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Through the hand runs a dime

1966 Washington Quarter‘Do you remember I told you about going into Kelvin’s room after he died and finding a notebook open with the words through the hands run a dime written down and there on his bed was a dime?’

Not quite sure why this thought has suddenly popped into Andrew’s head, I just respond: ‘Yes, that’s the dime that you still have right?’

‘Yeah. Well, yesterday I was at the vending machine, and it was the anniversary of his death yesterday and the machine wouldn’t take my coin. I thought it was a New Zealand 10 cents, but when I picked it up to look, it was an American quarter.’

In Australia we often find New Zealand 10s and 20 cent coins but American ones are not common at all. It didn’t surprise me when Andrew told me he’d kept the coin. But the morning’s lesson didn’t end there. Andrew proceeded to tell me how American quarters were once made largely of silver but that became too expensive in the 60s and they then used copper in the centre. He told me that I had to check out the coin’s edge where you could clearly see the copper centre. Indeed you can and ┬áthere is a large portion of a Wikipedia page dedicated to explaining how the Washington Quarter – a silver coin – came not be made of Silver but rather the “clad composition with Flanagan reverse.” (Sounds like it could equally be an olympic diving move to me)

1966 Washing Quarter copper edge
This little interchange lasted but a few moments yet I know that the quarter, along with the dime, will stay. These will both be additional memories of Kelvin and the remembering of him.

I imagine that some people may visit Andrew’s house and wonder why there is a quarter stuck to the wall, just as I first asked why there was a dime stuck to the bed head. Yet I will know and remember the quiet moment when Andrew recalled his brother. It’s much like the moment I share with mum each year on Anzac day when we compare the state of polish on our shoes as a way of remembering my grandfather. The coins and the shoes are both obscure yet personal references that only family would understand and when Andrew shares this with me, it’s a lovely moment of feeling like family to him.


My 2011 in photographs

It’s only natural to reflect on the year as it comes to a close. So here’s some highlights – and lowlights – of 2011.

New Cats

It’s hard to believe that Andrew has only had Pickle a year! He arrived in mid-January 2011 and was a playful and bitey kitten.

Bitey pickle

Now look at him… all grown up!

I can see you!

Then came Gesso! Much smaller than Pickle had ever been and far more sooky from day one.

His deafness has brought a few new challenges. Getting Pickle to steer clear of walksticks and wheelchairs was difficult enough. Gesso has taken ‘challenge’ to a whole new dimension; culminating on Christmas Day when he got too close to Andrew while he was standing and ended up being trod on. He sunk his teeth in to Andrew’s foot in protest. Fortunately, Gesso was unharmed and although left with a nasty bite, Andrew’s foot is healing. I’m hoping that after that experience, Gesso will learn to dodge feet, walking sticks and wheelchairs as well as Pickle does.

My girls, Licorice and Saffron, continued to be good company; for me and for each other:

Licorice and Saffron kisses

The learnt how to get food from their new three-tiered cat toy; how to get nibbles from the treat ball; plus basic targeting skills using clicker training. (Short videos hyperlinked)

New Art

There were few surprises in the artistic area. I continued my pattern of putting things in paintings and then removing them. (The daschund below first had a skateboard; later replaced by stilts.)

Daschund issues

I rediscovered an old canvas and turned it from this:

textured background

to this:

Self portrait (unfinished) 23.5.2011

Andrew started art school (of which I am more than a little jealous). I don’t have many photographs of his work… I wish I had more. Here’s just three from this year:

These two oil paintings are still in progress:

New Sewing projects

Some things never change. Saffron continued her dressmaking assistance into 2011. Her favourite habit is sitting on the fabric one is trying to sew!

Saffron doesn't want me to sew

I embarked on some heirloom work for a white cotton sateen slip:

Heirloom work

and completed a thoroughly indulgent silk slip.

Silk bias cut slip

Somehow I quickly forgot how difficult it is working with slippery and lightweight fabrics, for I moved on to this 1940 pattern:

2 dresses in one

which, as at the time of writing, remains incomplete (needs sleeves, facings and a hem!)

1940 dress in progress

New places

I explored some other parts of Sydney in 2011 and we ventured a little further afield. First to Fitzroy Falls (reasonable disabled access):

2011-02-25 Fitzroy Falls Gardens

then to Mogo Zoo: (access was a bit dodgy due to uneven and steep paths combined with recent rain!)

2011-02-26 Mogo Zoo Giraffe

Tiger eats his chop!

To Balls Point Reserve in Sydney: (inaccessible!)

View from Balls Point Reserve of Sydney

Of course, I couldn’t forget the Dubbo trip! (Dubbo Zoo is wonderfully accessible and we had such great experiences photographing countryside on the way there and back).

Between Wellington & Orange

Near Dubbo

La Perouse was not new but offered up some beautiful sunsets for us.

2011-01-29 Kite Ship and Sun

New Wheelchair

Looking back on this, I have to laugh. Below is a cake I made to celebrate receiving news that Andrew would get a new wheelchair.

Celebratory cake!

We received confirmation we would get a chair back in April. Naively, I made this cake in May thinking the chair would arrive any day! We finally took delivery in September!

For anyone wondering why the mm’s on this cake are lime green and orange… well that was the colour choice being debated. The triffid, as I like to call it, brought much needed relief in the form of a more lightweight chair. It also caused a crisis by being too wide to fit through the bathroom door.

New home

Once it became clear that the bathroom door could not be widened, after much drama, it was time to move house! Now I can only be thankful that Andrew has nowhere near as much crap in his place as I do in mine. Even so, packing was not easy. Pickle helped by packing himself in a crate.

PIckle packed himself

New family

Not content with expanding our feline family, my brother and sister-in-law, gave me a niece as well!

Io I

Lysh & Io I

New job

A minor little thing that happened this year!

New ‘disabilities’

This is one ‘new’ thing 2011 brought that my family could have done without. However, we don’t get to choose these things, so I went about learning what I could about MS and being as supportive as possible.


Well, put like that, it was one hell of a year. Here’s to 2012.

Food separatists of the world unite

My name is the scroobious pip and I am a food separatist.

Andrew has reminded me again of this quirky habit of mine.

Andrew: ‘What would you like for breakfast woman? Do you like English muffins?’

Me: ‘Yes!’

Andrew: ‘So a poached egg on a muffin?’

Me: ‘No!’ [Frown]

Andrew: ‘I don’t get it. You like poached eggs, you like English muffins why can’t you have the two together?’

Thankfully, he doesn’t argue.

Andrew: ‘Ok, an English muffin it is you weird little creature.’

Yet the morning’s enlightenment didn’t end there. This morning I learnt that all my life my mother has been doing it wrong. Yes mum – are you listening – wrong! Did you know that you can simply prize apart an English muffin? You know what happens when you do this? The muffin is SMOOTH. All these years, my mother has retrieved the muffins from the freezer and used a breadknife to separate them. This results in little ‘lint balls’ of muffin on the surface. These burn faster in toaster and so you end up with a muffin of uneven carbon pigmentation. This morning – thanks to 4 – my muffin was perfectly smooth. He still burnt it though. Smoothly burnt.

4 also burnt his toast last night. Well, that’s my interpretation of what happened. I sniffed that distinct flavour in the air and said to him – ‘Andrew have you burnt the toast?’

Reply: ‘No I just cooked it a bit longer.’

It does not surprise me that small appliance companies spend so much time promoting how their product will get you the perfect piece of toast. I think a perfectly toasted piece of bread is like a mirage… yet we continue to desire it, hanker after it, and screw up our noses when that burnt smell is near. Sometimes I think the toaster manufacturers are laughing at us all. A particularly intriguing toaster was one I encountered in a motel in Dubbo. Each guest would go up and stare for a moment at the toaster. It was more like a castle on stilts with the drawbridge half down. Tentatively, people would pick up a piece of toast and place it on the tilted drawbridge. Some pieces would slide straight in… others needing some nudging. Either way, the castle’s mouth swallowed the toast and it proceeded to slowly trudge through the castle’s belly. Here’s where the stilts come in. When it got to the rear of the castle, the piece of toast made an unceremonious ‘SPLAT’ onto the table below. Bemused, people rescued their toast only to discover it was like an Englishman trying to obtain a tan. They turned the said bread, and gave him another pass through the castle’s throat hoping to get something looking vaguely like toast at the end.

Yet a blog piece on toast would not be complete without a final tribute to my mother’s love affair with the worst toaster in the world. I’m not sure who manufactured this monstrosity of a toaster. Kambrook? Breville? Sunbeam? I’m sure if it were any of them, they would all deny responsibility. It was not a pop up toaster. They were for fancy yuppies. It was not one of those bread cage devices. It was like a book with the spine on the table. The ‘heat’ came from the pages in the middle. You took the front cover and lowered it down to table level and popped in your toast and then let it go back up to the pages. The exercise was repeated for the back of the book.

What an appalling design this was. To start with, the little handles on the sides for the toast were made of metal. That was fine when you first put the toast in. Yet when it was time to rescue your toast from the clutches of this evil toaster, everyone would perform the ‘shaky fingers’ dance from the heat… flicking them in the air after each touch of the toaster’s wings. And of course, these flaps were spring loaded. So a quick touch with your finger wasn’t usually enough to have the wing down long enough to rescue your piece of bread. This was design fault number 1.

Design fault number 2. No timing device. Hmmm… what’s the saying? A watched pot never boils. Well a watched toaster doesn’t toast properly either. You start out diligently. Watching. Waiting. Checking (and burning your fingers again on design fault number 1 in the process). Of course, it looks lily livid. So you return the arms to the upright position and proceed with the toaster’s flight of death. You may think I’m being melodramatic but had you been witness to the crispy carcasses removed from this device and the speed with which the kitchen filled with that ‘I cooked it a bit longer’ type smell, you would back me 100%. If you were vigilant and with practice perhaps you could get your toast exactly as you wanted it… were it not for design fault number 3.

That’s right, not one, two, but 3 design faults! (Remember readers, my mother had a love affair with this toaster so we HAD to keep it). The third fault was wing associated. The metal drawers over time, heat, and people banging them repeatedly back against the central spine had warped in shape. The bread never sat flat. This meant an uneven toasting. While one corner of the bread went black, another remained white! Add to this that my mother often stored bread in the freezer. It would warp into whatever shape mum needed to make it fit in the overstuffed freezer. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Retrieved freezer bread that looks more like a spiky starfish than a square piece of food. This added to the uneven cooking and the chances of having a perfect piece of toast were as likely as a cat choosing to sit on the dirty washing when there’s a pile of clean available.

Kambrook, Sunbeam, Breville – are you paying attention??? Whichever of you made this toaster… you caused me serious psychiatric damage as a child… just to get a piece of toast!

Do you think mum would part with this toaster – the WORST toaster in the world? Not on your life. The day it died, she was geniunely put out. In searching for a new toaster, mum discovered they didn’t make this style anymore (gee… I can’t think why not?). So she had to buy one of those pop up toasters only yuppies used. To this day, mum will tell you that she’s never had a toaster as good as this one. Her love affair with it will be only understood by her.

Moving house: disability style

Moving house is up there on anyone’s list of stressful activities. Moving when you have a physical disability comes with a few added stressors. Most challenges can be conquered with a little of that disability ingenuity that I have come to love with Andrew. Yet, when all is said and done, he is still limited in his ability to lift objects and move them where they need go. As such, he had to do one of the most difficult things of all – accept help from wherever it was offered.

Wonderfully, it was offered in abundance. It came from friends, acquaintances and new neighbours. My favourite is the person who was overseas so volunteered their family to help! My father dug up gardenias and my mother was given chief ‘wrapping duties’ of delicate items such as the blind budgies scuplture. (Yes, even when mum would have tossed the item, she smiled and wrapped it as directed!)

Thanks to the kindness of so many, I shall sleep very well tonight knowing that Andrew is in a more accessible environment; his risk of falling in the bathroom or laundry now reduced. Next time sometime tells me how many terrible things are happening in the world, I shall remember this weekend and tell them that generosity and community spirit is alive and well.

Behind the times

I must remember to adjust my wristwatch to daylight savings time. In this digital age, every other appliance seems to have adjusted the time for me. Then again, being an hour behind probably won’t matter to much. I’m 70 years behind on my clothing!

2 dresses in one

This is my next sewing project. The plan is to make a black slip and then two dresses out of these sheer floral fabrics. I had wanted to use cotton sateen, also known as polished cotton, for the slip. I’ve made slips from this previously (to sleep in) and they have a lovely feel. Unfortunately obtaining black is a wee bit tricky! I bought a georgette instead but I’m not convinced that it will work. I’ll have to check with my sewing master.

As for the top part, I’m confident that these fabrics will look lovely. The black one on the right I bought at a vintage show (although the seller was honest enough to tell me that it wasn’t actually an old piece of fabric – just an old look!). At the same show I bought a piece of unused 1940s black crepe. I’m saving that for a special piece. The brown print I bought on the left yesterday. Wedding_2009_0_24 054_sIt reminds me of the ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) Thienhuong’s family gave me for her wedding. The flowers on the ao dai are far prettier than on this fabric but given all those ‘soft pleats’ I don’t think it will matter. I’m intending to use a ‘cross’ of the pattern on the left and the one on the right. I don’t want the puffy short sleeves which are on the left and I’m not fussed on the large collar. That said, while pretty, that high ‘boat’ neck would look silly on me. (I’d look like a giraffe in a floral print) In the end it will probably be more like the one on the left but with more subtle sleeves and a small turn back collar. I have some calico to make a sample bodice which I hope to cut the pieces for this weekend. Of course this depends on whether Saffron and Licorice choose to assist with the fabric. The last time I cut something at home, Licorice curled up in one end of the fabric which was draping off the end of the cutting table. It took me some time to realise she was there… I just couldn’t fathom why the fabric wouldn’t slide across the table.
Cat assistance aside, I shouldn’t really be cutting fabric, I should be tidying as I have guests coming next Saturday. Well, actually, I’m not ‘the host’. Andrew and I were invited to dinner at a friends house. They have a lovely single storey old style house. Unfortunately that means it comes with a small bathroom with a narrow door which Andrew can’t access. When I told my friend that Andrew couldn’t make it but I could come, she and her husband offered to cook all the food and bring it over the my place. I now just have to clear enough art and sewing stuff out of the way to set-up the table. At least I don’t have a Pickle cat in permanent residence on my table like this one…
My table II
…although Licorice did some table top dancing last time we dined.