inspiration · nostalgia

A Magical Memory

These trees hold magical powers. I found myself pondering the power that every branch, every piece of ripening fruit and every beautifully formed leaf held over me. Even the gently sloping fall of the ground had me mesmerised.

Nearby, my cutie-cat pounced along through the grass, chasing butterflies, whilst black-velvet dog was having her own adventures, rustling around in the undergrowth nearer to the back boundary fence, just beyond the trees.

My mind wandered, to another place; another time…..

The house was old, very old. We opened the creaky wrought-iron gate and walked along the short footpath, through the neglected garden and onto the aging wooden boards of the front veranda.

To our left, the wall of the house had two doors, either of which may have been the main entry; my father unlocked the second door.

We entered directly into a small but cosy lounge-room. Further investigation revealed three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Although the house was anything but grand, I instantly felt at home.

My bedroom was the smallest room in the house, even the bathroom was bigger. There was only room enough for my single bed and a tiny desk, but that was all a nine year old girl needed. A small, built-in wardrobe in a corner had enough space to hold my winter clothes. A broken, dull, brown blind covered an extremely tiny window. When I managed to open the blind I could see across into an open field of grass, where a local bee-keeper kept a number of bee hives.

The room where I felt really comfortable was the lounge-room. Burning logs blazed non-stop in the open fireplace and I knew where my cat could always be found; curled up on the old hearth mat. An antique clock chimed every quarter hour on the mantle-piece. At night time I loved to hear the wind whistling around the windows outside, knocking and scraping tree branches against the side of the old house.

The most old fashioned lounge-suite I had ever seen was the only furniture in the room, one three seater couch and two single seaters. I made claim to one single seater chair nestled comfortably next to the fire-place. I adored the way in which I sunk into that big old chair, just like being gobbled up by a huge marshmallow! An aged, brown marshmallow, but definitely a marshmallow. The broad, solid, but softly upholstered arms of the chair were just the right width for me to rest my book, whilst reading. As I recall, by nine years of age I had collected most of the “Famous Five” series of books by Enid Blyton and I read them all.

The house was only a five minute bus trip to and from my school. Other children in my class would travel with me and in the afternoons we could hardly wait to get home, allowing us an hour or two to spend in the park directly across the road from my house. We all enjoyed the swings, merry-go-round, see-saw and climbing gym there.

When walking outside the back of the house, you were met by another aging wooden porch, this one larger than the one at the front of the house, with wooden steps leading down, into a gently sloping expanse of garden; an orchard.

Oh, how I loved that orchard! Tree after tree, producing lemons and oranges, neglected, just as the front garden was, and containing magical powers that only my nine year olds mind was aware of! The trees were my protection from everything, nothing could harm me there, and I was invincible…the garden was calm and safe, protective and mesmerising…..

Our stay in this ancient, neglected home only lasted for three months, during the cold winter season of a beautiful, mountain village. Spring arrived far too early for me that year, along with a move into a brand new home, built by my parents. There we had fresh new carpet, brightly painted walls and brand new furniture. And, I missed my old house…

Standing amongst the foliage in my garden, mesmerised by the trees, I contemplated the similarities of the home I had shared for a number of years with my husband and children, a home where I felt calm, safe and protected.

Collecting the ripened fruit that I had picked from the trees, I called out to my cutie-cat and black-velvet and the three of us headed back up the gently sloping hill to the back of the house.

As I walked in through the back door, I heard the chime of my clock, sitting on the mantelpiece over my fireplace. And in the far corner of my lounge-room I spotted the big marshmallow of a chair, with broad, solid and softly upholstered arms…a chair which had recently found me (but that is another story for another day!) 🙂

Was it my conscious or sub-conscious mind that had drawn the orchard, chair, clock and fireplace into my life? If I hadn’t lived in that wonderful, old neglected house a lifetime ago, would I have been inspired to draw these items to me, or would I have made different choices?

Some day, I may have the answers to those questions. And if I don’t come up with the answers I am now pondering? It doesn’t matter…every single piece of furniture, ornament, picture on the walls, paint colour, curtain, and in the garden every garden-bed and tree there was firstly pictured in my mind’s eye. When I went to the store to buy them, every item was there, waiting for me. If I didn’t find them first, they found me.

They bring such joy to my life…just the way it’s meant to be. 🙂


Changes and Growth

“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” ~ C. Day Lewis

When I began this website, it was with the intention of sharing two of my favourite activities – cooking and gardening, both of which are part of “me”. Each post written has been done so with feelings of extreme joy and every future post will be contributed in the same manner.

But there’s something missing and it’s a topic issue.

Every day I find myself inspired to write more! And the inspiration arrives in the form of more diverse subjects than just “Gardening and Gastronomy”!

There is a solution to my dilemma….today, I am happy to introduce a new name to Home Life Online, “Everyday Inspirations”. Life evolves, and changes, and grows, and matures, there is always “more” for us to be…in just the same way as these pages are becoming “more”.

My chronicles of cooking and gardening will continue, as you will see in my last post “Lunch In The Garden…Pea and Ham Soup”.

“A Magical Memory” is my first post in the evolution of Home Life Online. It is my desire that a visit to these articles will provide you with inspiration and joy, along with a few thoughts to contemplate.

If I have achieved that, I am a happy writer. 🙂

cooking · gardening · recipe · soup · winter

Lunch In The Garden…Pea and Ham Soup

The chilling winter’s air froze my skin, as I headed into my garden yesterday morning. Rugged up in layers of clothes, wearing thick socks and ankle height wellington boots, I knew the chill would soon leave me.

No matter how low the temperature is, the cold air is easy to tolerate when I am gardening. The cooler days are such a refreshing change…we have been enjoying eleven degrees Celsius morning and night recently, warming up most days to around 20 degrees.

As lunchtime approached, I remembered the big pot of pea and ham soup I had prepared the day before…warmed up for lunch, it would taste even better than it did last night!

This is yet another one of my Mum’s recipes, although I use the word “recipe” extremely loosely here, as there has never been any official recipe for this soup.

It is so easy to prepare and quantities can be judged to suit yourself also. Firstly, I soak about 1 cup of split green peas and half a cup each of pearl barley and dried soup mix in boiling hot water for an hour or two.

This batch of soup was made in my slow cooker although I usually cook it up in a large stock pan. Either way, it will bubble away all day if you wish, on a low simmer.

When the dried peas, barley and soup mix have softened a little, I drain off the water, place them in the pan and half fill the pan with water. Add 500g of meaty bacon bones or a large bacon hock and 300g of diced bacon. Turn on the heat and start cooking.

The vegetables that I usually add are one or two sliced onions and three of each of the following, all either diced or sliced ~ potatoes, carrots, celery sticks, parsnips and turnips. Top up the pan with extra water, after all the vegetables are added.

And that’s it! I wouldn’t even add herbs, salt and pepper, unless of course that suits your taste. Once the soup is well cooked, the water turns into beautiful bacon stock, as the chunks of bacon fall off the bones and the split peas go “mushy”, which thickens the stock.

Toast is a wonderful accompaniment to pea and ham soup.

I do not recall ever having enjoyed this soup more than I did yesterday, outdoors, with the cool bite of a winter’s breeze on my skin.

And as usual, my beautiful little “helper” hardly left my side! 🙂