Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Insourcing...my value in the home...Setting an Example....

 
One of the things I love most about where I am in life, is that I have so many opportunities to set a good example in the way I run my home.
 
I try to set an example with what we grow in the garden, what we store in the pantry, and what we save in the craft cupboard and sewing room. Much of that activity, is largely guided by my own memories of my Mum, Nanna and other significant adults, in my own life, and the wonderful example they set for me.
 
In this day and age of chasing eternal youth and the next notch in our belt as far as fitness goes, of houses that are bigger than big, and credit card debts to go with, and retirees busy spending the kids inheritance, I think it's important to remember that there was a time when adults really did, set the example.
 
When I was a child, the adults around me worked hard.
 
And by that I mean physically hard, not in an air-conditioned office. Dads and Grandads, and Mums and Grandmas all worked very hard to establish a comfortable lifestyle, and their idea of comfort was very different to ours.
 
If you had a roof over your head, a Kelvinator fridge with a tiny freezer just barely big enough for a 'brick' of ice cream, and a cozy bed, you were doing just fine.
 
TV was a luxury, and even when it became more commonplace, they were tiny things about the size of a modern day microwave. And the pictures were black and white. Television broadcasting commenced at 9am with Romper Room or Playschool for the children, and halted at about 9pm after Pick A Box and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were over. We were then treated to a holding pattern on our screen, and a high pitched hum that woke many of us from a peaceful slumber on the couch.
 
The Milkman, The Fruit Man, The Baker, The Soft Drink Man, The Fishmonger, The Butcher and The Grocer all delivered, or had a truck that did the rounds every day, and you'd just wander down to have them weigh what you needed in their big swinging scales. They always threw in a bit of extra, be it some imperfect apples, or an extra fish, or the shank from the lamb, and garnered a loyal customer base in the process. No haggling. It was respect both ways.
 
Being a little self sufficient was important
 
Everyone grew stuff and many kept chickens. I don't recall ever in my life living in a house that did not have at least a Mango tree and a Macadamia tree, and usually there was a Mulberry, a Lemon, sometimes a Peach tree, and often a Banana tree. My childhood knew no pre-packaged snacks apart from a very occasional packet of chips and that was usually in a showbag (also known as a sample bag) from the annual Show, which was like a sort of Carnival on steroids and greatly anticipated. No theme parks back then either. Afternoon tea consisted of an hour of grazing on what grew in the back yard. Sometimes that was an hour spent cracking Macadamia Nuts, sometimes it was picking Chokoes and steaming them to enjoy them dripping in butter, salt and pepper. Never did it mean something in a plastic cup, unless it was a Tupperware cup with cold, icy milk and 3 spoonsful of Milo. You'd get the Milo barely wet with milk, by stirring it in, then enjoy eating the crust of Milo granules that would settle on top.
 
Everyone knew how to insulate themselves from financial hardship
 
My grandparents had a Strawberry farm and picking the berries was back breaking work and they didn't earn a lot of money from it. But they also grew a choko vine, a passionfruit vine, a fig tree, and raised their own chickens, geese, cows and lambs. Grandpa would be up early to milk the cows. Nanna would rise and make Semolina for breakfast, and she'd serve it with a little of the top cream from yesterdays milk, brown sugar and cinnamon. She'd spend the morning collecting the eggs, pruning things in the garden, baking, and even sometimes slaughtering a chicken for the dinner pot. This would entail a process that would send some of you screaming from the room if I were to detail it, so I'll keep mum on that one. Suffice to say, I certainly understood the Food Chain from an early age!
 
Nanna and Mum both cooked, sewed, embroidered, knitted, crocheted, baked, made amazing cakes for birthdays, christenings and weddings, grew food, grew flowers, made do, made from scratch, and generally conjured up life from nothing more than fresh air and water, or so it seemed at times.
 
Not for them fretting about lines, or freckles, or excess weight, or what their resting pulse was, or who knew who and what their 'connections' might be. Yes, they looked after themselves, but it was a less conscious thing. Exercise routines were embedded in their day, so no gym membership was necessary.
 
As far as occupations went, nobody cared if your were a doctor, lawyer, tinker or tailor. In fact, mostly people felt sorry for doctors as they were frequently called upon at all hours to tend to all injuries both great and small. Emergency treatment in big, shiny hospitals was a few years off. I still remember when an accident at the local train station had the adults talking in whispers for a full week. Our doctor was asked, with no support or well lit hospital operating room, to tend a man who was so badly injured, he would not survive. I don't think he was ever his jovial self again after that. Life was cruel sometimes.
 
Teachers were a bit scary, headmasters more so. The local Methodist priest, scariest of all. But relatively speaking, the strange occupational hierarchy that exists now, was a long way off. Back then, so long as you paid your bills and were a good, decent person, that was enough.
 
Mums and Nannas, Dads and Grandpas, neighbours and teachers were, and continue to be, my example in life.
 
What worthy examples they turned out to be.
 

As I move into the latter half of my life, I find I am more and more drawn to simpler living, and a way of life that upholds the lessons learned at my Nannas knee. Perhaps it is the pleasure of spending time with my own grandchildren that transports me so fiercely and vividly to my own childhood, and beckons to me invitingly.
 
Whatever it is, I am determined to ensure that I live my life as an example. Not by collecting accolades, awards and celebrity status, but by demonstrating the joy of a life that is unencumbered by the expectations of others. A life that says something about who I have been in my time on the Earth.
 
Society needs examples.
 
What sort of example are you setting?
 
My granddaughter has visited for Sleepovers twice in two weeks. Both times, I gave her my undivided attention. I remember my Nanna giving generously of her time to me at the same age. She died when I was 11, and I miss her still. My memories of her have not faded one bit in the ensuing 46 1/2 years, and I feel her example in my life, every single day. From rising early, to baking from scratch, to growing figs and mulberries, and teaching my granddaughter to embroider. She is right there with me.
 
Likewise, Mum, now gone nearly 15 years, was a teacher of so many important life lessons. The one that said don't live beyond your means. The one that said that friends who want you to spend money you don't have, be it on clothes, cars, homes or gifts, aren't friends. They're competitors in some weird life game, that you shouldn't feel compelled to participate in. And the one that said, no matter what it was, We Can Make That Darling. And she was right.
 

 
Already my 17 year old daughter makes gifts and cakes for her friends as seen here above. This gift was 100 Happy Thoughts in a jar, some individually wrapped chocolates, a sweetly customised wrapped soap, and some dried rosebuds. How beautifully she wrapped it too.

 
My eldest granddaughter who is 5, loves nothing more than to bake and pick flowers in the garden when she visits. Exactly as I did at her age with my Nanna. What a joy it is for me, to recreate that experience for her and my younger granddaughter, her sister.

 
Our times together are spent happily baking, creating, reading, crafting, colouring...

 
...and she loves nothing more than to imitate what I do. Her hand embellished dinner plates are a joy to behold, and she tried so hard to imitate my kitty kats above.
 
 
Pipe cleaners are fashioned in to Tiaras....

 
And finally, she tells me it's time for a cake and a cup of tea, and brings me a book to read.

 
We don't go out for gourmet meals much either. Sure I can rustle up something pretty swish when the mood takes me, but mostly it's simple, tasty, and warming at this time of the year in the Southern Hemisphere!
 
Corned beef and roast vegetables one night, becomes Corned Beef Shepherds Pie the next. The lesson of planning the meals to ensure minimal waste, another wonderful example.

 
Fast food here means tinned beans forming the base of a Winter Stir Fry, with the addition of bright vegetables, cubes of Chorizo, and a little seasoning. Ready in 7 minutes. That's less time than it would take to drive to the local takeaway.

 
Excess fruit becomes jam, which in turn becomes these gorgeous Crostadas, enjoyed as dessert, afternoon tea, and gifted for a housewarming. One simple recipe, used three times, three different ways. And at a cost of around $1 for 12, a real lesson in the value of home made. We'd seen similar Crostadas, one third the size, in a posh deli that day, at a price of $13 for 12.

 
Even the basic lesson of serving food on nice platters is an important one. You might notice that whilst restaurants serve meals on large plates, usually only the very centre is utilised, allowing for lots of space around the food to enhance the presentation. Large plates aren't for filling up with unnecessary calories. They're to give you space to make the food look appealing. A little lemon zest, a sprinkle of chopped chives, a spring of rosemary, a dusting of paprika or freshly ground pepper. These things go a long way towards giving your food that restaurant look, without the price tag. I don't think my Nanna and Grandpa ever visited a restaurant in their entire life. But they knew the value of a beautifully set table.

 
Mum and Nanna also knew how to make just about anything. There was no internet, but women talked. Over the fence and at church mostly. Recipes were exchanged, hardships shared, love celebrated, and tragedies grieved.
 
Foods like Cottage Cheese were a by-product of a simple life. If you had excess milk from your cow, you had to find a way to use it. Someone else's Nonna or Nanna or Ya-Ya always had the recipe you needed to use up what you had too much of, or to stretch what you needed more of.
 
When you realise that you can make Cottage Cheese/Ricotta, from nothing more than milk, salt and either lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid, you'll be wondering what's with the hefty price tag. Especially when you realise it's something that came out of avoiding food waste!
 
Once you appreciate the joy too, of growing just a few fragrant herbs in pots or in your garden, you'll likely be wondering the same thing. There is a special happiness in clipping some chives from your own sunny porch to stir through scrambled eggs or freshly made cottage cheese....

 
Here's how I made a cup of delicious, creamy cottage cheese of my own the other day. My granddaughter helped. She didn't appreciate the cheese, calling it Yucky Nanna, but she loved the process.
 
To one litre of Reduced Fat Milk, I added a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/3 teaspoon of Citric Acid. You can find Citric Acid in the Baking aisle with things like Baking Powder.
 
Line a kitchen sieve with muslin or paper towel, and set it over a jug or bowl where the whey can drain.
 
Bring the milk and additives to a fast simmer, and remove it from the heat.
 
Let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
 
It will form curds which you then scoop out with a slotted spoon, into your waiting lined sieve.
 
It will look a bit like this.
 
 
Keep the whey if you wish. It makes great skin toner, and can be added to shakes, smoothies, chutneys, and sauces. I sometimes keep it, and other times I don't bother. It doesn't keep indefinitely though, so make a plan to use it up, or discard as you see fit.
 
Allow your curds to drain for up to one hour. I changed my paper towel three times to get my cottage cheese to this consistency. This is quite firm and scoopable, and I can add herbs to it and use it as I would feta, haloumi, or grated tasty cheese.

 
Chopped mint and chives makes a lovely fresh tasting cheese.
 
 
I served this as a salad one day...
 
 
..and as a sautéed vegetable medley the next. Planning to use things up, like the corned beef I mentioned above, is an important example too. Waste not, want not!
 
These two meals used exactly the same ingredients, but one was served cold with the mushrooms marinated as a salad, the other stirred in a hot wok for a few minutes as a delicious Saute`.
 
Another lesson learned.

 
What lessons did you learn at your Grandmothers knee?
 
I'd love to hear.
 
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24 comments:

  1. Dear Mimi, Because of your Grandmother and Mother you are now able to teach your daughter and Granddaughters skills and ways that will affect their own grandchildren. Who would want to miss this opportunity? But many do. Your Grandchildren will be saying what you are saying now about your wonderful Nan and Mum, only it will be about you!
    As for good examples.. there are fewer and fewer. Being an encourager is a big thing. The work we do at home and with children, Grand children and Great Grandchildren is so important an edit does affect the generations! My Mum is on her way to the city tomorrow and she will spend her days helping Lucy (her Granddaughter) with her two babies. She helps so much! They love her! Her attitude is as long as she keeps going she will keep ensuring she does all she can for her family. This is my example. My Nan and Mum sound so much like yours right down to butchering the chicken on the spot! I am so grateful. I loved this post. With love Annabel.xxx

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    1. Dear Annabel, what goosebumps I got imagining that my Grandchildren might remember me with the same fondness with which I remember my Nanna. That is what I'd like of course, but you articulated it in a way that I never have. What a privilege that would be. I do believe that so long as someone carries you in their heart, you are never really gone from this Earth, so that would be lovely. And yes, who would want to miss out on the joys of generating those memories for the future. I agree with what you say about being an encourager. It seems these days that children are mostly meant to reflect well on their parents. They're meant to excel at school and at work, marry well, produce adorable grandchildren, and buy big houses and European cars. I wish I could communicate to some of my own friends and peers, that those things matter not a whit when you are gone. Your legacy is not 'things'. It is memories, and gentle skills and lessons that one only learns through osmosis sometimes, and being giving of your time and energy to those that mean the most to you....not to a job or a 'network'. Sigh. Your Mum is like mine would be if she were here, and like the European Matriarchs of the family like my Nanna was. It's an admirable thing. You are right. What we do, and the example we set, affects our families for many generations. It's an important mindset I believe. Thankyou for your support. Love, Mimi xxx

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  2. Dear Mimi,
    I had no grandmother's knee to learn at, yet I thrive on hearing these stories from people like you!! You are kind to share with us of your experiences! I love it!
    Regards,
    Rachel Holt

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    1. Dearest Rachel, we are all your Grandmothers and isn't the internet a wonderful place for this! Who would have imagined even a decade ago, that you and I could have this conversation, and that I could be your Grandmother-in-cyberspace! Well, maybe I'm a little young to be your granny, but you know what I mean...lol! It's a powerful tool in that respect. Thankyou. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Love, Mimi xxx

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  3. Dear Mimi
    Thank you for the lovely trip down memory lane. We share much of the same experiences. I, too, am blessed to come from a long line of women who set the example. Every time I work in my "victory garden" I can see in my mind's eye my grandmother teaching me. Encouraging and setting the example for our children, grand children and even young people who aren't related to us is a priceless gift to give. Loved this post, Mlmi!
    Blessings,Cookie

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    1. Dear Cookie, I love knowing that I've met people through my blog, who share my life experiences. I know exactly what you mean about toiling in the garden and feeling your grandmother there. What a significant lesson that is, in itself. Being an example for our own children and grandchildren, impacts on others in good ways too. Even if we don't realise it. Thankyou! Mimi xxx

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  4. Dear Mimi, thank you for writing your wonderful blog. I look forward to every post. My childhood was as you described. The highest compliment a women would receive was, "there wasn't anything she couldn't do". From these women I grew up wanting to be just like them. My mom, grandmother and neighbors set a wonderful example for me. Today I am passing my skills on to my daughter and to my granddaughters. Need to reupholster a chair? make draperies?need your hair cut? Nothing to eat? no problem. Today I'm making American Girl doll clothes from my scrapes. After all there isn't anything I can't do. JaLynn

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    1. Jlynn, how lovely to meet you. I am thrilled that you enjoy my humble blog. I LOVE what you said about 'there wasn't anything she couldn't do'...yes! That was high praise indeed. And not something you hear often these days. So many heirloom skills are being lost and it pains me to see everyone striving for 'more', when I think what they're really missing is the simple satisfaction that those skills bring. How can you know you love baking, if you buy every cake for your family celebrations? How can you feel the simple joy of harvesting herbs or flowers from your own garden, if you've never grown anything? Yes these things are hard to begin with. So was writing, walking, talking, mastering all manner of skills in our lifetime. Why wouldn't you give the same effort and energy to the things that sustain us beyond money and possessions? I love your take on mastering those skills. Upholster a chair? Done it. Make drapes? Yep. Cut hair? Of course! A meal from nothing? ALL the time...lol! Love your thoughts on this! Love, Mimi xxx

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  5. "In this day and age of chasing eternal youth...." THAT quote sums up for me how I've been feeling when I see some of my old friends facebook posts. When a woman's life long ambition is to 'be pretty', something is off. I love this post; it holds so much truth. It almost made me cry, while longing for the old days. I hope I can provide a little of that to my grandchildren.

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    1. Yes, Penpen, indeed it is 'off', and the stench will manifest itself for a long time! It's so sad. The 'old' days weren't perfect in many ways, but the challenge is to bring the best of them with us, and improve the lives of our families in doing so. Nobody is saying let's all be Stepford Wives (as in the Ira Levin book and subsequent films). I'm simply saying let's not lose the beautiful skills that make a house a home, and a family unit, a family. Love, Mimi xxx

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  6. Dear Mrs. Mimi:

    What a wonderful world I dreamed in when reading your post. So lovely.

    I lived behind my Grandmother growing up. I am truly sad to say that I didn't take the time to learn how to cook, sew, garden, etc. Oh the things she could have taught that I would love to know now! But she showed me how to love like Jesus. She showed me how important reading His Word is. She taught me that a meek and quiet spirit is lovely. She did try to teach me how to make chocolate gravy. But as she never measured ingredients, it was a bit much for her to convey and I never did get it right. lol I'm too analytical I guess. She taught me the value of hard work. She taught me forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She also taught me that the fly swatter is needed from time to time on legs that run to trouble. lol I love her so, even though she is physically no longer here. Thank you. Thank you for keeping the heritage flowing through your lineage. <3

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    1. Dear Melinda, it sounds as if your Grandmother had her own lessons to pass along, and she did so, admirably. I loved what you said about the fly swatter, it made me laugh! Yes we got swatted a few times too! We all turned out okay, and not a serial killer amongst us...lol! Sometimes I think the best lessons are the ones taught from love. I think you definietely had that. Love, Mimi xxx

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  7. Dearest Mimi! You have said so many things dear to my heart! Oh to leave a sweet legacy to my grandchildren is what I desire the most! Bless you dear one. Very well said!

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    1. Dear Lynn, thankyou. Our grandchildren are all a little piece of us, aren't they? Love, Mimi xxx

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  8. I learned from my grandmother that women don't need school education, I learned that people of color were unhealthy and I learned to despise un-christians. I have since then learned many things my grandmother didn't want to know about and the world is a better place for it. Sentimentality easily becomes escapism and to nobody's benefit.

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    1. Dear Anonymous. I wish you'd left your name and a way for me to contact you. I always wonder why people leave these sorts of comments, without a way for me to respond personally. I am truly sorry that you missed having the example that I did. My Grandmother was German, my Grandfather of French descent, and they and my Mother escaped Germany having lived through two World Wars. One of my Mothers earliest memories was of being in her pram, while her Mother ran for the bomb shelter. She recalled hearing the air raid sirens and she must have only been a toddler at best. My Mum suffered prejudice upon settling in Australia, mostly from her peers at school when she was still struggling to master English as a language, but on the whole, they weathered it well, and integrated into life here with no regrets. They did whatever was in their power to overcome the terrible circumstances they'd left behind, and they did it with grace and dignity. My point being, that even when our own upbringing is not ideal, even when we live with hatred and violence and prejudice, even when we've dealt with the very worst the human race can dish up, we can still rise above it. There is sentimentality in my post, yes. But that is because my Grandparents and parents worked hard to give me a life upon which I could reflect with genuine gratitude and sentimentality. You can do the same. I wish you a peaceful day. Mimi

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  9. Dear Mimi, Thanks for all the time and effort you put into sharing this lovely blog with us. It is like sitting down for a chat with a friend. I relate to so much of what you say and sometimes the memories come flowing back thick and fast. Your photos are beautiful and you have a lovely way with words. I absolutely adore the way you write about your memories of your Mother and Grandmother. This is the way it should be although unfortunately for some, it isn't. As adults, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to make our own choices in life, so we can steer our life in the direction that we would like to see it go. I think it's important to have a guidepost to see the way things can be and the beautiful memories that can be created for our children and grandchildren when we live our lives this way. I am grateful for your kind and generous nature that you give your time so freely to share your life with us.
    Regards
    Del

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    1. Dear Del, I thank you for your kind words. It sometimes feels like a thankless task, when so few comment, and you really don't know who is looking! But from time to time, I get lovely people like you, and my faithful few, who see fit to bestow kind words upon my scribbles. I appreciate it so very much. I agree that despite not everyone having been blessed with my role models, there is always time to realise that you are a role model yourself and take up the baton with kindness and generosity, so that the next generation has your example to follow. I feel you see that too. Love, Mimi xxx

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  10. My grandparents home was my favorite place on earth. Throughout my life, I lived with them for years at a time. My parents lived in eternal self-created chaos of being....disorganized? I'm not sure.
    My dad was forever trying to buy himself happiness and that meant my mom having to leave home and go to work, take care of kids, the house, etc. without a lick of help from him. Thus, chaos. Grandpa worked and Grandma was a housewife. We lived in Los Angeles in a very blue collar neighborhood of small bungalows. The house was immaculate and always in order. Schedules were followed daily. At 4:30am, Grandma was making flour tortillas (we're Hispanic) in anticipation of Grandpa coming home from his all-night job. When I awoke, about 5am usually, the house smelled delicious. I watched Sesame Street & Romper Room daily and Grandpa made me so many of the *toys* they used from items in his garage. A cardboard car to race around the house in, stringed cans to walk on, & others. He taught me how to make spinning wind ornaments from milk cartons. Grandma did all the traditional handiwork and always encouraged my crafting & creation. She taught me a mean game of Rummy until I could beat her by age 11, much to my family's astonishment!! I would sit on a kitchen stool and watch her sort dry pinto beans from a big 50 lb. sack, whir hot red sauce in the blender while she wore garage goggles & gloves!, and roll thousands of tortillas. She taught me how to spread the masa on corn husks to make tamales and how to tie them in little knots to keep them from falling apart during the steaming process. Oh, what I wouldn't give to taste one of those now!!

    Despite the busy-ness and lack of money, their house was the most peaceful & homey place I ever lived. Clean, organized, always smelled good, & the yards outside mirrored the inside. There was truly a pride in the home and they did everything themselves.

    Thanks for the trip down memory road! I could picture it all perfectly, down to Grandma's favorite aprons!!

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    1. Dear Debbie, what a beautiful peek this is into your upbringing! I love everything that you said. I love that you didn't candy coat your parents shortcomings. I love that you acknowledged and honoured both them and your grandparents. I loved the images you invoked with your retelling of your Grandmothers routine. I love that you gave us an insight into your own heritage. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. Yes! Peaceful, homey, clean, organised, tantalising scents and experiences, skills kept alive, and pride. Those are the things that remain with us, and make us who we are. Thankyou so much for this comment today. It's made me so happy. Love, Mimi xxx

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  11. Oh Mimi you had me sitting back, sipping my tea and wondering down memory lane. My Mum is not a great cook, but boy can she bake! I remember her doing a Chinese cookery course when I was about 15. Dad and us 5 kids devoured what she made. It was so delicious and it was the first time any of us kids had had Chinese inspired food. It was also the last time. Mum couldn't be bothered to spend all that prep time to see it devoured in five seconds flat!
    My own cooking skills were rather lacking until I met Bluey. His Mum could take an old rubber boot and turn it into a delicious meal. She taught him this skill and over the years Bluey has passed this skill onto the kids and I.
    One Grandma taught me how to sew, knit and crochet and the other taught me how to set a table and make a simple meal special.
    Thank you for giving me the nudge to look at these special people in my life and to remember their time with me with such fondness.

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    1. Dear Jane, I am so glad to have resurrected memories for you too. I laughed about the Chinese cooking. I think I've had a few times like that. Some things are just more trouble than they're worth...lol! Your poor Mum! What a gem Bluey is to take you under his wing. Especially knowing how important food is to the men in our lives! I know that you are the kind of person who will lead by example. And I see already how much that darling granddaughter adores you. I think you're on the right path ;-) Love, Mimi xxx

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  12. I agree with the other comments about looking forward to reading your wise words and reminisences. My childhood experience was similar too and I have to say I didn't realise it in my lovely teenage stage, that the lessons were all about being authentic, resilient and resourceful. What a gift. I do think that I have been blessed to have learned these lessons. They certainly pay off and bring a contentment and confidence that is so valuable in this day and age. There are a lot of undermining messages going on that cause people to question their choices, lifestyle and looks. I can honestly say I'm happy and content with my life and that is something you don't hear a lot of these days.
    Janiebabe

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  13. Dear Mimi,
    I loved this post so much that I read it to my husband and we sat and reminisced of our fond childhoods and grandparents lessons taught to us. We live a very simple life and are grateful for all we have. However it's not as simple and pure as our childhoods were. Oh how I wish the world for our grandkids was as wonderful as it was for us. We can and will continue to instill in them the simple pleasures of life, and satisfaction of working hard, being grateful and doing for others.
    Thanks again for such a beautiful post!
    Melody in OR

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx