Still me

My photo
Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tuesday, 29 January: The door's open

The sun is shining again after nearly a month of summer rain. The verandah door is open and if you visit, Gal and Trist will give you a hero or a heroine's welcome whatever you prefer! You can drink fruit 'rooibos' tea in tall glasses and watch the birds feed at the bird tables, while we chat.

28 January: Jane Austen and bookclubs

The weekend's movie with the friends was The Jane Austen Bookclub. In fact, the friends are all members of our own bookclub: Eleanor's Reading Circle, to give it its grand title. We have been happily 'bookclubbing' for the last nine years. The highlight on our monthy calendar is the meeting at one another's houses. We take turns to choose three or four new books to purchase from a selection on appro from the local bookstore and talk non-stop about our latest read. It is very informal - a merry muddle over tea and cake - and we all love it! Crises and joys are shared at the same time - illness, new jobs, new grandchildren, retirement, even bereavement. But nothing as glam as the characters in the movie.

Here's the only existing portrait of Jane! Where would our lives have been without her and Mr Darcy, Captain Wentworthy, Fanny Price, Mrs Bennett and....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

23 January, Wednesday: Hand-me-down recipes

Rainy afternoons like today are ideal for baking. My tried and tested tested recipe for cheese scones (these are English 'scones') was handed down by my mother who believed afternoon tea had to be served with scones: hot buttery plain scones, fancy scones topped with strawberry jam and cream; fruit scones; savoury scones and health scones made with wholewheat flour and bran. My daughters love this recipe and on my next visit to my granddaughters, I plan to make it with them as I have with other young friends. It's so easy and fail-proof; children love it. The recipe is still written in my mum's own small, neat print.

Here goes!
1 cup grated strong Cheddar cheese
1 cup flour
1 dessertspoon of baking powder
A third of a cup of sunflower or canola oil
One egg
1 third cup water
1 teaspoon of paprika (or curry powder)
Pinch of salt
1 Heat oven to 200 Celsius
2 Sift dry ingredients
3 Break egg into cup with oil and fill with water
4 Mix oil, egg and water and cheese with dry ingredients
5 Spoon into muffin pan for large scones or onto baking tray
7 Bake for 8-10 minutes
Butter when hot and eat serve as soon as you can. Like all scones, they freeze fine but don't keep well otherwise.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday, 20 January: Rainy afternoons are for pottering

Climate change is playing its tricks. Last summer we had a searing drought and soaring temperatures which left everyone drained and irritable. This year it began raining in spring and it hasn't stopped yet. So this wet, damp Sunday afternoon has been ideal for pottering around. Dusting figurines like the crinoline lady embroidering and the mother reading a bedtime story to her children. Polishing silver. Tweaking cushions, shifting furniture an inch or two and picking roses in between showers, all the while grateful for my home-sweet-home. Tristram and Galahad follow me faithfully from room to room, flopping down in corners and sighing every time I move on.

Saturday, 19 January

Some treasures in my living room. My daughter persuaded me to buy this tea-for-one Spode teaset. I embroidered the cloth in Spanish blackwork using coloured thread and the little birthday book was my grandmother's. In it she recorded my own mum's birthday, ninety years ago.

This past week the redecorating of my bedroom began in earnest. Workmen took up the old wall to wall carpeting and laid a laminated wooden floor in Antique Oak. The bedrooms, study and dining room of my house have no ceilings, just the high thatch roof which gives it a wonderful warm atmosphere and a distinctly grassy smell on hot summer days. This new floor complements the thatch roof perfectly and matches the original Oregon pine floors in the other rooms. Then came painting the room and My Big Mistake. In spite of testing four different hues of paint, I still got it wrong and the cream walls looked lifeless and cold. But I decided the most expensive decorating mistake is to live with something you dislike for the next five years so I had the room repainted in Natural Wicker, a creamy colour with a hint of peach. Now the room looks stunning although my decorating budget has suffered some damage.
Fabrics have been chosen for the curtains, swags, coverlet and bedfrill and now I must wait impatiently for the making and the installation in February.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday, 13 January, 2008: Finished projects

How satisfying when the last stitch is sewn, the last word written or the last brushstroke made! Here are the quilts I completed during the Christmas holidays. The cheerful blue and yellow strip-pieced quilt is going to hang in the Grandchildren's Room at Thatchwick. My granddaughters love their own special room when they visit. It is filled with books and toys from three generations: my old dolls' clothes, books and teasets, my daughters' old dolls, dollhouse and puzzles and of course, Joelle's and Jaelene's own new treats.

Some detail on the Dresden plate quilt. The blocks were done by hand and the quilting too.
I have read that the Amish quilters always allow a deliberate mistake somewhere in their quilts to remind them of human imperfection; only God is perfect. As a novice quilter, mine are full of uneven stitches and that without trying!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wednesday, 9 January 2008:Friends and favourites

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..." sang Julie Andrews. One of my favourite things on my kitchen windowsill is an African violet in a giant willow pattern teacup. And an apt quotation about favourite things scribbled in my notebook: "In solitude objects are the company we keep." (Siri Hustvedt). But life is not all solitude either. Friends are everywhere, even in cyberspace. I found my first friendly comments on my blog today. Thank you, Alexandra of Silver Bell Cottage and Keilleigh for such enthusiastic and kind words of encouragement. Thank you also to 'local' friends, Erna and Fiona, who also responded and others who phoned or sent text messages.
Now some more about myself: I have been teaching comparative education and educational management at a university for the last 25 years. These days I am mainly involved with supervising postgraduate students' research. But I have an English major (obtained about a century ago!) and tutor English Second Language students after hours. I have done considerable academic writing - textbooks and journal articles - but always had a secret yen to just express myself without the abbreviated Harvard system coming in between. And then I discovered blogwrite!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tuesday, 8 January 2008: Dogs and blogs!

Dogs inside and outside Thatchwick!
Today I launched I sent SMS messages and emails to friends far and wide inviting them to peek inside my world. Now I await their responses. I am still struggling with glitches in fonts and layout but am getting there fast. My thanks to Silver Bell Cottage which has been my inspiration.
As for dogs - I was recently touched reading Abigail Thomas' memoir: "A three dog life". Abigail's husband was severely injured in a car accident and spent the rest of his life in a nursing facility. Abigail's days after this tragedy have been enriched by her three dogs, among others. This echoes my own experience - after losing my husband of nearly 31 years, my (our) dogs have been my comfort and inspiration. After all, who can sink into depression and stay under the covers when you are awakened every morning at 4:30 for a early morning walk, come rain or shine? Thank you, Trist and Gal, two wonderful canine knights!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Not much down time on a Sunday, especially when I am on duty at church. But an afternoon walk around the garden with the 'boys' yielded some special delights. The berries on the hawthorne have already turned red. Soon the birds will enjoy stripping those branches.
A clivia is blooming right out of season.
This pot of begonias is a treat, pink flowers and maroon leaves.
The bees were enjoying the open blossoms on the Joseph's coat climbing rose, now making great progress up the arch to the rose garden.

Saturday 5 January 2008

Schools have not yet reopened for first semester of 2008 and most holiday makers are still on the long trek home after the summer vacation. So this weekend was tranquil – the lull before the storm. I made the most of a lazy Saturday. The dogs got a much needed bath. At least I managed to wash their backs, hind legs and a third of Tristram’s tail! They are shedding their fur as a result of the summer heat (not too much heat this summer!). Every bird in the garden must have its nest lined with Tristram’s black and Galahad’s creamy fur. Tristram’s fur comes out in dense black tufts; Galahad showers his soft snowy down everywhere.

I also did this flower arrangement for the hall table using Queen Elizabeth roses and hot pink zinnias with ferns, sprays of Chinese berry and twigs from the prunus tree.

I arranged the flowers in an antique Carltonware rosebowl, a treasure I discovered two years ago in a little antique shop, housed in a cottage in Bedfordview. The painted detail is exquisite.
Here's the finished arrangement.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Still Thursday

A close friend is awaiting the outcome of a job application abroad. A while ago, she felt God telling her to expect the unexpected. Shortly afterwards a friend who works in the same international corporate, notified her of a job vacancy in Switzerland which suits her skills exactly. In contrast, I feel called to fulfil myself in my humdrum niche: my house, garden, friends, hobbies and work. A passage in Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” puts it beautifully:

“As the Mole hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he would be at home again among the things he knew and liked, he saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedgerow, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. For others, the asperities, the stubborn endurance or the clash of actual conflict that went with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.”

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Thursdays mornings pass quietly at Thatchwick. I spend the first hour trying to tidy the evening’s disorder. How does a house occupied by one woman, two Labradors and two budgies go from order to chaos during the night? What elves or hobgoblins? The crisp white duvet cover is littered with the many books I delved into before turning off the lamp. My pot of hand cream is on the bedside table, towels need straightening, the kitchen counter is smeared and the birdseed scattered during a budgie breakfast and soft blue feathers plucked in early morning ablutions must be dealt with. Dog leashes must be hung up in the broom cupboard after the 4:45 am walk, coffee mug and dog bowls placed in the dishwasher and, of course, the floor ever-muddied by paw prints and shedding fur must be vacuumed if not mopped.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

1 January 2008

I love the new year. New beginnings fill me with energy, hope and endless possibilities. I am going to redecorate my bedroom in January: new curtains, flooring and wall paint. I am going to have the piano tuned and start practising. Tomorrow, it's back to work in my office with the French doors open overlooking the verandah and front garden: new articles and conference papers to write, students to advise and papers to mark. There will be new books to read, stitches to make, seeds and bulbs to plant, recipes to try, friends and family to enjoy and challenges to be met head on!

Here is a quote for any aspiring writer, including a novice blogger:
"I say grace before the play and the opera and grace before I open a book and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip my pen in ink." GK Chesterton.
With that in mind, I guess I should say, "Bless this new blogging adventure, Lord, and every word I share with friends known and unknown."