Tips from our Grandmothers or Great-grandmothers

My kitchen is no different from most with its (sometimes) shining cooker, fridge, washing machine, kettle etc. But have you ever wondered about how life was for our grandmothers or great grandmothers who had only their hands, strength and patience to do everyday chores? Well, I often wonder about their strength and resilience particularly after reading a small Readers Digest book “What our Grandmothers knew.”

Here are a few of their beauty tips:

Treatment for dry skin: apply a face pack consisting of beaten egg yolk with a few drops of lemon juice added. If this doesn’t work they recommended, after washing the mask off your face to rub in a homemade skin cream made up of 1/3 oz of lard mixed with a pinch of zinc oxide.

This one is very seasonal – to get relief from sunburn. Grate a raw potato and spread between two layers of gauze. Apply this to the sunburnt skin.

Another which made me smile – relief for tired eyes: Boil some cornflowers in water, allow to cool. Then make compresses by layering the flowers between gauze. Lie flat for 15 mins with compresses over each eye.

Do you wonder that years ago many dogs lived outside? If they lived indoors they would have dined off the beauty treatments while the lady was wearing them!

 

Bob was always partial to fruit and veg and never considered picking his own to be work.

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Lessons Learnt

In our inconsistent world, some of the most powerful lessons we learn come from children and (in my case) our dogs. This is only my opinion before I get a truckload of replies all denying this is the case.

There is a tv program that tracks young four and five-year-olds at play. I love watching it as I am reminded or there resilience and love of basically having fun. They also say what they think, which is also a mind opener. If we say what we honestly think the only thing we often open is a can of worms!

I have had many dogs come and go in my life and they all taught me something different, some times about myself. The poodles my mum had basically taught me:

you cannot make someone do something just because you wish it to happen. Poodle number one often was dragged by me out on a walk and I inevitably arrived home carrying him!

Poodle number two taught me that simply giving someone time and sitting with them, listening or holding their hand is often all that is required.

Poodle number three; fun is important.

However, I was reminded of all of these things when Bob arrived into our lives. He was a great people dog. He loved to sit at the gate and wait for the children to pass by on the way home from school. This feat alone gained him many jelly babies, some crisps and a few extra inches around his middle, and a long list of admirers.  While he did this, Ellie and her collection of tennis balls would appear and she would push the balls through the gate while the children chucked them back.

He was patient, sitting calmly staring at me at 6pm each evening to remind me it was time for his food and meds.

He gave comfort to both Ellie and me whenever we returned from a long search cold and tired, with a wag of his tail and a lick across my hand and on her ear, he appeared to say, tomorrow is another day. 

It has become evident that Ellie continues to miss him but that too is another learning curve – dogs emotions run deep.

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From Ellie I have learnt a different set of lessons, never give up, don’t say can’t without trying. We have done some crazy things like swimming the river Boyne, or on one occasion climbed a great height (in torrential rain)to get around fallen trees and blocked pathway to find a missing person. Taking shelter from a snowstorm in a forest and then hitching a lift back to base in a tractor.

I would love to know what others have learnt from their canine buddies and what adventures they have taken with them.

 

How old we become…

Isn’t it odd how old we become on the outside while inside we still feel like a twenty-year-old? That is my one observation having spent some days visiting with my dad.

His dementia has progressed at a frightening rate. So much so, that we had no choice but to bring him back to the nursing home where he feels happy. For me, it was a tough decision in one way, because I remember his reluctance to consider going in for respite eighteen months ago and his refusal to move mum to a local nursing home. However, I was happy knowing that, he is safer with many carers around him than just one of us with him twenty-four seven.

It is now two weeks since he moved house, and the weight has lifted from my shoulders, years and layers of stress are falling away and I have gained a little weight. Dad too is experiencing a lightening of years as he takes part in musical afternoons, dancing with anyone who is willing to risk getting their feet shuffled on, or squashed. His bright cheery “Hello,” gains him smiles and conversation. He is taking part in art classes, and on Wednesday of this week, he was a baker hoping to enjoy tea and queen cakes which he had helped to whip up and bake.

Just like Bob he is managing to hold on to his good humour and winning ways.

The Beast and Storm Emma

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happy birthday bob

For the last five days here in Ireland, each time I turn on a radio or tv the topic is the same – the weather. It is proof that we are obsessed with the weather when;

Every supermarket is in danger of running out of bread and milk etc as the shelves are emptying as fast as they are filling.

Families are putting planned day trips on hold because the weather is going to be “horrid” bad.

And every double coated husky is being subjected to having to wear a coat or jumper!

Bob objects to wearing anything other than his own fluff! The closest thing he wears to a coat is a high viz mini coat to let traffic know he is out and about.

Ellie – well we would have to catch her first and that would take more time, effort and energy than it is worth.

In the meantime, both of them acted like it was their birthday when the snow finally fell.

.Nice snow, best present a Bob could get… he proved it as he began to eat the snow around him.

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A gift for Santa

The North Pole bustled and hummed with the sound of hundreds of elves calmly working through the last Christmas orders, while inside Santa’s house Constance Claus tried not to panic. The cause : she had no gift for Santa. Eleven hundred years of buying a present for someone makes it hard to surprise them.

Her dilemma had her in a snappy humour. It was noticed by Enda, chief elf. When he stopped to enquire for the fourth time in an hour if Constance was ok, it took all of her patience not to snap, “Course I am,” somehow she calmly nodded and smiled.

Time was running out, only twelve days to Christmas, she thought, why that is a mere flash of a few moments no time at all to create an exotic fun surprising gift.  Constance looked at Summer who was lying at her feet snoozing and dreaming. The cat’s tail twitched now and then as though she were re enacting a dream.

For the next week Constant spent a lot of her time considering a present for  the champion present giver. It was tough, but she knew if she persisted she would finally catch that elusive idea. With only three days to Christmas day she was a nervous wreck.

Finally exhaustion took hold, perhaps I should meditate on it, Constance settled down in front of the fire and closing her eyes let her mind drift. There was an awful lot of Christmas in their past, but as they flashed about in her head, time after time she returned to one Christmas. “ Problem solved”, she whispered to Summer.

Constance didn’t delay she went straight to the kitchen and began to cook and create. She worked at a frantic pace, not stopping to talk to Rudolph when he wandered in looking for a carrot. He reported back to the other reindeer “sorry guys looks like supper is going to be boring hay tonight.”

Enda overheard Rudolph’s comments and went to investigate

Constance first became aware of Enda’s presence when she counted the star shaped ginger cookies. “I could have sworn I cut out five dozen, where did the last twelve go?” She stared hard at Enda who was sitting on a stool at the table, the empty space in front of him provided the answer to Constance’s question.

“You ate a dozen?” She narrowed her eyes. “Help me make some more. I don’t have enough yet!”

Enda did as he was told and though he asked why they were baking such a lot of cookies, Constance refused to answer. When the final batch of cookies were baking, Enda slipped away to report to the elves. “She has lost the plot,”

Constance locked the door of her workshop.  “It is top secret, a Santa surprise. “ She told everyone and warned them under pain of being banished from the Christmas dining table not to go into the workshop.

Late on Christmas Eve , Constance seemed  fussier than usual.

“Constance, are you okay dear, you seem a little frazzled, ouch, Enda watch where you are shoving those extra toys.” Santa grimaced as the elf ignored him and pushed another train set into the gap in the back seat. “I wish the elves would do as I ask and sprinkle more magic dust on the toys, wouldn’t it be much better and safer if we made everything teeny tiny, just for the trip,” he finished.

“We tried that before, “ Sam replied. He was at that moment balanced on Santa’s hat and attempting to tie a sack to the back of Santa’s seat,  to anchor it.

Santa blushed and sighed, “It wasn’t my fault the magic wore off. The town square looked huge, but it wasn’t big enough to deal with the exploding growing gifts.. Lucky the reindeer were in top form and we got to hide them all on the roof tops. It was a long night.”

“It was for Bob he had to keep jumping off the sleigh to retrieve lost toys.” Sam slid down Santa’s hat, onto his shoulder, arms and tumbled onto the ground before walking away, happy his work was done.

“Well there is only so many times you can wind the clock back, so, don’t have any accidents this year.” Constance scolded as she handed him his warm gloves and fastened a hard hat over his santa hat, just in case. She wondered if she should sprinkle some pixie dust on him for a little luck then deciding it wouldn’t do any harm threw a whole sackful over him.

“Hoi,” Santa roared. The reindeers took it as his usual roar for go, leapt into action.

Constance turned about and raced back indoors.

That is strange Enda thought. Usually Constance stood watching the Reindeers fly into the sky and waited to see if their flight path would create a heart shape or a star. Tonight it was a glowing heart.

Constance finished her surprise with minutes to spare. The sun was peeping into the workshop when she made a discovery. Her present was too big to fit through the door.

“Bother, and triple bother. Now I will have to get help.” Summer stared at Constance and seemed to be smirking.

With a sigh Constance headed off in search of help. Minutes later her helpful elves, Enda, Slim, Noel and Sam stood and asked, “Why?”

“Because…well….it doesn’t matter but he will know, if he hasn’t forgotten.” Constance said with a racing heart and hoped that indeed Nick would remember.

“It won’t fit through the door,” Slim declared as he took out his tape measure and measured it for the fourth time.

“We know that you idiot.” His brothers sang at him.

“Perhaps we could take it apart and then put it back together.”

“No time”. Constance said.

“Bother, we will have to try the weave dance”. The elves sang and leapt into action.

Constance stared at them as they began to run around the giant gift. “If we run fast enough it will shrink.” They sang.

She grimaced. “ No it won’t but you guys will.”

They stopped running. “No. We are small enough.”

“Pixie dust”  Enda declared and ran to collect some. It took a while as the pixies’ were having a party before Christmas day and were not inclined to stop partying to work up a little magic dust even if it was for Constance.

However at last, with ten minutes until Santa’s arrival, they finished.

With a giant yawn each of the elves raced back to bed.

Constance sat and nibbled on a candy cane. She was too anxious to sleep.

There was a clatter of hooves, a few tired snorts mainly from Santa,  announced their return. She went to meet him and help get the reindeer settled. Bob, she saw was curled up asleep on the now very empty sack.

“Job done, all I need is a nice quiet day ..” Santa began and sighed, “but I am not going to get that am I?”

He produced a package from his pocket and handed it to Constance. She smiled, twinkled and whispered,” thank you but first I want you to see your present.”

Santa seemed to shrug off the tiredness as he walked quickly to the hall, he pushed open the door and stopped. There in the corner of the great hall sat a Santa Gingerbread House!

He put his hand on his belly and laughed, “Does it, will it?”

She smiled and said, “try it.”

Santa didn’t hesitate hand in hand with Constance he walked through the door of the gingerbread house and immediately a shimmering light surrounded it.  Ten minutes later the hammering of hundreds of elves feet announced their arrival into the great hall.

The excitement created by the gingerbread house was understandable as elves adore gingerbread however when they tried to reach out to eat a piece their hands hit an invisible wall. Inside Santa sat beside Constance with a grin on his face.  “A perfect present. You remembered what I wished for in the beginning and have been afraid to utter since… a few hours of rest in a peaceful silent room with not a yammering elf in sight. How long will it last?”

“As long as we don’t eat a piece.” She sighed and hoped the elves would forgive her but perhaps the dozens of gingerbread cookies sitting on the tables in the hall would help.

Afterall if Santa couldn’t have his perfect present once in a millennium then what chance would anyone have of ever getting their perfect gift?

The Christmas photo shoot was a disaster, all were grumpy, refusing to pose, the reason? I was working and late home.

Have a great and peaceful Christmas everyone..

My Favourite things

I should have added and not of a chocolate kind. The reason being there was a time when I was addicted to chocolate.

Back to the topic.  My top five favourite things:

  1. Reading with the company of two foot warmers (Ellie and Bob)
  2. Writing with the encouraging sounds of musical snores from Bob and Ellie
  3. Walking on a beach regardless of the weather. We have even done this as a family on Christmas day or St. Stephens day mainly due to asthmatic son.
  4. An evening out with friends
  5. Receiving a review for a story or a book.

Pretty straightforward and simple, and the weird thing is I believe if I won a huge sum of money, they wouldn’t change.

So what is your top 5?

Have a great Halloween.

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Where did I get the idea for my first childrens book?

  The Runaway Schoolhouse, or the idea for it, simply didn’t appear in a light bulb moment. It sort of crept up on me. I was working as a Children’s Athletics Development Officer for 20 hours a week. I was part of a team of three. I loved the three years that we travelled the highways and byways, (some of them in circles as I frequently got lost) to promote kids to get active. The three of us were and still are passionate about the advantages of taking exercise no matter your age. Anyway, the most frequently heard comment on a Monday morning from a class of kids, was, “I wish I didn’t have to come to school.” I heard it so often that I began to play with the idea of what would happen if they arrived but all was not as it should be.

Until one day I casually asked, “what would you do if the school was not here when you arrived!”

The look of disbelief, followed by pure joy at such a possibility,  was enough to convince me it was a mad idea, but mad enough for a book.

And so it began a three-year stint of writing, editing, sending out letters searching for an agent, publisher or any passing alien to show an interest in my whacky book.  And it is a little crazy.  Here is an excerpt:

CHAPTER 4

CLEARIE was learning to make the most of every moment. He liked sitting on the smooth sand but a tiny part of him envied those with fingers and toes because he longed to experience the tickling feeling of sand and water. Still, he reasoned, this is an adventure.

He didn’t like the conversation between the adults who remained outside discussing the “problem.” They considered taking him apart and carrying his bricks back onto the hillside or getting a giant crane to move him. Both methods sounded nasty to him.
He tried to ignore them by concentrating on the sound of fish jumping in the water and birds hopping about on the sand; but he found that their loud voices carrying on the wind, made it impossible.
You would think with all their education they would question WHY I moved.
He waited to see what would happen next.
To his amusement, Mrs Brown got on her knees beside his front door to peer at the gap beneath his floor. He wondered if she were silly enough to think he had grown feet! When she stood she realised her knees were sandy and complained loudly about the horrible, gritty feeling. Clearie wondered what gritty felt like.
At breaktime, he noted that the children, unlike the teachers, were barefoot on the beach, but they put their shoes and socks back on their feet when they went back to class.
Clever children, silly teachers, he thought.

 

Hanging about in Ireland.

Summer is strange, but often life is stranger.

We tend to walk a lot, (well Ellie and myself – Bob avoids it at all costs.) And during the past few months we came across these items during our travels.

A parish walk confirmed we are indeed in Ireland.

 

Greenhouses are not only for plants!

An iconic item

Bubbles but not of the chocolate kind, unfortunately

When a Border Collie gets bored..

 

I thought we would have a day off, though we did go for a walk. Obviously not far enough for Ellie. So she created her own bit of fun and wrecked havoc on Bob’s blanket.

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