Category Archives: handy hints


This morning I am running late, not exactly running, more of a crawling pace and I am not facing the first day back at work. I am off for some knitting & nattering. Sure you never know I might come home with a story…

In the mean time, a little something I came across on Facebook yesterday:

Penny Jar

Penny Jar

Alas my jar full of colourful buttons won’t buy much cake..

This year, I think I’ll change the contents!

Thinking caps.

I was working away in the kitchen doing this and that, baking, cooking and cooling food for the freezer.

As I covered a bowl, I thought of my blogging friends….. wondering if they were out of their showers for the day.

Now what brought that to my mind?

At this stage regular readers will know I can have some very strange ideas. Today it was shower caps.

Do you have a shower cap? Is it clean?

I bought a pack of three shower caps the other day in one of the local budget shops that seem to be sprouting across the land. The budget shops and not the shower caps!

These handy shower caps never made it past the kitchen. I washed and dried them and left them to air for a day or two. Now I have a new use for them:

Shower caps to cover bowls

Shower caps to cover bowls



The shower caps make great covers for bowls while hot ingredients are cooling, or perhaps bread or pizza dough is raising. Flies may look, but not get near the food.



Do you have a second life for a gadget in the kitchen or other part of the house?

Want to share?

I like coffee

But not like that!

This end of my counter is not usually so cluttered* the photo is to show you the mess one single cafetiere can make when the beaker bursts! It happened suddenly and the liquid went everywhere. Over my trousers and my shoes, on the counter, across the floor, on the sides of the cooker and the washing machine beside it.

can you see the hole

can you see the hole

Can you see the hole at the bottom of the Bodum® cafetiere? It is just behind the upright bar with the name embossed on it.

rinsed for a clearer photo

rinsed for a clearer photo

I found the larger piece of glass on the floor at the side of my cooker when cleaning up the mess.

I have been a Bodum® customer for many years now. I have an Assam Tea press and cafetières in several sizes, that are in regular use. I am very careful with the glass and always wash & dry each one by hand, I do not have or ever possessed a dishwasher.

This break was spontaneous, and the first time it ever happened to me!  I decided to get in touch with Bodum®, explain my problem and I added photos for evidence purposes. I asked if there was a reason why this should happen when, instructions are followed to the letter?

I had an immediate reply!

It would seem to us that your question is answered in the photographs you have provided.  It would appear from the first to [sic] photographs that a metal spoon was being used.  In the third photograph the instructions for use are shown where it states that coffee should be stirred with plastic or wooden spoons not metal. 

By this stage my glass beaker was in the bin, so I immediately went to look at the larger sizes in my cupboard. They do not mention anything about metal cutlery, one way or the other.

I then went rummaging in the bin for the object of my complaint. The print on the glass is smaller and in a place close to the handle, so more difficult to read.

Why must the print of what is considered to be an important issue, be so small? 

I have taken another photo of three cafetieres. The tissue in each is to make the print more readable.

Bodum Cafetieres

Bodum Cafetieres

I did write back, admitting that I had not read the instructions, as I had been using the cafetieres successfully for many years and did not expect them to have changed.

I  did wonder if there has been a recent spate of problems and the small instruction about the non use of metal cutlery was to cover the company in these days of a compensation conscious culture. I made no suggestion of compensation. I was not burned. I only wanted to let them know of my disappointment.

“Metal cutlery should never be used with glass.”

I grew up in the days of china cups and fine glasswere. My mother taught me to use a metal spoon when pouring hot liquid into a glass or china cup, to diffuse the heat and prevent the glass/china cracking. I have done that for over fifty years without a problem, even with Bodum® cafetieres.

Now go back and take another look at the last photo. The single one with the broken glass has a metal frame, while the others are made of plastic. If it is not considered safe to use a metal spoon inside the glass, surely it is not a good idea to market them with a metal frame. 

With each purchase of a Bodum® cafetiere, I found a plastic measuring spoon in the pack. Perhaps it might me a helpful marketing idea for Bodum® to switch the measuring spoon for a long handled plastic spoon with the brand name on it!

What do you think?

* My Microwave had to be moved a couple of weeks ago, when water began dripping through my ceiling ( a story for another day).  It is now on the far end of the counter and I am waiting for help to set it back up on the wall brackets. My arms can no longer take the weight and lift it up onto the wall brackets, while standing on a step ladder. Grrr!

Life is all about Sharing

Sometimes, I might babble on with a lot of old drivel….

 “GM talks drivel 24/7!”

Who said that?

Was it you Darren? Careful now, I might demote you from the Toyboy list! 😛

Sometimes my babble contains snippits of advice or a handy tip, or ‘another’ way to tackle a problem. Apparently a few weeks ago, I did just that: Offer a suggestion to use Sugru®, in a blog comment at THEKITCHENSGARDEN, all the way over in Illinois, USofA. Then the Toyboys distracted me and I forgot all about it.

I forgot all about it until yesterday, when katechiconi in Australia, another regular visitor to The Kitchens Garden, made contact to tell me. She had followed the link to Sugru®, sourced, purchased and used the product. Today she followed up with a blog post on how she used it  for Earbuds – in simple detail!

I last used this wonerful product in december and you can read about it here.

Declaration 1: I have no connection with the Sugru® Empire – well, the company has certainly grown since the first little video I watched from a young lady… I think she was in her father’s workshop or garden shed. I am a great believer in thinking outside the box and that is exactly what this young lady did… and built an empire!


An Undertaking

Woman’s hour on BBC Radio 4, had an interesting item the other morning, about Undertakers. It set me thinking and researching. Ok, so a week ago I felt like death, this week I was in need of distraction from the creaks, groans and pain emanating from my body.

When you think of an undertaker, what image springs to mind? A sombre man dressed from top to toe in black? Perhaps attired in a top hat, tailcoat, or long dark Overcoat and leather gloves all above shoes polished as if for a military parade.

If we take a look back in time to the late 19th century, most deaths (apart from casualties at war) occurred  in the home setting. The bodies stayed at home. Were laid out at home. Laid out by he women of the family or by a few chosen ones in the local community, sturdy stalwarts who were regularly called upon at times of hatching or dispatching.

In the 1930s public mortuaries & chapels of rest began to appear, but after the introduction of the National Health Service, ‘death’ was moved away from the domestic setting and was placed in the hands of funeral directors. These funeral directors were all men.


Bereaved families are vulnerable and often easily encouraged to show respect for the deceased with a good coffin, shiny hearse and multiple mourning coaches.

When arranging a basic burial, you might well be talking £3,000.00. Get more than one quote to compare costs.

The fee for the purchase of a plot depends on which cemetery is chosen, and where that cemetery is located. In my local graveyard, run by the local Council, the purchase of a grave plot for a resident of the borough is £300.00, it increases to £900.00 for a non resident. The 1st Opening £280.00, for a second and subsequent opening the cost would be £170.00. If you live in a large city, the costs may well be much higher.

On top of that – pun intended, Headstone Pricing can be anything from £900.00 to £2,650.00. These prices include installation of headstone, engraving of up to two names and sentiment but not cemetery fees of £100.00.

Then there will be costs to consider for a newspaper notice, flowers, and minister’s fee, the cost of a coffin, and the fees that are paid directly to the undertaker for the use of their services to arrange and conduct the funeral, tips for the organist and the verger at a church for making the preparations (dusting the front pews!). If you add in venue hire and catering costs, you might well be talking of £4,600 and odd pounds.

I told you it was BIG BUSINESS!

A cremation would be somewhere in the region of £2,500/£3,000  – this dying is not cheap! In addition to the fee of approx £600/£700 paid directly to the crematorium for (striking the match) carrying out the cremation, organists and medical referee’s fee and the use of their chapel for your allocated time, there will also be a fee to be paid to each of the doctors who complete the cremation certificates. I am always amused that it takes only one doctor to declare the ‘body’ dead for a funeral, yet two doctors must sign separate forms for a cremation. Currently in the UK this fee is set at £78.50 per doctor, giving a total fee payable of £157.00. This fee is set by the British Medical Association, and is reviewed and revised annually.

Next we need to think of the B O X.

Coffins are a whole different ballgame. Coffins are graded according to (the colour, the shine) the wood finish, and the brass or silver trimmings.

My exhaustive research of visiting one undertakers website, informed me that the range varied from a traditional veneered oak coffin with raised lid and polished teak finish @ £305.00 to a solid Paulownia wood³ casket polished in teak finish with luxury padded interior @ £2470.00. An 18 gauge steel casket, platinum finish with ebony shading and luxury padded interior was £POA – price on application, in other words, if you have to ask, you cannot afford it! They catered for the ‘Greenites’ too with a willow coffin manufactured from sustainable sources and available in traditional or oval shape. With water resistant lining, chipboard base and matching wooden frame it would only knock you back £595.00.

Are you worn out and ready to flop yet?

Never fear, the wind of change is beginning to whirl.  Women are increasingly taking on roles within the funeral industry and are reclaiming jobs viewed in recent times as male. It is no longer the preserve of gentlemen. We now have women undertakers, and that programme I mentioned way up there at the top of the post, had three wonderful ladies of the trade on the show:- Poppy Mardall, an undertaker, Liz Rothschild, a funeral celebrant, and Tara Bailey, a former undertaker who’s done a PhD at the Centre for Death & Society at the University of Bath.

I certainly learned a few things….

It was like an old vault opening and letting in the daylight. You do not need to have the full formal funeral with hearse, mourning cars and church or funeral home service.

When someone dies there are three or four things you MUST DO in the first few days:

  • Check if the deceased is on the organ donor list and talk to the GP or hospital doctor ASAP. The sooner you do so, the more helpful it can be. Let your loved one live on in another person. Perhaps pass on the gift of life!
  • Get a medical certificate – it states the date, time and cause of death and must be signed by the doctor who declared the person’s death. You’ll get this from a doctor (GP or at a hospital) and you need one to register the death.
  • Register the death within 5 days of the death – you’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral. In the UK, unlike ROI, the death must be registered officially before a grave can be opened or a cremation booked. One tip I will give you is to ask for several copies of the Death Certificate from the Registrar at the first appointment², at this stage there is no extra charge, otherwise, at a later date, you will be asked to pay for each extra copy.
  • Arrange the funeral – you can use a funeral director or do it yourself. If you decide to do things yourself, the Registrar will give you another form that must be filled in to say what has happened to the body and returned to the Registrars office. Even if old Uncle Felix is sitting in an hourglass on the mantelpiece, you must say that on the form.

Are you listening Elly…….

There is no law that says you must use an undertaker or need a fancy box or the flashiest hearse in the country.

You can transport me the stiff the body, yourself…. In the boot of your old banger the car. That’s right. Bundle me up and bung me in there like an unfinished picnic in a sudden downpour!  Get my son-in-law to fire up the BBQ and away I go! Then go have a “She wasn’t so bad after all!” party and have a ball!

Sorting my personal affairs… NO. Not Toyboy affairs. I mean – hiring a skip, selling the house etc, can all be done later.

If the death has been reported to a coroner you can’t register the death until the coroner gives permission.

A doctor may report the death to a coroner if:

  • the cause of death is unknown
  • the death was violent or unnatural
  • the death was sudden and unexplained
  • the person who died was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness
  • the medical certificate is not available
  • the person who died was not seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died
  • the death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of an aesthetic
  • the medical certificate suggests the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning
  • The coroner may decide that the cause of death is clear. In this case: The doctor signs a medical certificate, and you take the medical certificate to the registrar.
  • The coroner issues a certificate to the registrar stating a post-mortem isn’t needed.

A Post-mortem/autopsy is held:-

To find out how the person died, the coroner may decide a post-mortem is needed. This can be done either in a hospital or mortuary. You can’t object to a coroner’s post-mortem – but if you have asked, the coroner must tell you (and the person’s GP) when and where the examination will take place.

After the post-mortem:

The coroner will release the body for a funeral once they have completed the post-mortem examinations and no further examinations are needed.

² You will need extra copies of the Death Certificate for:

  1. Undertaker if you use one.
  2. Solicitor if he is dealing with the deceased person’s will and/or estate.
  3. Probate office, if everything is straight forward and there is a will, and you feel comfortable in dealing with things yourself.
  4. Bank/s (If you have a joint account and take the death certificate in to them, they will usually make a note that they have seen the death certificate, remove e the deceased person’s name and return the certificate to you, if it is done by post, then they make take weeks or indeed months to return it! Well the poor banks need an excuse to make even more money out of us.
  5. Building societies.
  6. Wages department, if deceased was in employment.
  7. Insurance Company
  8. Pension provider

Do not photocopy a Death certificate, it will be treated like fake money. You need to go back to the Registrars office and pay for them or have a solicitor provide a certified copy…. You will pay handsomely for this.

This site might help: What to do after someone dies in UK

Some local councils run their own funeral services – eg non-religious burials. The British Humanist Association can also help with non-religious funerals.

To arrange a funeral yourself, contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local council.

All prices lists above are in £Sterling.

³ I never heard of Paulownia wood before, it comes from China…. All the way to the UK to be used for one day and buried in a hole in the ground, or cast into an oven! That link above makes for an interesting read, and tells of many uses of the wood for making the soundboards of stringed musical instruments, for chests, boxes, and clogs (geta), and is burned to make charcoal for sketching and powder for fireworks.

How To Plant Your Garden

This little treasure was sent to me many a long month ago via email. I know that many people begin planning the garden for the year ahead in the quiet days post feasting, so I thought I would share it with you now.

How To Plant Your Garden:


  1. Peace of mind
  2. Peace of heart
  3. Peace of soul


  1. Squash gossip
  2. Squash indifference
  3. Squash grumbling
  4. Squash selfishness


  1. Lettuce be faithful
  2. Lettuce be kind
  3. Lettuce be patient
  4. Lettuce really love one another


  1. Turnip for meetings
  2. Turnip for service
  3. Turnip to help one another


  1. Thyme for each other
  2. Thyme for family
  3. Thyme for friends


My way of decorating….

Wisewebwoman asked if I had any decorating tips. I am no expert, but I have done my fair share of decorating over the years. Where to start?

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Make a list of all that you need:-

  • sturdy stepladder.
  • sandpaper.
  • filler for any small holes or cracks.
  • emulsion for walls.
  • paints for woodwork.
  • white spirit to clean the finish paint brushes. *
  • selection of brushes for emulsion and finish paints.
  • rollers with a telescopic pole (saves climbing).
  • old clean bucket for mixing paint.
  • roller paint tray same size as roller.
  • an old long handled wooden spoon or several piece of dowelling to stir emulsion.
  • selection of screwdrivers – Phillips and straight headed.
  • Cling/Saran film to cover light fittings, PIRs, and heating controls. Don’t forget to remove the cling/Saran before switching on the lights!
  • I have a supply of old sheets to cover the floor and anything unmoveable.
  • clean damp cloth for splash removal.

If Papering:-

  • Wallpaper. **
  • Wallpaper paste.
  • Pasting bucket and brush.
  • Paper scissors.
  • Sharp knife.
  • Pasting table.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Brush for settling paper to the wall and removing bubbles of paste or air.
  • Clean damp cloth to remove excess paste. This cloth will need rinsing regularly to remove the paste.

I begin by making space in a spare bedroom. Next I move small tables, all pictures, ornaments, books, DVDs & CDs to this temporary home. Anything that I might need goes to the kitchen and sits under the counter. I clear the floor of all the furniture. I only have one piece of furniture – a wall unit that I do not remove from the room and use an old duvet cover, envelope fashion to protect it.

My floors (with the exception of my kitchen) are all covered with carpet. I find it warmer under foot. I keep a rectangular carpet sample to help with moving heavy items of furniture – a tip I learned from a professional painter many years ago. Place the sample pile side down under one end of the furniture and pull on the other end of it, the furniture will glide along. Pile to pile. It works a dream.

When deciding to do any big chore I make sure that I have a choice of soups and dinners prepared and in the freezer. The soup is easy to heat at lunchtime and at the end of a long day painting, a ready made meal is very welcome.

A long handled soft brush is handy to sweep the ceilings and walls of dust and stray cobwebs. I keep a brush for that purpose alone, and it is used many times throughout the year.

Old comfortable clothes that are relegated to the painting box. Flat shoes. I wear a scarf doubled at the back of my neck to give extra support for when I am bending my head back to look up at the ceiling.

My walls are covered with a blown paper to take away the plain surface and I regularly freshen the walls with a coat of emulsion. With plain walls the furnishings and fittings come into their own.

Years ago I used brilliant white, but now find it rather clinical and stark. Magnolia becomes dull rather quickly so I buy a bucket of both and mix them. A trick I learned about twenty years ago was to buy one of them in Matt finish and the other in Silk finish. When mixed and well stirred the walls have a light sheen. Make sure to mix enough paint to finish the job because no two mixes are the same.  It is a good idea when the job is complete, to keep a screw top jar full for emergency touch-ups. That way you have the exact colour.

Try to keep a window open while working, to disperse any paint fumes. When the work is complete, I light a candle with a well trimmed wick and leave it sitting for a couple of hours. It helps to clear the smell of paint.

With emulsion paint I use a roller for large areas and a brush for corners, cornices and narrow strips. Always begin at the furthest corner and work towards the light. My ceilings are papered so I am inclined to work a strip at a time.  Emulsion can be worked forward & backward or even criss-crossed, just make sure to cover the whole area and not leave gaps.

If it is your first time to decorate, just remember that while it is drying, wet paint can look patchy. Stay confident and wait until the next day and usually the paint has dried to an even cover.

With finish paint – gloss, or eggshell – you need to check the instructions on the tin before you open it. Some paints need to be stirred and some don’t. Make sure to purchase enough. Two smaller tins rather than a great big one, might be a better idea. Keep receipts and usually any unopened tins may be returned to the shop.

When using finish paint, use a good brush, with very little paint on it, and work a small area in one direction only! When painting door frames, begin with the section next the hinges then open the door and use a wedge to keep it open. Next work on the area the door closes into, and finally finish the upper frame and that down the other side. Lastly paint the door on one or both sides. I leave a chair or large book beside the door so that I do not close it by mistake before the paint is really dry and not just dry to the touch.

Finish paint has a tendency to look darker when wet.

Dispose of old paint carefully. Check with your local Council.

** When buying wallpaper check the pattern and batch numbers, like balls of knitting wool, they need to be the same batch. How many rolls do you need? Measure the length and breath of the room and the height on the walls. Take this to the shop with you and a member of staff will help you work it out. Don’t forget to allow for pattern drop. I usually buy an extra roll, it allows for errors in cutting and it can be returned if unopened and you have kept the receipt.

* I ran out of white spirit and had some paint on my hand, Looking about for something to remove it, I tried nail polish remover. It worked.

I keep note of how many rolls of wallpaper are required for each room. And save a sample of paper with the paint on, and add to this a sample of carpet and curtain fabrics. It comes in handy if you are changing one item or want something to fit in with your colour scheme. It is not always easy to carry a colour in your head.  The lighting in a shop can make things look very different.

This is by no means a complete list of decorating tips, but the ones I use most often. I hope they help.

Anybody seen my gloves?

You like my gloves?

All my life my fingers have been a little bent. I hear you Mayo, what do you mean, just like me?

They get worse in cold weather. Mammy had the same problem. My toes were badly curled too and I had surgery on them in 1993 – Joints were removed and the bones fused. Years ago I was warned not to get cold.  In Ireland with cold damp weather any day of the year? Not easy. But you know, I could be sitting by a roaring fire and if an internal door were opened, the draught would be enough to make me cold to the bone!

Two sips of cold water cool my body right down from the inside. That is why I drink water off the boil.  I will happily drink hot water by the kettleful.

The problem is caused by my heart going into spasm.  NO! It has nothing to do with Toyboys. Honest! Chasing Toyboys is way better than running on a treadmill any day. 😉

I wear gloves almost all year round.  Cold air passes through woollen gloves or mittens, so they are no good to me. I found that lined leather works best for me.  I need them for driving the car too, hands stuck on a cold steering wheel are a hazard for others as well as me.  If the lining in the gloves is thick, I have no grip, so silk lined are my preference. They are light, comfortable and keep some heat in my hands. Unfortunately they also keep the shape of my bent fingers.  Heck, they work, so I’ll not complain.

I am right-handed but can use both hands for most tasks. If I was out of doors for a long spell in severe weather, my hands would become painful, otherwise they don’t cause me much bother bar being very stiff. When I hold something like a phone for a long call, or a heavy saucepan, the fingers will lock around whatever I am holding and need to be peeled off. I have trouble opening a jar of jam or marmalade for the first time, to break the seal, but Elly found me a gadget years ago and it solves the problem.

In fact I have a little collection of items that I find helpful round the house.

Six Handy gadgets

Working clockwise from left:

Kitchen Craft Jar and Bottle Openers, Rubber – I have this pair of rubber jar openers for over twenty years. You use one in each hand to help grip a jar or bottle. They have had so much use that there is a permanent curve in them, but they still work!

Standing grater – This cone shaped grater has three different sized grating holes.  The rubber knob on the top makes it easy to hold.  I find it works best on a large flat plate or board.

Good Grips Swivel Peeler, the handle is soft to the touch and never feels cold like metal.

Lever Action Jar Key Opener It opens most jam jars.

Kitchen scissors – I found these in my supermarket, they are good & sharp, though slightly heavier than a previous pair and much easier on my hands as the finger and thumb holes are larger and softer to grasp.  They were not expensive and I am very pleased with them.

Nut Crackers – Recently I found difficulty breaking the seal on my breakfast juice carton.  The handle of the scissors was too thick to fit in the small space, so seldom stuck for an idea, I tried the nut crackers and they fitted perfectly.  Set in place, half turn, lift and repeat as before.  Hey Presto!  Breakfast is ready in seconds.

I hope that you will find these helpful.


Mine are up!

Up in the loft, and that is where they will stay.

I decided a few months ago that climbing ladders when I needed to use my two hands for other than balance was a thing of the past.  I had thought of using greenery from the garden, but the temperatures are dipping and the ground is white with frost once again.  I read somewhere today that the second Big Freeze of the season will last a month and put the country on course for a winter even colder than the notoriously treacherous 1962-63.

I suppose I could make gingerbread people and decorate them in festive mood to string and hang about the walls.

I always have candles to hand, so a few ribbons will add some simple colour.

If you were stranded as of today by the weather, with no chance of going outdoor, what would you do to cope with the festive season?  Think gifts, decoration and particularly food?

Last week the handsome Peter Donegan (one of my Toyboys) was asking me on the Sodcast about bringing the garden indoors at this festive time.  The Sodcast is a Podcast by  Thankfully my vocal contribution lasts a very short time.


Socks over your shoes are the answer for this slippy, slidey weather.  They give great grip!

I wore them this morning going down the hill and again coming back up the hill this afternoon and not the hint of a skid or slip anywhere!

I suppose now that I found the right socks, the snow will go away!  (She says hopefully!)

Dirty and wet, but they did their job!