Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Kitchen Memories

For me, some of the best, most enduring memories, are of kitchens. Not of the kitchens themselves - I couldn't tell you what colour the wallpaper, or tiles, or work-tops were -but of the things that took place there. The sounds, the smells, the equipment. The anticipation of memories yet to be made, and tastes yet to be savoured.

My mum recently gave me a box of kitchen things that belonged to my nannie. Each thing transports me back to childhood. There's the deep, enamel coated pie dish, in which she made her meat and potato pie. There are the small, unremarkable, tupperware boxes she would freeze portions of mince in. The sight of an old, much yellowed Parish Cookbook, transported me back in an instant. She pulled out the foldaway table in the kitchen. I sat, and busily greased the tin for the sultana and cherry cake, and crushed cornflakes for the melting moments (or cornflake biscuits as we always called them). There is the special sieve, with the handle that you press to dust crisp mince pies with icing sugar, like the heavy frost that settles on the brown roofs. Each simple, much used object was a catalyst for a string of precious memories. Of that kitchen, and cooking and visiting with her, but also of my childhood home, and being with my mother in the kitchen. Watching her put carrot and turnip in the food processor for soup, running out and peeking round the door, because I was terrified of the Pressure Cooker. My own, child-fierce concentration as I pressed the tines of the fork along the edge of the apple pie, and rolled and cut rounds of left over pastry for jam tarts.  

I love food, and cooking, and baking. For me, there's a sixth Love Language, ' Seeing your family enjoy their dinner.' Making food for people I love, and seeing them enjoy it, is for me, the most satisfying feeling. It is the centre of my role as wife and mother. The oven is the warm heart from which every other nurturing, home making instinct spreads and radiates through the house.

And I wonder, in turn, what memories my children will take from our kitchen. What bowls they will remember holding sweet mixtures that they stirred and dipped their fingers into?What spoons and beaters they will remember licking? If certain tins, and oven dishes will make them think of certain meals, the way that enamel dish makes me think of meat and potato pie? What smells and tastes will be evocative to them as they grow older? 

Will the kitchen, and what was used there, and what was made there, be at the heart of joy, and love, and family, and memory for them, as it was for me? 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Benefits of Organisation

I cannot believe it's only 5 weeks until Christmas. This year, I had been full of good intentions of being organised, starting the Christmas shopping in September, list making, crafting. I fully intended to be totally organised and able to sit back in December with nothing to do but mull the wine and nibble on a mince pie.

Then life happened, and like the saying goes 'make God laugh, tell him your plans.'

Maybe I'm thinking about all this because we went to the Crematorium yesterday to pay our respects to my nannie, who passed away in 2007, and was, frankly, the most organised woman I've ever known.

So, here we are, almost at the end of November, and I haven't got one present, card, or roll of wrapping paper. I have saved up the savers stamps at the local grocery store, and I've been collecting my coupons each week to give me £40 off my Christmas grocery shop (7 down, 2 to go). I've also made the Christmas cake, and have been feeding it weekly with Port. I'm not totally disorganised, I'm just not as organised as I would like to be. That, however, is nothing new, it's pretty much the story of my life. I like being organised, I fully intend to be organised. I know that without a shadow of a doubt that when I am organised, I'm happier, calmer, and generally not doing things like rifling through the toy box because we have an appointment and need to leave the house now, but one of the kids have hidden one of their shoes.

Being organised just makes things that little bit easier, and that little bit calmer. It leaves more time for fun. I'm also realising that a bit of organisation can also allow you to be a bit more flexible. If it's a nice day, who cares if you'd planned to cook a roast, or make a complicated dessert? If you have stand-by's in the freezer, it's much easier to think 'Ok, let's just have that for dinner so we can go to the park!'

Organization is not something I think we should be slaves to, but a tool that can be used to live a fuller, more free, more fun life.

Well, that's enough of that thinking malarkey for one blog post.

The kids are great fun, and they are nice kids. Molly loves anything pretty. My mum got them onesies to wear over their PJs now it's turned colder. Molly's is pink with sparkly stars on it, and every evening she brings it to me saying 'This! On!' She loves her flower hair clasps, and giggles happily as you put them in her hair. She's even delighted when I wear a pretty scarf, and if I have on something really plain, she tries to put colourful stickers on me. A little girls sheer joy at prettiness is a wonderful thing to witness.

Gareth is the most loving, demonstrative, exasperating, funny little human dynamo you could ever hope to meet. He charges around going 'Woah! Woah!' sings and looks at you expectantly, waiting for you to sing the next part back to him. When he's climbing on me, as 2 year olds do, and a note of impatience is creeping in to my voice, he strokes my hair and says 'Poor, poor mama.'

I honestly sometimes wonder how these 2 great kids can possibly be mine.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make some lists, because a little organisation leaves more time and energy for a whole lot of fun.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Working, Resting, Loving.

It's been a fair old couple of weeks. My husband had 2 job interviews (and got a job!), I did my 2 days a week at work, although I had to change the days to take my husband to the interviews. I managed to slam the car key between the front door of the house and the door-frame, braking the remote cover and bending the key itself. After a couple of days research online, I was able to find a replacement key for much cheaper than the dealer was quoting, but still, it was an expense we could have done without.

I've started getting the bus to work, after parking prices doubled. At first, I hated the idea but really, its not so bad. I get on at one of the first stops, so I'm guaranteed a seat, and I'd forgotten how nice it can be to just sit back, listen to a talking book, and let someone else worry about whether that gap is big enough for them to make the lane change.

Yesterday was a busy day. I looked around the house, at the dishes, the laundry to be put away, and the laundry to be washed. I thought of the fact the bedding needed changed, and that there were cooking apples I needed to use up.

So I washed dished, and folded laundry, and put it away, and loaded and unloaded washer and dryer, and put smaller things on the airer. And I stripped beds and made then up with clean linen. I chopped apples for an apple cake, and when my husband expressed disappointment there wasn't any sweet potato pie (he and my son had expressed interest in me making some pie), I mixed the pie crust, put the sweet potatoes in to bake, and went to the store for the other ingredients I needed. Had I started off intending to make both sweet potato pie and apple cake? No, I hadn't. Going to the store for the missing ingredients, making the pie, these were acts of love.

Sometimes, love is doing the laundry. Sometimes it's washing the dishes, or taking the time to make someone a special treat. Sometimes love is doing what needs to be done, even when you're tired, or upset, or not 'feeling' lovey. Sometimes love is making sure everyone has clean clothes in their dresser. Sometimes, we love by all the little, mundane, important day to day tasks we do. Sometimes, love is working.

And sometimes, love calls us to rest. It means leaving dishes half finished to read a child a story. It means pausing while folding laundry to play cars, or dollies. Sometimes, love is allowing yourself to sit with your kids and have a cuddle, even if you think there are things you need to be doing. Love can be thinking 'the dishes can wait until morning' so you can spend some extra time with your spouse after the kids go to bed.

Even when we don't think we are showing love, we are living it. In both our times of work, and our times of rest, we can live out love.