advice · challenges · inspiration

A Pleasurable Chore

What is the big attraction for cats, to ironing boards?

Currently I reside in a home belonging to two fury felines. (I’ve been told to stick with two as a maximum, as three would classify me as a “crazy cat lady”.)

That’s right, my little ladies are typical princesses, they allow our family to share their home, and conditions apply; a regular stream of dry kitty biscuits, nightly feeds of pongy fish, always fresh water available, a clean litter tray, first choice of comfy seat to curl up on and the freedom to choose whichever bed they wish to sleep on each night.

When they are in the mood, we are allowed to scratch them under their chin, or stroke their fur, for an unspecified period of time. If the scratching and/or stroking of fur exceeds their expectations, permission is to be granted for them to bite our hand.

Oh yes, cats are very demanding creatures. And if you have ever enjoyed the privilege of being owned by one, you will have experienced the pure delight of hearing that rumbling sound of happiness when they are purring and the out-pouring of love they show when they rub the whole of their bodies up against your legs.

On the days I wish to do my ironing, if one of them chooses the ironing board as a bed that day, I am expected to iron my clothes around their positioning on the board. On days when they feel generous enough, they will actually choose to sleep under the ironing board. But only if I’m lucky.

Such is my love for my feline friends that without them, my house would not be a home. Unfortunately for me, that love does not extend as far as the ironing!

As far as household chores go, vacuuming and dusting are enjoyable enough, with the end result of sparkling furniture and lint-free floors in mind. Bathroom and toilet cleaning can be tolerable as well, and washing the clothes gives me an excuse (not that I need one) to go out into the garden for a while.

And then, there’s the ironing. I’ve struggled for years to find an excuse to enjoy ironing. It has been suggested that I don’t do any ironing, but crumpled clothes? Yuk! There simply had to be an answer, some way for me to enjoy the one household chore that, well, just doesn’t appeal to me.

The solution is simple, really. These days, I listen to music! If only my brainstorm have arrived years earlier…these days I bop away to my heart’s content, iron in hand.

This afternoon, my aim is to clear away the ironing, making a clear space on the chair for anyone, or any cat, who wishes to sit there. (Actually, the cats don’t mind the ironing pile; they sleep comfortably buried in it, for hours!)

The moral to this story is, (yes, there’s a moral here; do you think I’d babble away about the detested ironing for no reason?) ~ look for something enjoyable in everything you do. Just set your mind to it and search for the answer. You’ll find one…I did. 🙂

inspiration

Priceless Treasures

It’s surprising how the mundane tasks, performed regularly in everyday life, can give you inspiration for writing. It happened to me today, whilst dusting and vacuuming….

I have a favourite room in my house. It didn’t start out by being my favourite, it evolved into the status. Over the years, with four children growing up in this house, what with toys scattered, crumbs dropped, drinks spilled, television and CD’s blaring, homework books covering tables, shoes left willy-nilly in the entry hallway, I found it necessary, no, make that essential, to have one room in the house for me.

The idea of being banished to my bedroom, like a naughty child, did not appeal to me one bit. Not that I have ever been the “go to your room!” kind of mum, but I hear that some mum’s do that, hence my impression.

At the front of the house we have a large room, the lounge/dining room, where all of our “good” furniture lives. It also just happens to be the room with a wall devoted to floor to ceiling book shelves. When my piano and I found each other, the perfect home for it was, you guessed it, in the lounge room.

My room is not in the thoroughfare of the house either, just one door in and out. There’s no television, no music (other than the piano), no food allowed. My favourite and most well-loved couch lives in the room, recovered in burgundy fabric about five years ago when the old fabric wore thin. The colour scheme is all deep pinks and burgundy tones, again my favourites.

When I refer to this room, it is “My Quiet Room”. When my eldest daughter calls in for a quick visit and a herbal tea, we sit in my quiet room. It is a special room; everyone knows the rules and no one dares to break them!

So, back to today. As I lovingly dusted each precious ornament, I also thought of the significance of the items in my room. We all know about “comfort food”; my special room contains my “comfort items”. These are my priceless objects of affection, although value-less to anyone else.

For example, the little wooden bookshelf, made by my father when he was still at primary school, therefore he was less than twelve years of age. I treasure that little shelf and it holds part of a series of my all-time favourite novels, by Diana Gabaldon.

On top of a cabinet near the built-in book shelves is a collection of old family photos, along with a flat brass dish, which had once belonged to my maternal grandmother.

Next to the photos and dish sits another collection; pots made by my husband for his final school exams. He used to enjoy pottery. He has a kiln and two pottery wheels, waiting for him to set up, “one day when he has the time”.

There’s the cute little cat ornament, given to me when I was a child, by an American neighbour who lived just down the road from us. She was an old lady and I enjoyed visiting her. We shared a common love for cats and she named one of her cats “Jo”, after me. When my family moved away from the area, she and I wrote letters to each other for years after.

Inside a glass-fronted bookcase I have a collection of extremely old books, some once belonging to my parents and others my grandfather owned. In amongst the books is a dictionary, the one I used as a child when doing my homework. The spine has fallen off the book and is presently sticky-taped on…Reminder To Self ~ I really must find a book doctor and have that dictionary repaired!

These items are all so very precious to me. They are reminders of friends and family whom I have loved in my life, and have loved me. And yes, I have other treasures in other rooms around the house. They just seem to monopolise my quiet room.

Enjoying my treasures, whilst dusting and vacuuming, actually made the chore more pleasurable! 🙂

Look around your own home. What priceless treasures do you have, which bring a warm glow to your heart when you see them?

advice · inspiration

Sage Advice

Happiness

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”~Epictetus

Since the release of the movie “The Secret” in 2006 people the world over have become engulfed by a new wave of positive thinking, beautifully packaged under the heading of “The Law of Attraction”.

It was with great relief that I embraced the new term of Law of Attraction. I have finally been supplied with three words which cover the epitome of my upbringing.

Being raised by two people who were living examples of the Law of Attraction, my parents, I have repeatedly rejoiced at the examples presented today, on mass scale, of how to live a happier, more fulfilled life. How reassuring it is, hearing words from “those in the know”, showing striking similarities to my own parent’s words.

Words of wisdom from my parents include ~

Attitude is everything.

You will always be presented with choices.

Follow your intuition.

Focus on what is going right in your life, not what’s wrong.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

As one door closes, another opens.

Always find the good in every situation; it is there.

If you’re not happy with something, change it.

You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.

Tomorrow is another day.

Show appreciation for everything in your life.

Money isn’t everything.

Say “I love you” to those you love.

Hugs are important.

Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

This list is incomplete; however each phrase is a topic in itself. There’s plenty more to cover, and with time, I will be giving each phrase more in-depth coverage, as living each day with these phrases in mind is sure to bring joy into your life!

And, “Attitude” is the link which encompasses the list in its entirety!

Personally, I find smiling to be a universal language. A smile not only gives the impression that you are approachable, you feel better on the inside as well. When you are genuinely happy and smiling, try to feel instant anger…it won’t work! It’s impossible to go from one extreme to the other. Any interaction with another person will have a far more pleasing outcome for both parties, if you are lit up, inside and out, with a smile. 🙂

Australia · nostalgia

A Bouquet Of Keys

For days on end, the stainless steel laundry tubs reminded me of long forgotten summer days, spent with my uncle on his dairy farm, in the middle of New South Wales.

As wonderful as the memories were, they puzzled me. Reminders of an uncle, whom I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager, every time I did the laundry? Why???

Bottles had been sterilised in a bleach mixture in my laundry tub, in preparation for my son’s latest batch of home brew, leaving a bleachy-metallic odour lingering for days after…Uncle Jim’s bleachy-metallic odour!

What?!  Why did my beloved Uncle remind me of bleach and stainless steel? This question had my mind working overtime…he had a dairy farm…the milking machines were stainless steel…the vats containing the fresh-from-the-cow milk were stainless steel…they must have been sterilised with something…a bleach mixture maybe?

Regardless, Uncle Jim was back, in my mind’s eye, for a few precious days of re-lived moments…

Way too early in the day, long before any self-respecting man or beast should be stirring (I never was a morning person) rumour has it that Uncle Jim could be found, (should anyone care to find him at that ungodly hour!) herding the cows into the milking sheds.

Memories abound of waking each morning to the crisp summer’s air, after the searing heat of the previous day, snuggled into a light feather quilt, the scent of Uncle Jim’s breakfast of eggs, bacon and fried tomatoes wafting into the room, cooking on the huge fire-wood stove in the adjoining country kitchen.

Remembering that this was a holiday, no school, no one knowing where to find me, steeling a few extra minutes under the feather quilts would be allowed.

The grassy, hay, chicken feather smell, whilst collecting eggs from the chicken coup with my granny, and, as the day grew older, the smell of the dry heat mixing with the dust of the barren country roads, combined with the leaves of the eucalyptus trees.

The high-light of each day began around about the middle of the day, when the dry-heat reached its peak, to a point where I would wonder if I would ever take another breath of cool air again. Uncle Jim would bring the old ute around to the front of the farmhouse, after loading the icy-cold vats of fresh milk into the  back tray, and off we would drive, car windows opened wide, wind hitting our faces, driving along the open dusty roads to the cool rooms, where the milk would await its collection.

With the milk safely delivered to its destination point, it was time for my treat…a huge carton of freezing cold, chocolate or strawberry flavoured milk!

The heat of the day disappeared, along with every mouthful of flavoured milk I took, not daring to return before the next day, when it was nearly time to take the next trip along the dusty roads, to the cool-room and my cool-milk.

As each day drew to a close, (a far more respectable time for both man and beast), Uncle Jim would again herd the cattle along the lines of stalls into the milking sheds, this time with my “help”. Not to be left out, the bull would wander into his favoured stall also, right at the end, where he kept a close watch over his harem!

Now, just when I imagine most of my childhood memories are tucked up safe and sound in their own little colourful boxes and stashed away somewhere in the vicinity of the deep-dark-recesses and long-forgotten, out pops the key to open the box, releasing each magical memory back into the present, cunningly disguised as a whiff of bleach or a carton of strawberry milk.

But I’m not complaining, only surprised. I’m happy to bask in the feather quilt again, just for a moment longer. 🙂

The nose knows far more than we give it credit for, having its own personal source of intelligence.

What joy-filled memories of bygone days have your bouquet of keys unlocked for you?

cooking · recipe

Afternoon Tea ~Welsh Bara Brith

Whilst rummaging through my cupboard the other day, as I often do, the one full of old recipes, mostly hand written on yellowing, scrap pieces of paper, I came across a pretty card with a teddy bear on the front. Inside the card was yet another hand written recipe, sent to my youngest daughter when she was still a little girl.

My auntie, a northern England born and raised lady, had lived for a brief time in Wales. On hearing that my daughter liked cooking she sent her a recipe,  which we had never before heard of here in Australia; Welsh Bara Brith.

The note she added with the recipe was very sweet and I will share it with you here ~ “To the little cook of the house, would you like to make a Welsh Bara Brith loaf? I’m sure Mummy would be pleased and it is so easy to make. I’ll write you out the recipe. You would need a 2lb. loaf tin or two 1lb. loaf tins. Use the same cup or beaker all the time”.

After the recipe, she has written, “Slice, eat buttered. Now isn’t that easy? I’m sure you will like it. Let me know. Love, Auntie”.

Well, my daughter did make it and yes, it is easy to make.

My daughter and myself have been quite remiss for some time, neither of us baking Welsh Bara Brith for years, so today I have rectified that oversight!

Welsh Bara Brith

Pre-heat oven to 120-140 degrees C.

Place 2 cups of mixed dried fruit into a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of dark brown sugar and 1 cup of freshly made, strong black tea. Leave to stand overnight. (Note : I simmer the fruit, tea and sugar gently for about ten minutes, with the lid on the saucepan. It plumps up the fruit beautifully!).

The next morning, (or if you boil the fruit, after the mixture has cooled), add 1 whisked egg, 1 tablespoon of marmalade and 2 cups of self raising flour.

Mix together well with a wooden spoon.

Place the mixture into a baking paper lined loaf tin and cook for approximately 2 hours.

You can see by the photo how anxious my twelve year old son, who arrived home from school just as I took this out of the oven, and I were to have a slice of Welsh Bara Brith ~ the butter melted on it, as the loaf was still warm! 🙂