family · gardening


sprouted seeds

To have the privilege, be the silent observer of life unfolding in its most rudimentary form, has great impact on the psyche of the young. To know the grain will become the tree, plants the seed of understanding regarding our own place on this terra firma. And holding this belief, I have enormous gratitude for my mother, who in recent weeks, arranged a sprouter for the youngest in our family, so he too could make this cognitive connection for himself.

Seed sprouters have certainly made significant leaps since my early days. Ours, being ice-cream lids or saucers lined with damp cotton wool, played the role of propagators to handfuls of wheat. Every kindergarten nature table in the 1970’s displayed them proudly. The sprouting science did not stop there, but continued on into early high school. ‘Controlled experiments’  were devised to prove hypotheses around photosynthesis – one poor saucer being sentenced to a darkened cupboard whilst the other basked on the sill. After a short space of time it became abundantly clear to us all, as we extracted the yellowed, wispy lifeless growth from the pitch, that plants do indeed require sunlight to thrive. Basic conversion of light to energy – simple chemistry.

If you believe that your grasp (and that of your progeny) of your collective place in the scheme of things is quite sound, rendering a seed propagator superfluous, then there’s more to be learnt. Once their educational role has been performed, these lovely shoots will become nutritious accompaniments to your sandwiches, salads and stir fries. Think alfalfa, radish and broccoli (below) for your sandwiches, adzuki beans, mung beans and lentils for your salads and chick peas and soya beans for extra protein in your next stir fry. Who knew that simple germination could yield such results?

seed sprouter

Postscript: and for the Breaking Bad fans amongst us, in the words of Walter White: always respect the chemistry.

family · health and wellbeing


Betty Crocker Cookbook

Whilst flipping through a 1950’s copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, I came across this cracking gem.

I’m not sure which of the concepts snared my attention first. Was it the glaring absence of ‘mindfulness’ (that lady is definitely not living in the moment) or was it the odd collection of pastimes that she defined as ‘pleasant’? I mean, does the mental picture of striking your partner across the head with a golf club make the vacuuming easier? Do thoughts of being caught in a gale force wind on a yacht get the washing dry any faster? And really, visions of reclining on sand in formal dress would not prompt me to scrub any harder. Perhaps though, images of dancing with your lover while your husband looks on enviously, could make the ironing less tedious….

However, after spending a relatively extended period of time on this planet, I have come to understand that chores are what they are, and the sooner (meaning younger) we come to grips with this, the more internally settled we become. (And that philosophy forms the basis of why the dependents in this household are destined to become indentured servants.)

washing the bike

The plan is, rather than wistful thoughts of gaming parlours or train surfing, their focus will be on the spokes of the wheel, and should any notions of nightclubs or bars creep in, they will be rapidly suppressed by the passion to remove every leaf from an outdoor crevice.

sweeping up the leaves

And hopefully by the time they reach a decent age, any dream of a casino or like gambling den will be fiercely overshadowed by the love of freshly cut grass.

mowing the lawn

All flippancy aside, what I have learnt is that the dread and reluctance toward a chore is inversely proportional to the personal reward gained at its completion. To stand back and admire a neatly clipped garden bed, a freshly made bed or a tidied out cupboard, remarkably outweighs the initial abhorrence of the prospect. And what I do know for sure, is that there are opportunities to experience this pleasure time and time again.

Postscript: There’s a verandah that needs sweeping, so I’m off to harbor me some pleasant ones……

family · health and wellbeing


old ted

Depending upon how fortunate you have been across the years, you will have, positioned securely in the background of your life, a handful of souls who simply by the knowledge of their existence, will provide a level of psychological solidarity to your life that cannot be purchased or generated overnight. The significance of these people has been shaped through time and experience and they carry a history of you within them. Various life stages may mean that for extended periods we may see little of them, but neither the passage of time nor geographical distance will weaken the connective threadwork that has been firmly reinforced through hours of conversation, shared moments and candid disclosure. I am referring of course, to old friends.

It is so easy to fall prey to the sheer volume of ‘to dos’, that in a blink turn your days into weeks, months and sometimes years. The difficulty lies in recognising this so that before long you have a thousand loads of laundry done, one hundred kilometres of floor vacuumed, five hundred kilograms of vegetables peeled and one meaningful conversation with a friend. While I’m not advocating stained garb, a filthy house or packaged meals, I’m just being time-keeper, signalling that enough time has elapsed in one life station and it’s time to move to the next.

What prompts you to stare down the predatory time-eating beast clothed in schedules, chores and responsibilities may be a phone reminder, a calendar jotting or a strategically placed photograph. Whatever method you choose, embrace it, strut past this brute and seek out your friend. No doubt you will find them where you last left them, now filled with many new stories to relate and genuine interest absorb all of yours.

good to see you again

book reviews · family · homemaking


Celebrate by Pippa Middleton If you can’t squander an afternoon leafing through a beautiful new book at this time of year, then when can you?

After perusing her newly published book, it appears Pippa Middleton and I may be kindred spirits. I say this sheepishly, as I initially let the media hype color my view of this young lady, and was reticent to open the cover. So glad I pushed past this bias, because I now have a lovely reference of simple ideas to add to my repertoire. Should you need a little inspiration, this is a valuable book to visit.

You may not wish to follow Pippa’s ideas slavishly, but a good 30 minutes spent within the pages serves as a wonderful reminder of the simple things you love to do – and need to carve out more time for. summerSet across the seasons, each section contains doable recipes, practical family activities and plenty of shoestring decorating ideas. With charming photos and illustrations as well as a smattering of childhood verse and cheery text, this is certainly a feel-good read.

Luxuriating in the post-christmas peace, I can think of no better way to reward recent efforts, than disappearing into a new book – particularly one that sparks the imagination and opens the door to a sea of new projects to embark on in 2013. If you were the recipient of a new read this christmas, make sure you spend some quality time with it before the hubbub of the new year begins again. I’m happy to take your recommendations, as I’m sure ‘Celebrate’ will be devoured by the end of the week.

Postscript: It was this candid opening in Pippa’s book that really won me over –  ‘It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of thirty, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom. One day I might be able to make sense of this. In the meantime, I think it’s fair to say that it has its upside and downside. I certainly have opportunities many can only dream of, but in most ways I’m a typical girl in her twenties trying to forge a career and represent herself in what can sometimes seem rather strange circumstances.’



christmas tree

Despite the carpet of needles, the slight lean and the odd squashed bit, nothing beats the unmistakable scent permeating the entire house and the twinkling majesty of the christmas pine, steadfast in the corner of the room.

It seems there is a role for every family member to play in the christmas tree ritual. The careful manoeuver into the car by teenage son (rule of nature: size of tree selected must exceed boot depth by 50cm) with crossed fingers on the drive homeward that the prize does not escape through the unfastened hatch.

The installation into the living room – joint effort by all to ensure: tree stands straight rather than Pisa style, a minimum of detritus is shed along the way (mother’s priority) and enough room around base to allow for the sea of packages that will inevitably appear.

lights on the treeLights must be expertly applied before any form of decoration takes place. Teenage son is then excused to attach metres of fairy lights around the periphery of the home Lampoon style. At this point, teenage daughter with self-claimed aesthetic prowess, proceeds to direct the decoration process with as much skill and concentration as a philharmonic conductor. (Should any individual make an inadvertent ornament placement, you can be sure it will be carefully adjusted during her private visits to the tree).

decorating the tree

And taking in the wonder of it all, the youngest, whose role may not have visible significance, but one that ensures the magic, spirit and sparkle of the season pervades the entire household.

the final touches