Tag Archives: Domesticity

My spring garden

In usual fashion, just as my garden is starting to look lovely, we are pulling up our roots, and moving house. The wrench is not too painful this time: I am glad to be heading home. But among the sadnesses of leaving Adelaide is the loss of our garden.

It took me a long time to get into gardening mode here. Gardening is soul restoring, but I have been rather unhappy during my time here, and that unhappiness has made it hard for me to push myself to get started on anything much. But the girls and I got a few things established, and this spring has been a delight, as we have watched a succession of blooms appearing.

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Day 13 – Done!

It’s all done, bar the final patch-up painting, which is up to us to do. That should happen sometime around October.*

So now, the justification. You will recall the problem – a long narrow kitchen, with a very old small wall oven, and very little bench space. We wanted our new kitchen to have much more bench space, and a much larger oven. Like most people, we had to be careful about how much we spent on it, so we didn’t want to knock through walls, or get involved in major structural alterations at all. We knew that we could go a little further into our family room, but we didn’t want to intrude too much. The family room in this house is beautiful – it has french doors out onto a small, very private verandah, a high, pitched ceiling, and a generous amount of space. The proportions are excellent. We wanted our new kitchen to work with the family room, not dominate it. (The kitchen is just over to the left from where this photo is taken.)

We also wanted to retain a beautiful broad window just above the sink, looking out under a pergola towards the back yard. I love this window; it’s a very pleasant outlook, and I can keep an eye on what the girls are doing, mostly, until they disappear up the trees, or onto the top of the garden shed (out of sight in this photo…). All this meant working within the existing walls and the existing basic shape of the kitchen.

We came up with a kitchen that is very similar to the old one. But there are three major differences.
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Day 1 – The problem

I have had … issues … with the kitchen in our house since the day we moved in. It’s a long, especially narrow galley kitchen, and the people who put it in about 20 years ago made some curious design decisions.

For starters, there’s the wall oven. It’s a gas oven – I love gas hobs, but not gas ovens – and in recent months it has started to do dubious things like switching itself off while I’m cooking something. Also, it needs cleaning. It has a tall narrow cupboard to one side of it, which has been good for nothing but the broom. In between the oven and the bench is a narrow space of about 40cm, just enough to open the door on the grill oven and the warming draw, but far too small to enable me to position myself right in front of the oven when I am putting baking trays in and out.

Along one wall is a pantry cupboard, about 35cm wide, and a side bench and more cupboards. Good enough storage, but the bench is too narrow to serve as anything other than a repository for packets of tea, and for two larger appliances, my Kenwood mixer, and my food processor. I use both of these appliances a lot, so I keep them out on the bench permanently, instead of having to lift them in and out of cupboards every time I use them.

Because the cupboard and the pantry are 35cm wide, the bench on the other side of the galley had to be narrower than usual, to leave a wide enough walk way. That entailed a long and narrow hob, which takes up 110cm of bench space (compared to a more usual 60cm, or even 90cm). The extractor fan sticks right out over the hob, at just such a height that if you are stirring a pot on the back of the hob, and you are a little inattentive when you straighten up, you will crack your head on it. I have done so far too many times, and I’m surprised that you haven’t all heard my bellows of pain.

The sink has metal draining racks on either side, taking up yet more bench space to no good effect. And down the other end, at last, a proper bench. But it is constrained by a heavy half-wall at one end, which I think is probably part of the original structure of the house. It’s about 30cm wide – all dead space. The bench itself is only 140cm long, and some of that space is taken up by the kettle and the coffee grinder. Yes, I know well organised cooks ought to be able to manage in very small spaces, and indeed, I can, but I also have three children who are all learning to cook, and there is simply not enough space for them.

Behind the bench, on the same wall as the pantry, ‘though there is a door in between, is a small cupboard, at just the right height to catch Ms Eleven’s head as she walks around the corner. It wasn’t a problem when we moved into the house, but she has grown since then. We’ve kept a footstool underneath the cupboard, partly so the height challenged among us have easier access to the higher shelves in the kitchen, and partly to provide a small physical obstacle between Ms Eleven’s head and the cupboard.

It was possibly a well-designed kitchen 20 years ago. But I have found it very, very frustrating – difficult to work in, and full of compromise solutions. As the oven clock says whenever there has been a power outage:


Sceptical housewifery

I got an e-mail message from a supermarket chain last week (loyalty card thingie – it’s not that I have a deep and intimate relationship with supermarkets).


They’re changing the size of laundry scoops and the size of laundry powder packs. Packs are reducing in size, but the price stays the same. Looks like a gyp, but scoops are reducing in size to, so they promise, promise, promise, that we will get exactly the same number of washes out of each pack.

Hmmmm….. not so fast with that claim, clever marketing dudes!

emptyscoopsHere are the old scoop, and the new. The new one is much smaller than the old. So on the face of it, it looks as though the claim is plausible. We will get just as many washes out of the new smaller pack and the new smaller scoop, as we got out of the old bigger pack, and the old bigger scoop.  Nothing to see here, move along please.

I thought that I might test the claim.  smallscoopfullAs it turns out, a full new scoop fills the old scoop up to exactly the half-way mark. So if the new scoop fills the old scoop up to the half-way mark, all must be well. Two halves make one whole; an old scoop must be twice the size of one new scoop. Just as many washes to be had out of the new pack and new scoop.

But, when you add a second new scoop to the already half-full old scoop, this is what you get.

overfullscoop moundscoop

A suspicious looking mound.

Two new scoops make more than one old scoop. Not so many washes out of the new smaller pack, which is sold at the same price as the old, bigger pack.

To be sure, there’s only about 10 to 15mls in it, in a scoop (old) that holds about 120mls, more or less. But the way I figure it, when you use the new scoop, you end up using about 10% more than you would have used for an equivalent old-scoop wash.

There’s probably some clever explanation for this. No doubt the manufacturers will tell us that on average, between half washes and full washes, we will get “about” the same number of washes out of the new packs and new scoops. No matter that in order to be environmentally friendly, we are urged to wait until we have a full load before putting the washing machine through.  Maybe it’s to do with the way we measure quarter cups (new scoop) and half cups (old scoop): a quarter cup is set for convenience at 60mls, but a half cup at 125mls. Maybe the manufacturers have run their claim past consumer organisations, and it’s all close enough, so that’s okay then.  Whatever. The fact is, on the face of it, I will get less washes out of the new packs.

All the washing powder manufacturers are making the move, so there’s nothing to be done about it. Except raise a sceptical eyebrow.

Knitting! And advice, please?

One pure wool cardigan for Miss Ten.


I am not an accomplished knitter – plain and purl is about my limit. But there’s a fair amount that can be done with such simple stitches, like the diamond pattern on this cardigan, complete with beads in the centre of each diamond. I worked out the diamond pattern myself, and fitted it into the overall pattern for the cardigan. And if you look closely, you will see that each bead is knitted into the garment, not just sewn on later. I found out how to do that by spending a bit of time on teh interweb, where all knowledge may be found, eventually, and stopping into Borders and consulting their craft books on the sly.


As well as not being an accomplished knitter, I am not all that fast. Not because I haven’t got a reasonable technique, but because the entire project can get set to one side for months when my life gets busy with other things. Like going through a traumatic move, and then spending a difficult year settling in. So this cardigan sat in cold storage for over a year, even though the only thing I had left to do was the bands. Alas, during that time some moths managed to get to it (I said some not very polite things when I found the holes), so I had to reknit parts of a couple of panels, but thankfully, not the beaded sections.

Miss Ten is delighted to have it, ready for the cooler weather.

I enjoy doing craft work, especially when it means making something for my girls. I find knitting very soothing, and somehow, if I occupy my hands with knitting, I feel much more able to spend an evening lounging on the sofa and watching TV. Mr Strange Land and I have been rewatching all of Babylon 5 lately, which has had an entirely beneficial effect on getting this cardigan finished.

And onto the next project, a cardigan for the elder Miss Seven, who wanted purple or pink wool. We chose both. She wants a heart pattern, with beads in the point of each heart. I’ve worked out the pattern, and started on the back, but the hearts aren’t showing up very well. See?


Exactly. You can’t see them at all.

Do any knitters reading this have any advice? I’m using a reverse stocking stitch for the background (i.e. purl where I should knit, and vice versa), and right-way-around stocking stitch for the hearts themselves, but I’m wondering whether they would show up better if I used garter stitch for the background. M-H, I’m looking at you!

On the advantages of slate over carpet

1. Slate floors are cool underfoot in hot summers.

2. In cold winters, slate floors retain warmth from the woodburner for hours and hours through the night and into the next morning.

3. When your darling daughter rushes out of bed at about 10.30pm, with an odd look on her face, and then throws up, copiously, the mess is much easier to clean up, and the smell does not linger.

(Yes, she’s fine this morning, but she will be staying home from school all the same.)