Monthly Archives: June 2009

One person’s cinch is another person’s challenge.

I didn’t learn much about bikes when I was a kid. I didn’t learn to ride a bike till I was 12, when I got  my first ever bike for my birthday  – a girl’s dragstar with flowers on the seat. (What was I thinking?!)

firstbike

A few years later I, unsurprisingly, grew out of the dragstar (Really, Mum and Dad, what were you thinking? ).  Dad did up an old ‘ladies bike’ for me. No gears or anything, but I was  impressed. I rode it around the local streets a bit with friends, but never very far afield. Some years later  I took it with me when I went away to college, and I used it to ride to and from the shops. I also recall an ambitious attempt to ride around Mount Panorama – a street car racing circuit, renowned for its almost 200m climb.  There’s not a chance in hell I could have ridden up to the top of the circuit with no gears – but back then I daresay I wouldn’t have thought twice about getting off and walking. (Now it would be a matter of pride to do it without getting off! – it’s amazing what you can do with a triple chain ring and a ‘granny gear’.)

Anyway, I digress – I DO actually have a point to this meander down memory lane! (Never mind the fact that yesterday I got sidetracked  for hours leafing through old photo albums!)  My point is that I haven’t got a clue what I did back then if and when I got a flat !  Probably walked it back to the dorm, and left it till my Dad came to visit.  All I can say now (in hindsight) is that I can’t have ridden it very much or very far. (Certainly I have no photos and I have no idea what happened to it.)

It wasn’t till a few more years later, when I was going out with M. that I even considered getting another bike. But he’d recently bought himself a mountain bike – and so the logical thing for me to do was to get one too. Heck, I wasn’t going to miss out on any of the fun!  He had, of course,  spent much more time on bikes as a kid. Firstly, he’s a boy, and secondly, he used to career around the dirt roads near his family’s holiday house  on a road bike, and a mate’s homemade tandem. Apart from ending up a better rider,  he also taught himself a lot about bike maintenance.

We got into the riding a bit – the 90km Sydney to Gong ride not long after my purchase, and we got offroad a bit as well.  We even did some bike touring (with camping gear) – one in the Snowy Mountains, and one where we rode from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay, and back over four days or so.  And then after a several year hiatus (building a house, having babies, bla, bla) we bought tandems, and the rest.. as they say.. is history.

tandem1

It would be safe to say we’re right into the cycling thing now. All the while, though, because I was always riding with the Dearly Beloved,  if we got a puncture, he’d fix it.  How smart is that? Always ride with your bike mechanic, and, no worries! Sure, I’ll hold the bike, and hand over the tools, but Mr Efficiency will always have us back on the road in no time.

tripleflat
But two years ago I got my own road bike, and inevitably now there are more and more times when I end up heading off without him – either with other cyclists, or even on my own.  And to be any sort of self-respecting cyclist, you know that you have to be able to look after yourself when you get a flat. If you ride a road bike, with the skinnier tyres, you have more chance of getting a flat.

So, I’ve taken lessons from my Dearly Beloved Bike Mechanic, and I can change a tube.

S-l-o-w-l-y.

But I do want to be able to do this. I like the idea of being a bit self-sufficient. In fact, there’s nothing worse than having some other macho male cyclist (other than your husband) taking over and changing your tube for you.  (Especially when you have the experience one day where you end up with four flats because Macho Cyclist is so busy showing off that he can change a tube in 2 minutes, he hasn’t checked thoroughly enough for the cause of the puncture, and the glass embedded in the tyre keeps causing more punctures, and so after the fourth one you give up and call your husband from work to come and rescue you and the bike , and he grills you about why you didn’t check for glass like he taught you, and you can’t quite get him to understand how Macho Cyclist just took over!)

So, I carry spares and tools , and my motto now is “I’ll do it myself!”   Just I’m a bit slow at it, so it affects me in a few ways.

Firstly, if I happen to be in a group, I’ll send them on, because I’m still at the stage where I can’t bear to have anyone hovering over me while I fiff and faff and sort myself out. I’ll only be slower  with someone watching me.

But it also kind of affects where and when I choose to ride by myself.  I really would like to use my bike more for transport, but it leaves me with a time frame issue. “What if” I get a flat? It could put me half an hour behind time, by the time I sort myself out. So quite often I’ll pike on the idea of riding somewhere.  Don’t want to be late, you know.

And even though I know I want to ride more from a training and fitness point of view, it’s very hard to motivate yourself to just go out for a random 50km solo bike ride! Sometimes you need a goal. Like other people, and coffee!

So on Sunday an 0pportunity arose (you knew I’d get to the point at some stage…). M. had had an invitation to go and ride up a mountain with some other guys. Certainly not something I wanted to do, or could do – but it is one of those local challenges that beckons mad cyclists. “Off you go”, I said.

I had the chance to do a BUG ride, and meet up with a friend who had come from out of town with some other cyclists to ride with the BUG  – but I wanted a bit more distance, and a bit more of a challenge (and variation of scenery) for myself than the ‘out and back’ route they were all doing…

Hmmm. I could ride from home. Five kilometres of highway, but I’d cope.  One steep hill, and quite undulating countryside till I could rendezvous with the group at their turn around point about 24km from home.  I’d then ride on (back to their starting point) with them, have coffee (of course – and FOOD), then, I could either retrace my route, or continue on down to Coffs, and head back home up the highway.

Doable, Tracey. A challenge by yourself… but doable. Take spare tubes, levers, etc. You CAN change a tube if you have to.

There was also the angst about leaving the youngest kid at home till a big sister got back from a sleepover – but, she’d be right for an hour, and she’d sloth around all morning whether I was there or not. Wouldn’t she? .. (Mother guilt, much?)

But it’d be kind of cool to ride all the way, instead of driving first.

A challenge.

So off I set.

You know how you wonder sometimes if the universe is trying to send you a message?

I got a flat only 8km from home.

But it was the front, so that’s a bit easier. And there was a bus shelter right there, so – hey – that was a good sign. And I found the hole!! – not something I’ve always managed to do – and I lined the tube up with the tyre, and then even found the culprit/s. Glass!  Got it out with tweezers. Cool.  So far, so good. You can do this Tracey.

Then I snapped off the tip of the valve on the new tube! Sheesh. I pulled out the second tube, and  after a struggle, successfully got the tyre back on, and the tube pumped up and looking ok.

I wasn’t going to make the first rendezvous point, so more time was consumed sending texts, and deciding what to do. I had no tubes left, so if I got another puncture, I’d have to pull out the patch kit and I’d never make it out to meet everyone. (I have patched tubes, but not for some time, so figuring all that out would take ages.) The alternative, though, was to turn around and go home, ending up with only 16km under my belt.

So, Universe? What do I do?

Onwards! On a wing and a prayer! – came the answer, and so I did. It’s hard to ride a bike with your fingers crossed, but I did. (Joke.) It’s hard to ride a bike when text messages and calls from your kids keep coming in. (Not a joke). But I made it for coffee, (and a sausage roll AND an apple turnover .. what?! I was HUNGRY by then!) – and then rode the further 12km down to Coffs with the friend from out of town.

By then I was well and truly knackered, and I piked it by arranging for M. to pick me up on his way home from his adventure. Not quite the ‘no car’ achievement, but still, I’d done 52km – and the first 40km, solo,  to coffee included  730m worth of climb (and 630m descent – which means going up and down a bit!) including one really steep hill. And my tube had stayed up!

The tube changing experts don’t realise how much energy you can drain changing a tube when you’re not an expert.  (Nor how long it can take a novice. That whole tube change probably took me 45 mins all up – including all the text messaging!) Factor all that in, and what would be a cinch to some was rather a challenge to me, but all in all (once it was over!) an achievement.

So I’ve come a long way with bikes in 30 odd years – and much of what I’m now achieving has only come since I’ve been in my forties. Proof that, with a bit of support, perseverance, and trust in yourself and the Universe, you can quite often do more than you think you can – no matter how old you are – even fixing a puncture!

Now if only I could apply that to other areas of my life!

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Filed under it's just another manic mum day, on yer bike

The last tree.

One of the things I love about living where we do is that I have instant access to the beach. Our house is basically only one block away – so when I take myself out for ‘a walk’, this is where I go, rather than walking around the residential streets.

backbeach

Well, you would, wouldn’t you.

It’s always different.  Every day is different.  The weather. The tide. The light. The time of day.

But until I lived here, I never fully realised just how a beach environment changes over time due to ocean and weather conditions.

The sea giveth and the sea taketh away… I never fully realised just how much sand gets dumped, or washed away over time.

A few weeks ago we really copped some bad weather, and the beach and dunes took a pounding. I haven’t been as diligent as I would have liked in taking photos, but I’m going to start taking more, and posting them up – and I’ll also dig through my photo archives…

When I shoot out for a quick walk, I’ll usually head north, up  ‘back beach’ (above).  A good turning point to make it a 45 minute hit out was always “the last tree”  – there are a few solitary casuarinas dotted up the dunes for a fair way up, so I would walk to the last one, then turn back.

After the wild seas chomped into the dunes the other week, there were a few casualties.

lasttree

roots

I’m going to have to work out some new marker points for my walks. (Well, not right now, as 3 fallen trees are pretty obvious. But later…)

I also wonder what is going to happen to them. I don’t know if council will come and deal with them, or whether they’ll be left for Mother Nature to deal with in Her own way.

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Filed under australiana, our beach

I told you so.

As predicted yesterday afternoon, I lost connectivity again with the ADSL line as soon as I changed modems and then, as also predicted, I couldn’t get it back with the borrowed one.)  I’d resigned myself to potentially another evening of no internet, when the phone rang. It was a Telstra technician, and, lo! – he had fixed the problem.

And it WAS related to what the other Telstra tech had done last Friday when fixing the crackling on the phone line.

He had excuses for him. Said it would have tested ok for him. Whatever. Obviously there’s a difference between voice line techs and broadband techs, or something.

But it’s pretty hard not to be cranky as hell with both Telstra and our ISP who have wasted FIVE days stuffing us around because of their frigging PROCEDURES. When I told Telstra 15 minutes after the voice line tech had left “Hey, but now our internet is stuffed – it must surely be related.”

But, no. Telstra can stuff your broadband connection, then fob you off because you buy your broadband connection through another company, who then pays Telstra for it. (Why did we choose the other ISP? – because they had better plans…)

I am pretty tempted to ring Customer Service Guy from Telstra. (I had more interactions with Telstra than I went into in my last post…). And I am about to write an email to our ISP to demand credit for those five days (though you’d have to wonder if the few dollars that we might get back is worth the effort.)

[Just did some calculations – is it worth it for potentially getting back a mere $7.50?]

At some point you just want to scream at these organisations for wasting your time and not taking any notice of you.

These helpdesks just insist on going through a procedure that has no logic.  As M. said last night.. “Far out, if we’d just seen a backhoe cut through the phone line, and told them that, they’d still insist that you “Change this setting in your modem.”

So, last night I managed to reconnect things back up so that the two family desktops were connected (go me!) – and then the kids fell upon them like junkies who have scored for the first time in nearly a week.

Or like me getting my first real coffee in five days.

I can’t imagine where they get these addictive tendencies from.

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The addict.

Our ADSL connection dropped out last Friday- coincidentally at the same time that Telstra (our home phone telco) dealt with a crackling noise on our phone line. (The adsl connection had been dropping in and out randomly the whole day the phone was crackling – an indication to us that the whole thing was most likely a line issue rather than a handset issue, not that that stopped Telstra from warning about the $105 call out fee if it turned out to be our equipment and not their line.)

Unfortunately I realised that the broadband connection was gone completely after the technician had left – and so I was left, at just about close of business on a Friday, looking down the barrel of a whole weekend without internet. Telstra washed their hands of it and insisted that I had to put it through my ISP.  (The call centre people even managed the miffed and accusative “You chose not to use Telstra as your ISP” tone to perfection) – even though they are the line supplier anyway. (And they wonder why they have a bad name!)

The ISP robot voice took my phone number and said the fault had been registered and would be attended to within 48 hours.  Great.

So there I was on a rainy weekend (the usual all day netball affair was washed out on Saturday), wondering what to do with myself. I composed a post in Word on my computer, mostly trying to keep my sense of humour – calling for suggestions for my list of 50 things to do without internet access – the starter for which was : “Realise that you can still actually use a computer when it is not connected to the world.”

Now that it is Wednesday and I didn’t get a chance to actually post it, it has kind of lost its currency, and I’ve somewhat lost my sense of humour. After all, the most logical thing for me to do without internet access is to clean my damned house, but of course it takes more than being thwarted from twittering, facebooking, emailing and blogging to put me into a cleaning mood.

It did make me realise what a pathetic addict I am.  Using the computer without the internet access was, to me,  like drinking decaf!  It didn’t feel right, somehow, and it didn’t give me the same fix.  I’d catch myself sitting gazing at the modem lights, willing the blasted connection to hold. The orange light would flicker, flicker, flicker, then turn green. I’d hold my breath.. and count, keeping an eye on the Skype icon in my system tray – a real test of the connection.  Mostly it would hold for 15 -30 seconds, then drop again. It did tantalise us with false hope for a full half an hour on Sunday afternoon before dropping out again.

A few times I’d get a quick fix. My computer tech guy (aka darling husband)  patched in my computer through the wireless and bluetooth and whatever to his mobile phone wireless connection.  I quickly caught up on some blogs, email and twitter  but time was limited.   It was like being desperate for a coffee, at last being served a decent cappuccino, but only getting to gulp down a couple of mouthfuls. I’ve never smoked, but I daresay I was looking desperately like a smoker who’d run out of cigarettes desperately inhaling the passive smoke.

We survived the weekend, but since Monday we’ve been on this frustrating exercise through our ISP technical support who (apart from calling me “Ma’am” every sentence in a hard to understand sub-continental accent, which starts getting me a mite bit riled up) first insisted on changing settings in the modem that has worked fine for years, then asking me if I had another modem I could try. (Yeah sure, like we keep spares all over the house…. NOT.) I got the ‘not our fault callout’ fee threat from them as well – so we wasted another 24 hours while M. procured another modem from a colleague, new cable lines, and set up isolation testing.

The damn thing connected for a full 50 minutes (while we were watching a show on telly), during which time the ISP sent me a text saying ‘you’re showing online, all fixed then, so we’re closing the fault.’ (well, words to that effect.) Then of course it dropped out again.

It stayed on all night, then dropped out again in the morning, and would not connect all day. I called tech support again and then got the message that they’d  called their ‘supplier’ and it should be fixed by close of business Thursday. I also keep getting robotic voice messages on the home phone telling me that it is still being looked into.

Deep breath. OK. One week of pretty much no internet. I haven’t got the shakes or anything… really….

It connected again last night with the borrowed modem, so we brought our modem over close to the phone socket (eliminating possible cable issues) to experiment with that, and of course lost the connection. Ah-hah! It’s your modem then, you might think. But then the borrowed modem that had worked wouldn’t reconnect for the rest of the evening- until we went to bed of course – this morning the log showed that it then got itself connected for 11 hours.

It’s now been up for about 12 hours – and I’ve been drinking it in like the addict I know I am, even though it’s on a spare laptop which is just not the real thing, but better than nothing.  I know the next step is to re-test the home modem, but I’m afraid that we’ll be back on the same old merry-go-round again.  My Tech Guy is away for work overnight, so I won’t be able to get my fix tonight  if it all goes pffft again.

I think I might now have spent enough time online today, so it’s time to prepare myself for another day of “decaf” – or one of total withdrawal.  If I’ve not managed to leave a calling card around the traps, I’m sure you’ll understand, and if you don’t see sight nor sign of me for another 24 hours you’ll know what’s happened. Not quite necessary to send out the search parties, but you  might need to send out the men in white coats.

Wish me luck.

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These washing instructions are pants.

adv_pantsMy Travel pants arrived in the post yesterday. (Actually, they are called “Adventure Pant” – which to me  conjures up images of being somewhat out of breath, but maybe that’s just a cultural linguistic thing . In Australia we say “pants “… not to be confused, of course, with the British colloquialism , which incidentally I love, but haven’t yet managed to slip into everyday conversation. At anyrate, these pants are not pants. Or maybe they are….

So, yeah,  I’m all excited about a pair of daggy pants. Weird, I know. Confession time here  – I browse the travel clothing section in camping and travel shops in the way that normal women salivate over designer clothes and shoes. I never got round to doing the global backpacking thing when I was younger, so maybe it’s just some sub-conscious urge to get out and see the world.  We’ve never “travelled” enough to justify buying them till now, so I’m kind of chuffed about getting  a pair.

And they fit! Which is a great relief, and they feel as comfortable as the lighter shade I tried on in the shops the other week. Happy days. I’m ready for Adventure with my Adventure Pant. (Not so happy days for anyone who is bigger than this size 16 – the largest size they make – because obviously you are not entitled to adventure if you are a bit on the ‘plus’ side … what the heck  is with that?)

Now, these clothes are designed for travel convenience. Lightweight,  easy to wash and dry, etc. You’d think.

My usual M.O. when I get a new garment is to check the washing instructions. Which were:

Wash separately.
Do not use detergent or fabric conditioners.
Rinse thoroughly after wash.

Can anyone help me out here?  I thought I’d misread it, seeing I was squinting at the small print with my middle-aged eyes.  I got my glasses … nup, that’s what it says. “Do not use detergent.”

The fabric conditioner part I understand, but if you can’t use detergent, what do you use? We’re travelling and adventuring here, folks. Carrying a little tube of travel detergent rather than the range of products you might have on your laundry shelf.

So do you just rinse them? Que?

But it says “rinse thorougly after wash”  If you’re not washing them in anything, isn’t the rinse process superfluous?

The instructions were written in French as well – which I understand a smattering of –

Ne pas utiliser de detergent…

Nup. That’s pretty clear.

More information on the website, it said. So I went there, and I can’t find any washing instructions anywhere. I’ve sent them an email, but, meantime it’s filed under “What the???”

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Filed under miscellaneous minutiae, what the???

Cloud, cloud go away.

OK, so it’s ‘rain rain go away’, but I’m working on an analogy here. Bear with me.

After I decided to ditch the TAFE course for this year, I felt the fog lifting. Right decision, then, I thought. I approached yesterday with renewed vigour, and dedicated it to a mix of doing a big dejunk of one of the kitchen cupboards (ie. getting back in control of the house) and getting stuck back into writing. I felt strong and purposeful, and my head felt clearer than it had for weeks.  Decision vindicated. I thought.

Then I got an email  reply from the teacher, prefaced with a “What the???”.  Anyway, he was a bit taken aback, as he hadn’t seen it coming, then he proceeded to tell me I was one of the top students, and.. yaddah, yaddah… ‘you don’t have to be good at everything’ etc etc.

So – I was torn again – and in rolled the analogy heavy cloud cover.   Flattery can be quite powerful, of course, so the rest of the evening I was compelled to reexamine my decision.  M. was still away for work, and I forwarded him the email, and we had a bit of a phone conversation that basically ended in him saying ‘Well, you don’t want my opinion anyway…’

He is right. What I really wanted from him was a bit more understanding of my emotional state, but, given that I struggle to figure that out for myself, it’s probably a bit much to expect of him.  OK, what I really wanted was for him to just agree with me for once, dammit.  But I knew all along what he would think, and, wonderful as he is, he isn’t me, and he doesn’t really understand me.  This is my decision to make, on my own.

I slept on it.

And woke to a gloomy rainy day which somehow seeped into my very pores.   And then the internet connection kept dropping out, and I’d not had one comment on my ‘brilliantly composed’ blog post of yesterday. So much for thinking writing is the thing to focus on then. ” Hmmmpf,” I thought,  and  “… think I’ll go and eat worms…” and all that – and cue the gloomy cloud analogy thing again.

Anyway, since then I’ve got over myself, and I’ve written back to the teacher. The crux of it is that I don’t have a hope of completing the project in time for next week. I haven’t even looked at the work since the last class I attended – 2 weeks ago, before we went away for the netball long weekend.

I examined my reasons for doing the course – primarily because I enjoyed web design and hoped I might end up being able to make some money out of it in the long run. I pointed out  that I could show off in first term because I’d done all that stuff before but once I hit new stuff, it was a different ball game.  It wasn’t ‘clicking’ for me as fast as I needed it to, and I suddenly found myself hating it. Hating the pressure of having to come up with a website for a client. And wondering, if I had that much trouble working on it at home, then my ‘work-from-home’ aspirations might not be realistic after all.

I enjoyed it previously because I went and learned stuff, then came home and mucked around with it at my leisure. (I have two real websites to practice on, as well as my own.)  So – my decision is that maybe if I take that approach for the rest of this year, I’ll find the enjoyment in it again. I’d already dropped all these other units anyway (effectively going part time), and the head teacher had said I could enrol again next year online.  With my latest withdrawal, she still indicated that I could come back again in the future, so I don’t think I have burned my bridges. If I take my time with playing around with the new stuff the rest of this year, I might go back to it next year.  And presumably if the teacher thinks I’m such a top student, he will take me again  (I can’t see why TAFE would knock back the money, frankly…)

I would even happily do the photoshop unit (that I passed) again, because I would pick up more. So much of it went over my head the first time. Same thing, even, with the animation unit.

And so. Decision made AGAIN.

And while the rain poured down, matching my mood earlier, it’s lightening up somewhat outside now. And in my head.

Besides, which, rain rain, cloud, cloud, EFF off, because enough is enough. Seriously.

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Filed under it's just another manic mum day, lost in procrastination, miscellaneous minutiae

Plastic apocalypse.

I’ve just cleaned out The Plastics Cupboard. The corner cupboard in the kitchen that I’d given over to plastic containers and the like had pretty much exploded inside.

I know that I’m a chronic hoarder, but I’m not quite sure how it gets SO bad. I mean, how the hell do the contents multiply (to the point where you struggle to fit anything in there anymore) while at the same time losing  at least 20% of the either one or other of the container/lid combinations?!

But it had got to the point where you couldn’t find a bloody container when you needed it. School lunchbox time was a nightmare. You’d chop up some fruit, but then, despite having a ‘small container’ basket, and a ‘small lid’ basket, you couldn’t find a lid to match.  And when you tried to put bigger containers away, you’d have to do a wedge-in job, then slam the door shut quickly so everything didn’t topple out. (No mean feat when it’s a hinged corner double-door affair.)

Plus it was getting icky. (But let’s not go there…)

It’s a job I’ve been putting off for months. Months AND months. ‘No time!’ .. ‘It’ll give me a sore back.’ Etc etc.  Probably I started it today as a housewifely task to justify my decision to quit the TAFE course. (If you can’t manage to study, Tracey, then perhaps you’d better start behaving like a proper housewife.)

After doing a mad cleanup the other weekend before the Building Designer appointment, I’ve also resolved to try and make some headway into the Mess.  Every day, I told myself, I have to clean out  something.  Doesn’t have to be a big job (like the plastics cupboard), but it has to be something. When (not if) the renovations start, we’ll have to possibly move out, so minimising the STUFF is something that’s got to be done. Nevermind the fact that living in a pig sty probably doesn’t help anyone’s state of mind.

We are in such a mess – not just in the plastics cupboard. And it’s a mess that won’t be conquered in a one or two day blitz (with ensuing garage sale.) We are chronic hoarders – and I’m particularly bad – I admit it.   Some of it is probably a hoarder gene (my Dad is a shocker.) Some of it is a leftover from the preschooler days, where you saved all manner of containers and boxes, and Stuff! for craft at home, and at preschool. I’m long past those days now though, so I don’t know why I perpetuate the habit.

And some of it is a “greenie” streak within that is so ashamed of the materialism and accumulation of junk, that I can’t bring myself to throw stuff out. All that stuff in tips and landfill is a disgrace! So, Reuse! Recycle!  My mantra. In that order. First option is Reuse if at all possible. “That could come in handy one day”, so I’ll keep it. Store it. And never ever use it.

So, effectively, I’m using my house as a tip anyway!

This particularly applies with plastics. Containers. I’m chronic. But, seriously.. how many plastic containers can one family possibly use?!  And, wonderful as Tupperware is, it gets pretty crappy after twenty years, so, for god’s sake woman – Just throw it out!

I have changed, I swear. RUTHLESS is now my middle name.

So .. today. Lots of perfectly good containers or lids that are basically useless because they’ve lost their lids or containers?  Out! Into the garbage bin or recycling bin. Gone!

But there’s also a box I think I”ll have to take to a charity shop, OR just put out on the kerb with a ‘free’ sign. (It worked for some old beach and sand toys the other day. The old ‘someone’s trash is another’s treasure’ thing.)  I mean, all those little plastic ex-honey buckets – with handles! Someone else might use them!

So, I’m about to get back in the kitchen to finish the job. Just tell me – how many ice cube trays do you think I should keep – just in case?

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