Read on if you need a nap...

>> Sunday, 30 November 2008

... Well, you clicked. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've been pondering Economics. Not just any Economics, oh no. The most important kind - at least, in my current situation. Home Economics.

I can't speak for everyone of my age, but Home Economics was a subject that did feature in the curriculum at school. Not hugely however, and once you got to 13 it was no longer compulsory, to the extent that it was viewed as one of those subjects you took if you weren't particularly - how can I put this? - bright. Not stupid, exactly, but not very bright. It tended to be the lower streamed pupils at my convent school who took it on past the age of 13. You know, those of us (note the 'us') who were condemned to take 7 rather than 9 or 10 O-levels. (Oh, the shame, the tearful explanations to parents, the embarrassment of telling your friends that you wouldn't be joining them in Higher Maths. Thank god!)

Anyway, enough dwelling on the past. I was talking about Home Economics, and it's secondary citizen status. Despite it's grandiose name - because, let's face it, it didn't seem that relevant to girls of 14 who's dearest ambitions were to be a doctor, physicist (neither of them me), or a meterologist in the Royal Navy (dear god, why? Because I liked the maps, that's why. I didn't do it, obviously. You needed to be able to add up and draw isobars for that sort of thing...) - it didn't actually teach us very much that was useful.

A few things stuck; how to chop an onion (don't laugh, to this day people are impressed when they see me do it), how to do backstitch - barely - and how to wear a too-large school uniform apron by folding up the waist-band. No need for that nowadays, can't remember the last time an apron was too large...

So there we were, school-leavers at 16 or 18 years old, still wet behind the ears, with no real inkling of how to look after ourselves in a 'home-making' sense. Oh, we could conjugate French verbs. Add using bases (well, some of us could), and tell you that Pool was the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. We could even make sarcastic remarks to the boys we fancied from the school down the road. But fend for ourselves? You only had to take a look at my room in university to see that that was still some way off...

To be honest, things didn't really improve much for the next 20 years. I got tidier, obviously. I learnt to cook. Ish. I familiarised myself with a hoover and an iron. But really, it wasn't until I found myself home full time that I began to discover the short-cuts. You know, the things that, once you do them around the home are so glaringly obvious that you can't imagine why you didn't do them before. Perhaps most people do, perhaps they took notice when their mums tried to instruct them, but I'm afraid it all washed over me a haze of Cyndi Lauper, Spandau Ballet and Human League.

Now, it was at this point in my original post that I put a list of a few 'things I wish I had known earlier' in the housekeeping department. But I just reread them and frankly, you would have more fun watching paint dry. Apologies to those of you who have already waded through, and the couple who kindly left comments; I don't know what I was thinking...

Instead then, let's have a few of the following. A list of Things you were told would make your homelife easier and which absolutely don't, and which, in the interest of Home Economics, you should never have shelled out for... Like:

1. A cot-top changing table for your new-born. We had one. We spent money on it. And, of course, we never used it - not once. Why would you when you have a much more stable TABLE next to the cot. (I once nearly got myself thrown out of Peter Jones when I interrupted a salesperson in full spate who was trying to palm one off on an unsuspecting mother-to-be, when I suggested that it was a waste of both money and space if there was a table in their baby-to-be's room. I'm not quite banned from the baby section but it was a close call...)

2. A hand-held dustbuster. Easy to use, I agree. Useful to have around. But have you ever tried to clean one of those babies out? Gah! I'm retching as I type (and yes, I know I should do it more often but somehow there is always something more pressing on my list...).

3. A coffee machine. No! TWO coffee machines! Perfect - except I don't drink coffee. Husband does - of course, he's Dutch - but for the 50% of the time he's not here they sit on the counter top taking up space and mocking me as I try to use the remaining 2 cm square space roll out pastry (not often) or unstack the dishwasher (far too often).

4. A wine cooler. What bottle lasts long enough to benefit?

5. Electronic mouse deterrents. We have 2. And mice.

This list, of course, is just a beginning. If you would like to add your own items to it, you know where the comments box is...


Gorilla Bananas 30 November 2008 at 16:41  

My tips are:

(1) When you boil an ostrich egg allow an extra 10 minutes;

(2) When you eat live insects, bite off their heads first.

Iota 30 November 2008 at 18:56  

Eat up what is in your fridge before buying more.

Tara 30 November 2008 at 20:27  

I remember watching a show once where they asked a family to live for 1 week without their microwave and the mum totally lost it because she didn't know how to cook anything other than convenience food.
She did not know how to cook at baked potato!
Yes you heard me right. She used to buy frozed jacket potatoes and cook them in the micro!

Potty Mummy 30 November 2008 at 20:33  

Hi guys - I changed the post. Sorry - I wasn't trying to make you look redundant, it was just too boring to read... Still:

Gorilla, thanks for the visit. I'm amazed you managed to find the time what with posing in the mists and being such a gentle giant for the cameras...

Iota - for some of us though, that is the root of the problem...

Tara, sheesh is the only word for that. Though I admit that on the flip side, I probably spend too much time in the kitchen, it is more because I am raiding the biscuit tin than cooking up delicious delicacies...

Expat mum 30 November 2008 at 21:22  

I was one of those at the convent who did 10 O levels (before I dropped Physics). I rue the day I decided against Domestic Science tho'. Although I can cook when I want to, and make great soups, I haven't the foggiest how to remedy sunken cakes, too runny batter mixtures etc. They say Pride comes before a Fall, well this one's mine.

jeanie 30 November 2008 at 22:18  

We had another rather handy subject we all ran from called "Parentcraft" - luckily all it taught was how to cut out pictures and stick them to a scrapbook, so that is obviously why I am a much better parent than potential scrapbooker.

I really think it would have been great to learn the real nitty gritty of household economics. Or they should make it a board game. Include the child and partner who ask for just another little treat.

Tracey 30 November 2008 at 22:21  

I always wished I'd been more interested in sewing and cooking. The cooking part was still called Home Ec in my day (and neck of the woods) too, and was always considered to be for the non-academic types. I often think that it would have been a lot more useful to me - but perhaps I was scarred from the bread and butter pudding we made in Year 10 (which was disgusting..)

These days at my kids' high school they can choose some really interesting cooking or textile electives (and, actually, the home ec teachers are the most organised in the school!)

Not answering your question though am I?... I agree with the nappy changing table one - we were rebellious enough never to have bought one (probably because we never really did do the baby rooms up.... We did make the mistake of the dustbuster though!

Not quite 'home ec', but I'm one of the idiots who bought a home exercise machine and it just serves as an ugly (and expensive) clothes hanger.

Jo Beaufoix 30 November 2008 at 23:16  

We had Home Economics at school but I didn't opt to do the GCSE. I do remember making a fabric picture of a koala and learning how to squeeze an orange and make Welsh Rarebit (erm, cheese on toast.)

As for stuff I've bought and not used, well, a wine rack to be honest. It barely stays full.

Ok, it never stays full.

nappy valley girl 1 December 2008 at 09:21  

I was hopeless at Home Economics (or 'Food and Nutrition' as it had been renamed at my school - otherwise known as food and nut). All it seemed to consist of was cooking horrible things like wholemeal spaghetti and museli crumble, and none of us took it seriously. My husband taught me to cook, bizarrely, having learned from his own father...

Agree with you on some of those tips, but I do swear by my dustbuster for getting rid of the detritus after toddler mealtimes. (Just get your husband to do the job of cleaning it out - men don't seem to mind such things!)

Little Brown Book 1 December 2008 at 11:17  

I wish I'd paid more attention in Home Economics. I used to enjoy baking with my Grandma but was always far too interested in starting a flirtatious flour fight with Lukas Oakes to concentrate in class.

Two classes that baffled me at high school - woodwork (all I seemed to do was solder stuff) and RE which is always going to be a contentious subject for a budding atheist.

As for useless appliances - I would add garlic press to that list. Totally unnecessary if you have a grater (thanks for the tip Nigella).

Tip-wise - I always chop onions wearing my swimming goggles. Much to the amusement of my other half!

Anonymous,  1 December 2008 at 11:17  

We weren't modern enough for Home Economics at school - we had cookery, dress-making & craft classes.

I can honestly say I have since not once wanted to macrame (sp?) a light pull or make junket. And at the end of every dress making class we weren't allowed to leave the room until all the needles had been accounted for: "because, girls, they could travel through your veins to your heart and KILL you!"

errr Right.

Potty Mummy 1 December 2008 at 14:02  

EPM, you don't think you would actually have learned anything USEFUL in home ec, do you?

Jeanie - did you say 'treat'? Forget the home ec post - I'm off to find that mini (well not THAT mini) bar of chocolate hidden at the back of the cupboard...

Tracey, the thing is though, that whilst you hang onto it there's always the possibility you might use it. Or not. Mind you, of all people I can't think why you would bother with all the time you spend outside actually doing the real thing!

Jo - and that is why my husband hides the good stuff away... Not that I can't be trusted. Well, I can't, actually.

NVG, tried delegating it to Husband - no luck. He finds it as gross as I do. I have now been reduced to using a dustpan and brush to sweep up under the table simply to avoid using the dustbustser. That way, when it needs cleaning out I can tell Husband that since he used it, he gets to clean it. Rather a pyrrhic victory, though...

LBB, thanks for the visit. You see, there were no Lukas's in my class. That's life in a convent school, blast it...

Mud, wow, your home ec teacher sounds a little nervy! And I would have loved lessons in macrame - I learnt aged 11 on a grehound bus in Wisconsin (long story) and my poor family had to put up with pothanger christmas presents for years...

The Finely Tuned Woman 1 December 2008 at 18:23  

The only thing we all had to do was sew and knit and I thought it was an utter bore, while all the boys went off and did wood shop, which is what I wanted to do. We had to learn and do all these embroidery techniques and my project took forever to get finished. Now I wished I had payed attention to how we made all those different stitches so I would be able to apply them. I never did get to knit a mini dress.

Tattie Weasle 1 December 2008 at 21:55  

Yup I've got number five but I was told it was for rats - mice I'm OK with but RATS - so now you tell me they don't work???!!!! I did wonder what that scratching under the floorboards was - or tried not to to be honest...

Bush Mummy 2 December 2008 at 21:23  

Oooh Potty I am going to have to disagree with you on the dustbuster. We got the Alessi one on our wedding list and it is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. I couldn't live without it, it dismantles into three parts so easy to clean and the kids love it when I chase them round the kitchen with it too. Check it out.


ps with you on the mice catcher thingies..

carol b 2 December 2008 at 21:48  

we did home economics but i lost interest at week one, when we were taught how to make cheese on toast and a milky drink...maybe my mum was just to good, but we'd been doing that at home for years...

as for things we bought and really shouldn't have - a mole deterrent, it sits in the garden surrounded by piles of beuatiful earth, now I wonder what they are?!
I hope you don't mind i have tagged you for a meme, please feel free to ignore me if you wish...

Potty Mummy 3 December 2008 at 21:15  

Irene, it's too cold for a mini dress at the moment, anyway. ;)

Tattie, I'm not saying they don't work... Just that we still seem to have mice, as well as annoying clicky things on the plugs. Of course, if we didn't have the deterrents, we might have MORE mice...

BM, an ALESSI dust buster? Excuse me, I'm off to look for one online now...

Carol, hell, and thanks for visiting. I will check the meme out asap - I also have one from someone else so maybe I could combine them. Perfect, minimal creativity needed!

Potty Mummy 3 December 2008 at 21:35  

Carol - that was meant to be 'hellO', by the way... (oops!)

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