No One Cooks in a Novel

No one cooks in novel.

This isn’t strictly true, but in general, no one cooks, uses the toilet (except for in middle grade novels of a certain type…), washes the dishes, brushes their teeth, or cleans the house. These are ordinary, everyday activities—who wants to read about them?

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Toby crept into the bathroom shortly after midnight. The house was dark and silent. But, wait, there was a dark form ahead of him. He flicked on the light. A bloodcurdling scream rent the air as he saw his sister on the toilet.

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Carla was chopping onions…again. She didn’t even know what she was going to cook, yet, but she knew it would have onions. Chopping them gave her time to think, to plan. But she wasn’t planning dinner. When her husband came home from work and stepped up behind her to give her his standard peck on the top of the head greeting, she turned and plunged her knife into his chest.

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Still waking up, Jason washed his face, then grabbed his toothbrush. He flicked open the toothpaste and squeezed, but what came out of the tube was not minty paste. Instead, it was foul and dark, and melted the toothbrush when it touched it.

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OK, maybe it’s good our day-to-day lives aren’t worthy of a novel. Remember that the next time you think life is too boring.

Dining Room Bustle

Meet me in the dining room for a game of ping pong.

Meet me in the dining room for a game of ping pong.

Our house is small, and most rooms do double duty. None more so than the dining room. The dining room table serves as a place to eat, of course, but it is also a desk for homework, an art table, a staging area for bread on baking days, a games table, and, with the addition of a ‘net’, a ping pong table.

With the only floor strong enough, the dining room also holds the piano, so serves as the music room. It is also the main entrance to the house, a cloak room, and a hallway between the bathroom and the rest of the house.

So much bustle for such a small room!

Salad Junkie

salad greens2 smLots of parents fret about their teenagers’ eating habits. Given the freedom and a little pocket money, most teens make bad food choices. I can’t judge—I was one of those teens once, splurging on chocolate and Coca-Cola every chance I got. My son is no different, though his vices tend toward the salty side—chips and cheesy breads.

But I don’t worry. He thinks I’ll reprimand him for the empty chip bag that comes home in his lunchbox (he didn’t get them from home…), but I know that his real weakness is salad.

Yep, salad. With a homemade vinaigrette, and plenty of dark, nutty lettuces and spinach. Maybe some nasturtium flowers for colour and a little zing…

He eyes the salad bowl after everyone has had seconds, waiting to see if his sister will fight him for what’s left. She often does, and I would, too, except that my parental instinct is to let them gorge on salad. Rarely is there anything left when the table is cleared.

How did it happen, this salad craving? I have no idea, except that our salads aren’t iceberg lettuce and an anaemic slice of greenhouse tomato. They have flavour and colour. The kids know the names of all the varieties of lettuce I plant, and they enjoy the range of “extras” we add, like nasturtium, salad burnet, and parsley.

“I like that drunk lady,” my son said one day after polishing off the salad greens, “It’s so…succulent.” He was referring to Drunken Woman Fringed Head—one of our reliable year-round lettuces (but that won’t stop me from using the quote as blackmail someday). How can a kid not like lettuce with a name like that?

So, let them have a few chips and some chocolate. I know that they’ll come home and stuff themselves with salad. That’s serious junk food!

Renovation reminiscing

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Stripping the old…

I love my kitchen, but it wasn’t always so. When we moved into our house, the kitchen was appalling. What little cabinetry was there was obviously taken from some other kitchen—it didn’t particularly fit the space, and had clearly been cobbled together. In the spaces between cabinets, crude wooden shelves had been tacked up. A tiny sink and an ancient electric range (with a bare wire inside that regularly electrocuted mice) completed the kitchen’s amenities. The kitchen had obviously been built as a lean-to many years ago. Later, the roof had been lifted somewhat to improve the space. Still, that part of the house is well over 100 years old, and little real repair work had ever been done to it. The floor had dangerously soft patches, where you felt that the only thing between you and the ground was a 50 year-old sheet of linoleum. The walls behind the cabinets were largely unlined, and in the winter, cold wind poured through the cracks, chilling everything in the cabinets. The previous owners had weather stripped the cabinet doors in an unsuccessful attempt to reduce the freezing gales whipping across the kitchen floor. Mice scampered in and out through myriad holes in the floor and walls.

Something drastic had to be done.

Enjoying the new.

Enjoying the new.

We set up the toaster and an electric hot plate in the living room and completely gutted the kitchen. Two weeks of hard work, and the room had a new floor, new walls, new cabinetry, a big double sink, and (the big splurge) a beautiful 5-burner gas range. The hideous, unusable space had been transformed. We use the kitchen so heavily that, five years on, we can begin to see wear and tear on things, but I still love the space. It was worth every blister to create it!

Blood, Sweat and Tears

DSC_0005 copyWell…OK, mostly blood today. You know how, every once it a while you’re doing something and think, “Man, this is really dumb. I could get seriously hurt,” but you keep doing it anyway? Yep. That was me, preparing pumpkins for stuffed pumpkins. Some of them had relatively thin flesh, and I could quickly saw a neat hole in the top. Others were thicker, and the knife had a tendency to bind in the flesh. Next thing I knew, I was plunging the knife into my thumb instead of the pumpkin. Serves me right. Not like I didn’t know it could (probably would) happen.

As I grabbed a tea towel and wrapped it around the thumb, I was reminded of another slip of the knife many years ago. I was working at a food booth at the PA Renaissance Faire, and was slicing onions for onion rings. The onion slipped, and my knife sliced deep into my finger. I reached for a towel and wrapped it around my finger, then started toward the first aide tent. Unfortunately, I fainted half way there (two c-sections and a lot of injuries later, and I’m not so queasy about blood). By good fortune, the cutest guy at the Faire found me, picked me up and carried me the rest of the way to the first aide tent. Later, he sang a humorous, impromptu song about the incident, but alas, I never spoke to him again.

I was more fortunate today. Though I didn’t faint, the cutest guy in the house fetched me a bandage and finished cooking dinner for me.

Migratory Chickens

The chickens migrated to the vegetable garden today.

The chickens migrated to the vegetable garden today.

My chickens are migratory; they have a summer home and a winter home. In summer they have a dedicated paddock—an otherwise useless little corner of the yard under some birch trees. Their winter home is the vegetable garden. I fence off a quarter of the space for my winter crops, and let the chooks take care of the rest.

I used to struggle with waist-high weeds in the garden each spring, injuring my back or my arms almost every year just trying to prepare the garden for planting. But since I started employing the chickens in the garden over winter, spring planting has become a breeze.

Well, OK, not a breeze. It’s still a ton of work, but I can do it without injury.

The chickens eat weeds and pests alike, keeping both under control all winter. There are weeds they won’t eat, of course, but as long as I swing through the garden once or twice over the winter to root out the biggest ones, I arrive at spring with minimal weeds or pests to get rid of.

And the icing on the cake is that the chooks love the garden. Egg production often slows down in the autumn, but it shoots right up again when the birds are let loose among the leftover vegetables. Everybody wins!

Catching dinner when we can

Tomorrow is Anzac Day, and the stores will be closed.

This caused us some confusion today, because we all get Monday off, as Anzac Day has been “Mondayised”, so we assumed that stores would be closed only on Monday. We had planned to pick up the remaining materials for our big shed project tomorrow morning, so we could work on it over the long weekend.

Thankfully, Ian picked up the rental trailer this afternoon, so when, at 5.15 pm he realised he couldn’t pick up building materials in the morning, he was able to make the trek to town with the trailer before the store closed.

Meanwhile, I was doing my usual Friday afternoon routine, running our daughter to clarinet lessons, then two different band rehearsals.

All of us missed dinner. My daughter and I ate cheese sandwiches and carrots in the back of the car, and Ian and our son grabbed some crackers, and made egg sandwiches when they got home just before 8 pm. They were still eating when my daughter and I got home.

I know for some families, that’s a normal day, but we do our best to eat a proper dinner, together as a family every day. It’s unusual to have such a crazy un-meal, and it always makes the day seem incomplete, not to have that time all together as a family.

It’s good to have these days, though. They remind me of how blessed we are to be able to sit down together almost every day to share a meal and each other’s company.