Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Have I ever mentioned ....

... how much I hate, loathe and detest going to hospital? Or how nervous I get encountering medical personnel, on whatever level? Lots of things come into play here - past medical experiences, the attitude of doctors to non-doctors, the culture of passive, non questioning dependence on the judgement of medical staff encouraged by our National Health Service. Many other things too. A routine appointment is bad enough but if I am in a situation where I have to question or challenge medical opinion my anxiety levels soar. I am in that situation - or at least will be tomorrow morning.

Here it is in a nutshell: at my last consultant's appointment my blood pressure measured 120/80. Absolutely normal. The consultant announced that she was placing me on blood pressure tablets and a low dose aspirin straight away. She told me that I was at risk of a stroke and developing pre-eclampsia. I was in such total shock at this that I didn't ask a single question or raise an objection. I am kicking myself for this. Her words came directly after she dropped her pen in shock upon hearing that we declined the Nuchal Fold Scan which assesses your risk factor of having a baby with a chromosonal abnormality. She wanted to know exactly why and was clearly astonished that, having had a baby with Edwards Syndrome, we would decline it. I can't say she was interested in hearing my explanation, she just wanted to register her surprise and concern.

I am assuming she put me on the medication just in case there was something wrong with the baby, something that would cause my blood pressure to rise suddenly and sharply. When I was pregnant with Esther my blood pressure did shoot up and we were told that that was probably due to the placenta and cord being affected by her condition. The high blood pressure was controlled by the medication and I never had any of the other symptoms of pre-eclampsia. I've never had blood pressure problems or symptoms of pre-eclampsia in any of my previous pregnancies. I don't have them now!!!! Even worse, I found out (thank you Dr. Google) that the medication she put me on is a high strength beta blocker. It is used in pregnancy, but only usually in those cases where other types of blood pressure medication have failed. If I continued on it until the baby was born, the baby would have to be monitored very closely afterwards. It also enters breast milk.

Tomorrow when I visit the hospital I am going to ask all the questions I should have asked at my last appointment and unless the doctor can come up with some compelling reason why I should continue taking the medication I will explain to her that I will stop taking it. I am having my blood pressure checked weekly at my doctors surgery, I take it daily at home and have the testing sticks used for detecting protein in the urine (protein in the urine is one of the pointers for pre-eclampsia). If my blood pressure does go up over the danger level, I'll happily go back onto a different medication and see how I fare. I do not think I am in any danger, but I don't want to be reckless.

Some people relish encounters like this. I do not. I don't like upsetting people, and in my experience doctors do not take kindly to having their decisions challenged or even questioned. Your prayers for courage, wisdom and favour would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease...

... For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

Today we had our 20 week scan. As I have shared previously, when you have had a scan that brought very bad news before you never quite approach them again with the same easy excitement. I was not looking forward to today's visit to the hospital. It is not that we feared learning that our baby had a condition that would affect it for the rest of its life. What we feared was hearing again the news that our baby had a condition that would take its life.

But today we heard good news, and nothing but good.

According to every measure that the hospital takes to ascertain development, our baby is doing fine. The scan took quite a while because our little bean was bouncing around so much. I remarked to the technician how odd that was as I have felt very little movement from the baby. "That's just as well" she said "considering how much it is moving around". The detail of the scan was astonishing. We saw our baby's face full on and in profile, the little lips, the mouth opening and closing. Amazing.

We are so grateful to God for His mercy to us. I was in tears during the scan and have been like it for most of the day. Every concern we had regarding the scan has been answered. Even a fairly minor thing, God has taken care of. I was concerned that because this was a 20 week scan and not a 24 week one, they would not be able to see everything they wanted to. I dreaded being told "You'll have to come back in 4 weeks time" partly because I knew I would spend the next month in high anxiety and also because of the sheer difficulty we have in arranging for someone to look after the boys and for Rob to have time off work. This has happened to us in 2 previous pregnancies. But this time the scan was so clear and the baby so cooperative that we were told no, we didn't have to return. In the grand scheme of things this is so inconsequential, but it was really preying on my mind. The Lord took care of it for us. We have been abundantly blessed.

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I have hope in Him."
(Lamentations 3:24)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Good News

The wonderful, amazing, glorious news is that, at the hospital visit yesterday, I heard a heart beat. Can there be a more wonderful sound?

The bad news is that my consultant has put me onto blood pressure medication (beta blockers) and aspirin because she believes I am at high risk for pre-eclampsia. I have my own feelings as to the wisdom of this but I have to get them into a more coherent and less emotional form before I blog about it more. It looks like there will be a lot more hospital visits in my immediate future. Ugh!

Six Unspectacular Quirks

Deputy Headmistress over at the wonderful Common Room has tagged me for a bit of internet whimsy: Six Unspectacular Quirks. I'm reminded of the picnic at Box Hill in Emma: only six at once?

The rules are these:
you have to mention who tagged you and link to them
you have to mention the rules
you have to nominate six other bloggers by linking to them.

I like to break the rules where I can (without harm to others) just for the sheer fun of it, so I will not be nominating six others. Well actually, I don't know six others well enough to nominate them. British reserve and all that. But if you are reading this and would like to participate, just leave a comment and I will link to you.

Six quirks were embarrassingly easy to find. My husband on the other hand hasn't any. Really, he hasn't. We racked our brains to try and think of one, but we couldn't. Maybe that in itself is a quirk?

1. I have to take a hot water bottle to bed with me every night. Every night without fail or I can't sleep. It doesn't matter what the temperature is or even if it is too hot to sleep with covers, I have to have it. Even in a hot Australian summer. It isn't about feeling cold (although I do feel the cold very easily) it is more of a comfort thing.

2. I don't read very much fiction and what I do read tends to be 'old favourites', but when I do read something new I always, always, always have to read the ending first. If I don't like the ending then of course I don't read the book and for me to like it the ending has to be happy. I get attached to fictional characters and I want the best for them. I know that I am excluding some of the greatest works of fiction by this practice but I really don't care. I know it is shallow but life for me is too short to read sad fiction. Just give me happy, happy, happy. The same holds true for films (fictional not documentary). It is almost physically impossible for me to sit through a film I don't know the ending to. Too much uncertainty. Thank goodness for moviepooper.com.

3. I can't eat a whole chocolate ( the kind that comes in a box) all at once. I watch in awe as someone makes their selection and then pops it whole into their mouth. What if there is something 'unsuspected' in there? What if you don't like the flavour? What if it is so delicious that you regret snaffling it in one mouthful?

4. I can't eat crisps/chips, nuts, snacks straight from the packet. I have to decant. I don't know why. It is just something about putting my hand into a packet. Odd because I've never had a bad experience doing this (or a bad experience eating a chocolate come to that).

5. I don't mind going to the dentist but I really, really, really don't like going to the hair dressers. Consequently I'm always in need of a hair cut. I feel intimidated by the whole hair cutting procedure, by the salon 'ambience' and I loathe having my hair washed (or even worse, my head massaged) by someone else. It is not a relaxing or enjoyable experience for me, even when the resulting haircut looks good. If I could cut it myself, I would.

6. Not sure if this last one is so much a quirk as good prudent common sense. I can only cross at a pedestrian crossing if the signal is 'Go'. Here in the UK that is indicated by 'The Green Man' which sounds deliciously pagan, but isn't. Well, of course, you are only supposed to cross if you have the green man, everyone knows that. In some countries, I believe, you can be fined for crossing a pedestrian crossing at the wrong time. You would be amazed how many people take the most unbelievable risks, however, crossing when the sinister 'Red Man' is showing. Even mothers with children. Even police officers! Even elderly residents with walking sticks who invariably make the traffic screech to a halt! I want to yank them back with a hook on the end of a big stick. Even if the road is completely clear in both directions I just can't do it. Who knows what may appear out of nowhere. I've had people actually smirk at me for waiting and waiting and waiting until the signal changes. Hah! I care not a jot. This has rubbed off on the children. Isaac has recently had to be reminded that it is not polite to reprimand complete strangers, very loudly, for crossing at the wrong time. It does give them a surprise though!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thank You And An Update

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and prayers. We really appreciate them. I'm sorry it took me so long to upload some of them - and to update this poor, neglected blog. I am now officially 17 weeks pregnant and the baby is due on or, more likely, around 10th November. This Wednesday I go to the hospital for a check up. This would normally be done at my GP (General Practitioner) surgery but the midwife who booked me in at the hospital wanted me seen by the consultant 'just in case' because of my history of high blood pressure. Later this month I go for my 20 week scan and from then on in it is just the usual round of blood tests and midwives' appointments, hopefully the fewer the better.

Well, those are the bald facts. I've seen on a number of blogs a jolly little widget that displays your mood for the day. 'Today I am mostly feeling ...' or something like that. I'm not sure such a widget could handle the range of emotions I am feeling at the moment. Overjoyed at being pregnant again without a doubt, elated, excited, hopeful, thankful, privileged, fearful, tearful, anxious, stressed ... The list could go on and on. That so many conflicting emotions can exist simultaneously is surely testament to the amazing flexibility of the human mind. Pregnancy after loss is a tricky thing. I know that many of you know this far better than I. I don't think you ever approach it with the same degree of relaxation or joyful anticipation as in those pre-loss pregnancies. The pregnancy books and sites speak calmingly of how the risk of miscarriage is much less after 12 weeks (and praise God this is true) but when you have lost a little one in your second or third trimester, you are not likely to gain much reassurance from this. At the moment I am battling anxiety and fear on a daily basis. On some days it threatens to overwhelm. I know from experience how destructive such anxiety is to me. Apart from anything else it prevents me from being the joyful mother of the children God has already blessed me with - and it isn't much fun for Rob either. I know with the Lord's strength we can make it through any eventuality. It isn't that I doubt. I just don't like the not knowing what will happen and my anticipating mind has a default setting that anticipates the worst.

So what have I been doing to counter this. I turn to things that have helped me in the past. I read Scripture passages that speak of God's faithfulness and goodness, verses that talk of the strength and joy that the Lord imparts. I meditate and pray these through. I listen to sermons and Christian broadcasts that focus on these things and I read inspiring Christian books, articles and (of course) blogs. I do all of these things fitfully and imperfectly and the Lord in His mercy does the rest.

I hope this doesn't sound too whiney and dreary. We are both truly overjoyed to be expecting again. It is very exciting and at the grand old age of 43, not something I had taken for granted would ever happen again. Rob and I can say with total confidence 'The Lord has blessed us!'. The awful vomiting (some days after every bite of food or drink - much, much worse than ever before) has stopped. Yippee! I still have the all day nausea but you cannot believe how bearable that is without the actual throwing up. I am anaemic - but have a good iron supplement. My blood pressure, according to our home monitor, remains out of the danger zone - despite the worries of the hospital midwife who managed to be both over zealous and utterly ineffectual at the same time. My cervix is showing no signs of its previous incompetence - so I am looking forward to avoiding bedrest. And, despite the nausea, I can even sit up for long enough to write a rambling blog post! At this rate I may even get some ironing done!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Homemade Soup, Rhubarb Pie and a little bun in the oven.

Today I made some celery soup and a rhubarb pie (with the first of our rhubarb from the allotment). No big deal you are no doubt saying, but these are the first things I have actually made from scratch in the last 5 weeks or so. It is testimony to the resilience of the human stomach that we have survived so long on ready meals, sandwiches, cold chicken and cereal, but survive we have. I am recovering nicely from what ended up being pleurisy but still feel somewhat on the fragile side. I had thought that the horrid pain in my chest and back was just a pulled muscle or possibly even my imagination, but pleurisy it turned out to be. No treatment as due to an (ahem) underlying condition I am unable to take the antibiotics usually given for it.

Which brings us to the little bun in the oven. . . .

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just a quick update

When I posted last week I confidently expected to be fully recovered within a couple of days.


The boys are fully well and Rob too (except for a niggling cough). Praise God for that. I, on the other hand am still doing a passable impression of a Victorian invalid. I am feeling pretty rough. On the menu this week are painful sinuses, coughing and vomiting. I am comforted by the thought that it is only a virus and it will go, eventually.

Probably just in time for the next family reunion.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Cometh the family reunion ...

... cometh the virus!

For the last 10 days or more we have all been sick, sick, sick. Nothing serious, thanks be to God, just a thoroughly nasty viral infection. In fact it is the nastiest I can ever remember having. Even my poor husband, who is normally incredibly robust, succumbed and had to take time off work. Cue sore throats, runny noses, infected sinuses, aching limbs, throbbing heads with a side order of nausea and vomiting and a mild chest infection to finish. For four days I was unable to even get out of bed, except to stagger to the bathroom or the couch. Too sick to read, can you believe, and way too sick to look at a computer monitor. Even when I had pneumonia, I don't remember feeling this bad.

We are all on the mend now, however, and I am anxious to gather up the reins of my household in capable hands. Ha! The 'household' looks as if it has been sacked by every ancient tribe that ever indulged in sacking as a recreational sport. It will be a while before even a semblance of order is restored. Rob has gone back to work and the children are in fine fettle. It is 10.30 in the morning and I have wilted already. Back to the couch, I think.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March Meanderings

March, it is said, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Nothing is said about it creeping around like a cold, wet and miserable slug in between times. Yet this March has been, weather wise, definitely on the slug-like side. The weather has been uniformly horrid: mediocre and horrid for most of the time with the occasional exciting but horrible interlude.

Fortunately the month has had other compensations, chief among which was the opportunity to meet, a couple of weekends ago, with The Head Girl, who blogs at the ever wonderful The Common Room. The HG is an utter darling and all of us here were left wishing she could have visited with us for longer (and brought her entire family too). The boys are often a little wary of female visitors (odd, I'm not sure why) but they took to her immediately and have been most vocal about how much they liked her, both at the time and since. We met initially at the British Museum and it is amazing how many glorious treasures you can see in a very short space of time without too much cultural indigestion. The following day she ventured out to our corner of South London/Kent to explore the charity shops, which I am relieved to say yielded up some bargains. The weather for her visit was of the exciting but horrible sort - lashing rain, howling wind etc, but it didn't daunt her intrepid spirit!

This past weekend (ah, yes, I'm sorry about the absence of anything Easterish on this blog - we do celebrate it, just not very well) Rob's parents joined us for a visit, to the delight of all. We managed to get a day out by ourselves - something which usually only happens once a year and is always greatly appreciated. The weather was astonishing - hailstones practically on the hour every hour for the best part of the day. The rest of the holiday it snowed almost continuously, but never producing enough on the ground to build a snowman or even fashion a respectable snowball. Dismal.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar 1936: Sandwiches and Fillings for the month of March

1. Bridge rolls, put together with liver sausage mashed to a paste with cream or salad dressing, and flavoured to taste with lemon juice. Use with thin slices of radishes.

2. Mix ½ cupful of picked shrimps with ½ cupful chopped fried chicken livers, and minced onion or shallot and pepper to taste. Season with salt if re­quired. Moisten with mayonnaise. Use with thinly buttered white bread.

3. Stir ¼ pound ground dates, ¼ pound minced figs or raisins, and ¼ pound ground mixed nuts together. Mix in the strained juice of half a lemon and half an orange. Use with thinly buttered brown bread.

4. Wash, drain, and mince enough watercress to fill half a cup. Moisten a cream cheese with cream to taste. Stir in watercress. Spread on small rounds of wholemeal bread. Sandwich with a slice of scalded, peeled tomato.

5. Mix salmon and shrimp paste with chopped olives to taste. Use with white bread and butter and cucumber

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar 1936: Table Decorations for the month of March

1. Flat bowl of mauve and yellow crocuses growing in pebbles.

2. Specimen vases of scarlet anemones.

3. Short sprays of almond blossom, arranged in black Wedgwood bowl or vases.

4. Daffodils arranged in a flower holder in a green bowl, stalks hidden by moss.

5. Bowl of primroses, fringed with violets (very flat bowl).

6. Basket of Cape fruit, arranged on a lining of geranium leaves.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar 1936: Tea Bread for the month of March

Pastries: Lemon cheese cakes; Bakewell tarts; Mille feuilles.

Biscuits: Chocolate; Ginger; and Coco-nut pyramids.

Buns: Cherry; Chocolate and walnut; and Hot Cross Buns.

Layer Cakes: Orange; Chocolate with butter cream filling; and George Washington.

Large Cakes: Madeira; Dundee; Seed and Ginger.

Sandwiches: Puree au foie gras; cream cheese and walnut; Tunny fish moistened mayonnaise and flavoured with minced pimento, used with bread toasted on one side; bridge rolls covered with chicken, or tongue salad and cress.

Note: To make toast sandwiches, cut toast in half, butter inside thinly, and put halves together with filling.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

When Everything In The Garden Isn't Lovely: personal reflections on an internet dispute

King Jesus hath a garden, full of divers flowers
Where I go culling posies gay, all times and hours.

Where naught is heard but paradise bird,
Harp, dulcimer, lute,
With cymbal, trump and tymbal,
And the tender soothing flute


The above is part of a rather lovely carol which I haven’t sung since my schooldays, when it was part of our choir repertoire. It has flitted in and out of my mind over recent days. I love its imagery of a garden filled with spiritual virtues. It got me to thinking of the image of the Church as a garden too (filled with flowers, some more divers than others). If in the words of another hymn “All the world is God’s own field” couldn’t we be that nice cultivated bit (tortuous I know, but please).

In my own corner of the Christian cyber garden, however, the music has been far from harmonious of late. For the past 15 months or so I have been following an internet dispute between two groups of Christians. I’ll try to be as vague as possible about it but not because The Issue under dispute is unimportant. It is important and one that does concern every Christian directly or indirectly. It isn’t a ‘salvation/damnation’ issue – although one party is fairly adamant that the other party believes and acts as though it is (and that party, equally adamantly, denies it). I’ll be vague because I suspect that although the little corner of cyber-Christendom I frequent is a small and parochial one, this sort of dispute and the behaviour it has engendered is probably happening all across the web, over issues as far ranging as baptism and the right colour for a church carpet. So if you think you recognise the dispute I am referring to, you may be right or, on the other hand, completely wrong.

When I first encountered the dispute I thought that if the taking of sides were called for, my ‘side’ would be pretty obvious. My job, prior to marriage, concerned the very issues over which the dispute first hit the internet, so I had a natural interest and it might be assumed certain sympathies. Disconcertingly, I found after just a few salvos from each side that this was not to be the case. Neither side, to my woolly mind is completely ‘right’ but (to broadly paraphrase Jane Austen) I do believe that the weight of goodness, though it has shifted about pretty much of late, largely falls on one side and not the other. That was a lesson to me in itself. My presuppositions and natural inclinations are not infallible guides. Not rocket science, but sobering to me. I also had to realise, yet again, that having a sympathetic, humble and likable personality does not mean that one is always right. Nor does the absence of such a personality mean one is more likely to be wrong. As the old saying goes: in the English Civil War the Cavaliers were romantic but wrong whereas the Roundheads were right, but repulsive.

The dispute has burned up a lot of ground on the internet. The number of posts and comments on it must be in the thousands by now (and here is another one). Some of the things I have read (on both sides) have been filled with such downright spite and meanness that it has taken my breath away and all in the name of ‘contending for the truth’. I have seen one side split and almost devour itself and have been astonished at how some of the participants involved can be so continually involved and yet have time to do anything else. They could make a fortune with an ebook on time management.

I have spent a fair number of hours reading all the posts and comments but as yet have never commented myself. I would like to think that this is because I took my mother’s teaching of ‘if you can't say something nice say nothing at all’ to heart, but I suspect it is more to do with my own fear of confrontation. One side tends to disallow critical comments on its blogs, while the other allows the comments but tends to roast their critics with alarming zeal. Anyone who broaches a criticism or urges moderation is liable to be treated as a fellow traveller of the opposing side, or worse. There is more than one way of censoring debate and it has certainly scared me off.

This may be viewed as moral cowardice and probably is, but what the Lord has been speaking to me constantly about over these past months is rather my own motivation for following the dispute. It has come very close to voyeurism and of that I am not proud. The truth I have realised is that while I have a fear of confrontation that involves me personally, I find it horribly entertaining to watch it unfold in the lives of others. Especially if I can do it anonymously. And that is sin. Popular entertainment shows thrive on this kind of sin, but having no television does not guarantee immunity by any means. Meditating on scripture is the medicine needed:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8 NASB

So am I still following the dispute? Yes, but evaluating my ‘lurking’ behaviour each time I read. I justified my initial curiosity as one of ‘professional interest’ – so that I could better understand some important issues and the various arguments involved, so that I could help others as they worked through similar issues (as I conceivably might be asked to do). Knowing how woefully easy it is to self deceive, I had better make jolly sure that I have a good purpose in reading such things and that it is God’s good purpose and not one of my own invention. And I had also better be sure to pray, more often and with more fervency for those involved on all sides, that the noisy gong and clanging cymbal might be replaced by ‘the tender, soothing flute’ and one day, hopefully soon, charity prevail.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Routine Review

So how did the week go, housekeepingwise? Well, this is how it should have gone in theory:

This week's focus: Bathroom
Monday: Bathroom
Tuesday: Boys' Bedroom and Bathroom
Wednesday: Dining/Play Room and Bathroom
Thursday: Kitchen and Bathroom
Friday: Living Room and Bathroom
Saturday: Our Bedroom and Bathroom
Sunday: Spare Bedroom and Bathroom

Well, it did sort of work and I am feeling decidedly positive about it. What could you possibly find to do everyday in a bathroom, you may ask? In my bathroom, plenty! I scrubbed the toilet within an inch of its life, washed down the floor, wiped down all the tiles (and the room is practically all tiles), cleaned out the bathroom cabinet (ugh), wiped over the shelves and the bottles of lotions and potions that were on them, washed the curtains and the window, hoovered dust from every crevice I could find (including the extractor fan which was wearing a fur coat), folded towels, removed limescale etc. etc.

None of this would have ever been done in a day (unless I did absolutely nothing else), but spread out over a week it seemed managable. The airing cupboard (except for the towels) has been left undone as has the jam cupboard (we have an under eaves cupboard where we keep a little tumble dryer and all our jars of jam, chutney, pickles and dried vegetables). I'll do them next time, perhaps.

What did I learn? I learned to my horror how filthy my bathroom actually was - even with a daily wiping down of 'essential items'. The dust that gathers in a bathroom is quite astonishing and I don't want to dwell on where it all comes from. I learned that the underside of sinks get grimy as well as the sink itself, that I hate limescale with a vengeance and that towels really do look nicer and take up less space when they are folded in thirds (even my towels which are a mish-mash of handed down unmatchables, some of which have stretched so much over time that they are no longer even rectangular).

As for the daily focus, well that worked okay too. Rooms got a little more TLC than they usually get, for relatively little time spent - this being on top of my 'morning routine' (a la Flylady). Actually, I'm stretching things to call it a morning routine. It's much more nebulous than that. Fluid would be a nice way of putting it. I don't as of yet have anything approaching an evening routine, which is why we wake each morning to a house that looks as though it has been burgled in the night.

What didn't work? The weekend. Things pretty much fell apart at the weekend. Saturday I had washing to catch up with (still have the ironing) because the weather had been to bad to hang things out. I have a tumble dryer but it only emerges from the cupboard in the direst emergency. While I laundered, the boys whooped it up elsewhere and when Rob returned from the allotment it was time to go shopping blah, blah, blah ....... . As for Sunday, well I would prefer not to do housework on the Sabbath but at the present time I have to. Maybe a time will come when it will not be so but for the present it is. But I only do the essentials, so the spare room will have to wait. I cook on a Sunday as well. Do you think that the time will come when I don't have to do that too. Oh happy thought.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Housewives Monthly Calendar: The Cook's Guide: February (1936)


1. Serve roast pheasant with chestnut puree.
2. Try kedjeree, made of Finnan haddock, for breakfast.
3. Mashed buttered Swedes go well with boiled mutton.
4. Start dinner with cream of artichokes.
5. Make a spiced fruit cake, or a Genoa or Dundee Cake.
6. What about fried pork sausage cakes, topped with steamed eggs, for lunch?
7. Say "Au revoir" to roast partridges at dinner.
8. Partridge paste and toast is a good savoury, better when served with celery.
9. Finish with apricot souffle pancakes at lunch or dinner.
10. Make fried whitebait and thin brown bread and butter the fish course.
11. Serve a piece of pickled pork with stewed rabbit.
12. What's wrong with braised halibut, mashed potatoes and a green salad for lunch?
13. Start dinner with oyster stew and salted cream-crackers.
14. A heart-shaped layer cake, please, for tea, with strawberry butter filling.
15. Ham a la king on buttered toasts for lunch, but with chicory salad, please.
16. Try scalloped potatoes and apple and celery salad with hot roast pork.
17. If you can obtain celeriac, boil and butter it, or make it into a salad.
18. Serve vanilla custard, enriched with sliced bananas, with steamed fig pudding.
19. Why not prawns a la Newburg, garnished buttered peas, and ringed boiled rice, for lunch?
20. Order oranges, lemons and sugar for marmalade.
21. Make a Simnel cake the piece de resistance at tea.
22. Serve Lyonnaise potatoes and scalloped toma­toes with grilled lamb cutlets for lunch or dinner.
23. Corned beef hash is seasonable for lunch but give it potato, onion and celery salad for company.
24. Celebrate the birthday of Capuchin Chabot, the inventor of omelets, by serving an omelet at one meal.
25. Let us have roast teal and orange salad for dinner.
26. Cream, custard sauce and junket all mate well with steamed rhubarb.
27. New Malta potatoes are in season. Serve, moistened butter, and sprinkled chopped chives.
28. Make your favourite galantine for supper to celebrate the birthday of Chef Prevost, who invented galantines.
29. Say "Good-bye" to February with oysters, hare pate and buttered toast, grilled medallions of steak, new potatoes, buttered spinach, orange compote, and biscuits, celery and Stilton cheese.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

The Housewives Monthly Calendar: February's Table of Work (1936)

Take a look at your store cupboard in the beginning of February. Decide how much orange marmalade you want to make this year, then wait until Seville oranges are at their cheapest, when order oranges, lemons, and sugar as required, and make and bottle some orange syrup.

ORANGE SYRUP (For Bottling)
4 sweet oranges
4 Seville oranges
1 lemon
4 mandarins
6 lb. sugar
6 quarts water

Wash 2 Seville and 2 sweet oranges and 2 man­darins and grate their rinds. Extract juice from all the fruit. Stir grated rind into the fruit juice. Cover and stand until the next morning. Place sugar in a preserving pan. Add water. Stir over fire until sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove pan from fire. Cool. Stir the strained fruit juices into the syrup, taking care to squeeze the grated rind thoroughly so that none of the oil from the rinds is lost. Bottle and seal. Dilute to taste, when wanted, with aerated or still water.


1. Make a thorough inspection of your whole home about the middle of the month. Start with the ceilings and walls, then examine the windows and doors before going on to the floors, carpets, and lino­leums. If you live in a house and own it, you won't take long. If you are paying rent, you must keep two lists of necessary repairs, one for the owner and one for yourself. If you own your home, or if you have taken it on a repairing lease, list repairs and require­ments as you go along under the following headings:
(a) Structural; (b) Decorations; (c) Furnishings; (d) Cleaning, in the following way.

(2) Note any loose bricks, or slates, broken gutters, damaged pipes, broken windows, or crumbling plaster, or blocked drains. See that all lavatories are in proper working order. Examine scullery sink and taps in case any new washers or taps are needed. See that all electric sockets are secure, or that none have loosened. Look to all door locks and window fasten­ings.

(3) Make a note of any decorations necessary. Plan what you want done and arrange for estimates.

(4) Write out a list of any new furniture required, noting height, width, and depth most suitable for the space you can allow. Measure for any new curtains. Send away any bedding that needs renewing, and any valuable rugs that require expert cleaning or invisible repairs. If you have valuable Oriental rugs, send them to a reliable Oriental house. Take a note of any new lampshades needed and where. Send away any china that wants riveting, and any silver needing repolishing or repairing.

(5) Tell cleaners to call on a certain date for blankets, bed covers, eiderdowns, etc.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Disjointed thoughts on a homemaking routine.

Of course, the house isn't perfect. Wouldn't want it to be. It isn't even perfect in a 'not perfect but it's just how I would like it to be' sort of way. We still have clutter (by which I mean piles of ugly stuff - not books or meaningful doodads). But it is just so much better. However, I have the wit to realise that unless I implement some kind of system for 'household business' it will not be long before domestic chaos reigns once more and I am back to weeping and wailing into my tea. So I am resolved to find some sort of housekeeping routine or rhythm that will ensure that things get done (and that my sons get an education in something other than crisis cleaning).

In the past I tried FlyLady, but without success. More my fault than her's I am sure, as I know she has helped countless multitudes of women on their way to domestic serenity and I know she is of the firm conviction that her programme will work for everyone. I, however, just don't 'get' Flylady. It is rather like knitting - I know how to do the basic stitch, but just can't follow the pattern. I understand the shiny sink business, the am and pm routines. I get the weekly zones, the 15 minute missions and of course, the need to de clutter. What I don't understand is when you actually get to clean - unless your morning and evening routines are each roughly 6 hours long, meet in the middle and take in every room not covered by your weekly zone.

So, something else is needed. Stealing the idea of zones, I'm going to build on an idea of a Daily Focus which will cover each room of the house on a rotating basis. I've put them in alphabetical order for they are all as needy as each other in their own different ways.:

Boys Bedroom
Dining/Play Room
Living Room
Our Bedroom
Spare Bedroom
Stairs and landings (being in a maisonette we have 2 staircases)

Each room will also be the subject of a Weekly Focus, for the more in depth sort of cleaning and organisation that there just isn't time for on a daily basis but can be spread out over the course of a week (like cleaning bathroom grout with a toothbrush - only joking). Hopefully after a while it will be more a matter of maintenance than full scale crisis recovery cleaning. With less clutter this could be achievable. There might even be room for something creative. Obviously some things will need to be done every day, in the kitchen and bathroom for instance, but this plan will at least give me an area of focus. Laundry will have to be done, of course, and ironing too as I have no wish to repeat last December's 70+ item marathon. Will it work? I have no idea, but it does feel good to have something down on paper.

Um, then there is the matter of cooking, as I guess we have to eat. I'm not quite sure what to do here. Menu planning I suppose, although I am rather a failure at this. It is easy to plan, enjoyable in fact, but it is the cooking of the plan that trips me up. I am in a phase of really not liking to cook. Liking to eat, but not liking to cook. Except cake. I think I am going to have to re-evaluate the kind of cooking I actually do, would like to do and should be doing. And re-evaluate the food budget too. For example, nothing is easier than slices of meat from a joint roasted earlier with maybe jacket potatoes or a bulgar salad and vegetables. I've always reasoned that we can't afford to buy roasting joints of meat (unless marked waaay down for quick sale). Frugal stews and bakes instead - but then these don't get made (because of my own failure to plan and organise), and so we fall back on ready meals or take-aways. Frugal self-destruction. More on this for a later post.

The New Year Starts Here

Well yes I know it doesn't really, not by anybody's calendar, it's just that it feels that way to me. The last month has been spent in a whirl and feels quite disconnected in time. My lovely, wonderful and much beloved eldest sister has been visiting for a month from Australia and we have had such a delightful and totally distracting time. We have done a fair bit of visiting and travelling, both to relatives (ours) and in-laws (hers) and have even managed to fit in a few museums, galleries and teashops. We have also, in a repeat of last year, done an amazing amount of decluttering. More than I believed possible, in fact. The result is astonishing to me. I can find things in cupboards. I have room to put things in cupboards. Even our poor homeless hoover now has a home (we toyed with making our new 'hoover cupboard' a hideaway for Mummy when things get tough, but decided against it). Have I mentioned how much I love my sister?

The result is, however, now that she is gone and we all have finished crying, that I feel as though I stand on the threshold of a new life. An organised life. A life where things are put away, not left out to get lost or trip up the unwary. A life where cleaning is possible because one does not have to excavate in order to do it. No excuses. A terrifying prospect.