breeze as the leaves began to come down.

With my tape measure I measured, yes that’s coming on…

The pattern had told me just where to cast on…

I looked at the end result with a puzzled frown. Something is missing? I know a fringe must hang down.

Something to tickle a dear little face with smiles and giggles all over the place…

As the clock ticked, the winds blew; a cat slept in the room

…and a certain little somebody is going to get a parcel in the mail soon!

A Grandad is someone who has silver in his hair and gold in his heart!

Fading – Remembering – Love – Old Age – Preparation – Getting Older


REMEMBER 

by Christina Rosetti 1830 – 94

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember; do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

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I shall be 61 years old soon, so I have made it through my 60th year, which has been very difficult for me. The difficulty comes when you don’t feel 60, not in your mind anyway, but the mirror and a chance glance in a shop window, remind you that you no longer look like you thought you looked. I have talked about the physical signs of aging before and will do again, but it’s harder to quantify the emotional mind when it ages.

People change as they get older. Dare I say that I am not the person I was at 14? or 21?, 30?, 40? or 50? I would like to think that I have improved but the truth is that I have just changed. I don’t think I am any better than I was way back then.  Perhaps I am more forgiving? Yes, that is true. I am more forgiving, less judgmental but on the down side, I am more set in my ways. I resist change in my life more than before. I find I don’t yearn to learn new things quite as much as I did even five years ago. It is hard to keep up with new technology. It doesn’t seem to work like it’s supposed to so every day brings a new challenge.  Something has gone wrong with A, B or C and it is up to me or my partner to fix it.

Computers and telephones play a much larger part in our lives than they used to. I have resisted getting a Smartphone thus far; saying to myself that I don’t need one; it is too complicated; I might lose it; I can’t afford the monthly payments now that I am on a restricted budget. Those are the kind of excuses I use for myself. I don’t need one, it is true. I do just fine with the two pay-as-you-go phones I have – one for England and one for America.

Computers are a different matter.  So many forms need to be filled in online these days that no-one can really function properly without one. Then there is the fun side of computers. There is still a lot of fun in surfing the Internet and I enjoy that as much as anyone.  However, my computer in England, which is only two years old, is running very slow.  I have no idea why and no intention of buying software to sort out the problem. I know if I do that, more problems will occur. When I get back I intend to try and speed it up a bit. I may need to buy more memory but should I have to? after only two years use? I’ll let you know.

As I enter my 61st year next week, I find myself spending more and more time remembering……

There Wasn’t Enough Time


 

There Wasn’t Enough Time

There wasn’t enough time. There were only two days to draw rainbows and not even one night to count the stars. If I had known about the ending before I picked up the book, I would never have started reading it. But it was a sunny day and the yellow in the rainbow was as vivid as the swaying corn on that August day when I found stars in my coffee. I stirred and stirred but the stars didn’t go away so I added some sugar and then more stars appeared. As I watched, a hole appeared in the bottom of the coffee mug and the stars spilled through, sprinkling the floor with their magic. I followed and all the colours of the rainbow wrapped me round.

Red trees with crimson branches lined the road as I travelled onwards. In every leaf was a vein of love. I could hear the heart beat. My legs were walking, the tree stood still, but the movement ensued. Facing changes at every turn in the road, I could see the confusion as the colours merged one with another. If I could just stay focused then the purity would return and my way would become clear, but it didn’t.

Blue rolled in on a crashing wave, covering everything with emotion. Tears and screams were louder than the foam as it bubbled and frothed to whiteness over everything. There wasn’t enough time to save the children. They all turned blue.

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There were times in my life when I should have found the time to do something but I didn’t. I regret them now but I am still doing it; like the time when my friend Kath had just lost her husband. He died suddenly from a heart attack and left her bereft and uncertain in life. She never got the chance to say goodbye to him. One afternoon I left work a bit early in order to go down to town to collect a pair of glasses, which were ready for me. As I made my way to the bus stop, I saw Kath walking towards me. If I could have turned tail and gone in the other direction, I would have, because I just didn’t have the time to speak to her right then. I knew that if I stopped and spoke, I would miss the bus and the next one would get me to town too late and the shop would be shut and I would be disappointed and have to go to town another time. There was nothing for it. I stopped, smiled and passed the time of day with Kath but she was having none of it. Out came the whole story about how Jim had died suddenly etc. etc. I already knew the story and the details but I just had to listen to it again because she wanted to tell it to me. After a little while, I began to start moving from one foot to the other.

“I have to go now, Kath,” I heard myself saying. “I will miss my bus if I don’t. I’ll come and see you next week. You can tell me all about it then!” but I didn’t go because deep down I didn’t want to hear the story again. There were other things I would rather do.

I left her with a disappointed look on her face as I rushed to catch the bus and get to town in time. I have never forgotten that look.

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The sky exploded in red when the planes arrived in New York on 11th September. None of us alive today will ever forget that day in a hurry. There were towers of hate in the minds of the people who did that. Red was for sorrow that afternoon as I sat at my computer at work and watched it happen. Straight away, what did I do? I emailed my son, who was living in Paris, France, at the time. My email read:

“I love you, I love you, I love you so much.”

He lived right by the Embassies and I really thought that the campaign of horror would travel round all our capital cities. There wasn’t enough time to give him a hug but I could email him, so I did. I have never been so glad of email as I was that afternoon. I thought if we were all going to die then at least he would know that, far away as he was, he had my love.

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As a newly wed couple, Jim and I had a flat to look after. It had two bedrooms, one of which we used as a dining room for entertaining. Entertaining was top of the list in those days but when Jim’s parents asked us round it was a case of…

“We can’t come this weekend, we’re entertaining. Oh yes, and we’re decorating the bedroom. It looks ever so nice. The wallpaper is…”

In my colouring book of life the walls were purple with orange geometric flowers dancing all around the room…

Looking back at when our children were small, I realise that I really didn’t have the time to do anything other than look after them. Somehow I managed to be superwoman and fitted into my day a lot more than I do now. I got them all ready on a Sunday morning to go to church and we went every week, not just once a month. I was really proud of that but it came at a cost. The cost was that I was so tired at the end of that Sunday that I didn’t have the time to give to my husband that which he deserved and needed!

“Shall we have a cuddle, darling?” he would say to me.

“I haven’t got time. I have to get the boys bathed and into bed. Maybe later.” I would reply.

Does it sound familiar?

++++++++++++++++++++++++

I turned another page of my book and there was the envy of green. Every car, which sped by, was a brighter shade of green but none could match the green of the grass beneath my feet. That grass, which fed so many beasts, there wasn’t time to cut it.

When my boys were small, life was hectic. We played together in the snow and the rain and in the sunshine too. Life was full and I was happy, never happier. But – there wasn’t enough time to notice that my mum was getting ill. She couldn’t walk properly and I didn’t notice, I expected her to be there for me but was I there for her?

Later on the boys went to school and there wasn’t a spare minute. As soon as they got home on a Friday afternoon, I took their clothes off them and stuffed them into the washing machine. They had to be washed, dried, ironed and ready for Monday morning – oh yes, and mended. There were always holes in the knees. Christmas came round more quickly each year and there was so much to do. They had grandparents and aunties and uncles to buy presents for them but after the holidays were over and it was time to write the thank you notes – they didn’t have time.

“Oh mum, do we have to do it now, there’s a great film on TV. Can we do it after that’s finished?”

All three of them went to University. How we found the money for that I’ll never know. It broke my heart when we took them on that first day and I had to do it three times! I couldn’t wait till the end of the semester so I could go and visit them but when I phoned up…

“Sorry mum, you’d better not come this weekend. I’m going here or there, wherever. There isn’t enough time to have you this week.”

Now the children have grown and left home (at last, only not holding breath, they could be back at any minute). I have time to do all the things I didn’t have time to do when they were at home, or do I? Time to do more for other people – I’m working all week. Time to help the grandmother – I have to clean my own house. So what do I do all day, I ask myself. Where do all those hours go?

We are all running through life, chasing time, hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic and we never seem to get where we are going. I never do all the things I want to do. It seems as if God has made the days too short. He must have made a mistake in His calculations. The hours are too short, the days are too short, and our lives are too short.

Hurrying onward, I see an orange sunset and as the sun disappears behind the waves, I heard a hissssssss. I smile as it cools itself in the water.

Tomorrow is a new day. With a rainbow of colours I am making myself a promise. If God gives me another day, I will use it wisely. I will not waste it. It is a gift but a gift, which will not keep. I have time, plenty of time, all the time, which God has given me.

I have the years of my life and the days of my life. They are all mine to fill, quietly, calmly but to fill up to the brim.