Mothers Day is essential for family bonds


Mothers Day is a good time of the year to be selfless. It’s not your fault that you’re human. Your Mother made you that way. But sometimes Mother’s grit their teeth when their offspring do things which they wish hadn’t been done.

Sometimes offspring say things that, probably, in hindsight, shouldn’t have been said … to Mothers.

In general, Mothers are tolerant and kind. But they are not cars which you can take to the Auto repair shop to have fixed under your car insurance scheme. Every relationship needs repairing now and then.

To put it another way, your Mother put up with nine months of knowing you when you did not even know that you existed.

She put up with the kicks, the indigestion, the food temptations, her sore back, sore legs, the heartache and heartburn that goes along with maternity to bring you into the world.

On Selfish versus Selfless tasks

A Mother was selfless to make you and to deliver you. Being selfless in return on Mothers Day is one way to repair the hurts which you might have caused her along life’s road.

In point of fact, you are in the world because of your Mother. In other words, she was your creator and your first carer.

If you are the selfish type and always put yourself first, then try to be nice on Mothers Day. Think of your own Mother. Why not thank your Mother for her existence and your existence?

It is a very small thing which you can do to make sure that she continues to recognize you, remembers you and plans to be with you in the future.

On Mothers Day

Would it be possible to be nice, supportive, kind, attentive and caring on Mothers Day? Listen to your Mother’s story about how you came to be alive.

If you did anything to upset your Mother or make your Mother feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, then listen to what your Mother tells you. Perhaps think of asking her one or two of these suggested questions:

“How did I come into the world?
Who was present at my birth?
Who first held me?
What was happening in the world on the day of my birth?
What do you hope I will do with my life on the planet?”

How to communicate with your Mother

When your Mother has finished talking, why not then apologize to her?

“I think that sometimes I might have been less of a son/daughter than you hoped for.  Sorry Mum.”

Some people would say that is a good way to apologize. Is it a good idea to remember from whom you originated?

That is to say, you are on the planet because your Mother brought you into the world. Without her considerable efforts all those years ago, you would not exist.

What will work for you, Mum?  Anything I can do to help, Mum?

Then make plans for the future with your Mother in your life. The proverb applies “He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin.” *

Would it be a good idea to be nice to your Mother on Mothers Day? After all, you need her goodwill. This particularly applies if you plan to include her in your own family in the future.

In other words, remember to future proof. Why not try to celebrate Mothers Day in a nice way for your Mother’s sake?

*Proverb 283, ‘He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin’, English Proverbs Explained, Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting, (1967, 1969), Pan Reference, Reading, Great Britain, p. 83.

Text copyright by Fiona Rothchilds 2021 and Ridout and Witting 1969 as cited.
Photographic image of silk postcard memorabilia at the Australian War Memorial.
Photograph copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2020.
Uploaded 09 May 2021.

CHOGM 2021 is cancelled until further notice

CHOGM 2021


That is to say, CHOGM 2021 is postponed indefinitely due to the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President of Rwanda, his Excellency Paul Kagame, and the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, announced on 07 May 2021 the postponement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2021).

The 2021 organizing committee reviewed available evidence and risk assessments including those using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) risk assessment tool. Crucially, the committee conducted close consultations between the Commonwealth Secretariat and Member States. After assessing the facts, the organizing committee postponed the CHOGM event in Kigali, Rwanda until further notice.

What the President of Rwanda said

“The decision to postpone CHOGM for a second time has not been taken lightly. The health and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens at this critical time must take precedence. We look forward to welcoming the Commonwealth family to Kigali for CHOGM at the appropriate time.”

What the Commonwealth Secretary-General said

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have a hugely damaging impact on our member countries, many of whom continue to face huge losses to lives and livelihoods.

“… it is with deep disappointment and regret that we cannot bring Commonwealth leaders together at this time.”

As a timely reminder, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said that it is important to be mindful of the huge risks which large meetings pose. That is to say, public health and safety come first.

She continued her remarks with an upbeat message to encourage Member States to stay positive and active.

“I look forward warmly to a time when we can be reunited with the Commonwealth family, face-to-face, in Rwanda when the conditions allow for us to do so safely and securely,” she said.*


* Further details are available at:  Link retrieved 07 May 2021.

Text copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021 and CHOGM 2021.
Photo image copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
Uploaded: 08 May 2021.

Your good manners make a difference.


Good manners are what our parents, grandparents and teachers use as a yard-stick for how we will get on with other people on the planet throughout our life.

In a more day-to-day existence, good manners grease the wheels that keep everyone happy and easy to work with.

Responses to feedback

Recently, I invited a few work associates to a night of theatre. It was evident from their responses that many had gone to a school of manners.

Alternatively, they were brought up in homes where manners are practiced and polished to perfection? This was a bonus to the experience of inviting associates to attend the theatre as a compliment to them.

Firstly, many of the responses were quickly delivered. Secondly, the range of replies to the standard invitation were illuminating. Importantly, those apologies received were happily accepted as genuine and sincere.

In reading some of the responses, the Guide to Good Manners document is consulted with good cheer for further learning points.

The Good Manners Guide

“Good Manners” is based on rules of the Children’s National Guild of Courtesy. Originally, the ‘Good Manners’ chart was issued to Queensland schools from 1898 to 1960s.

The chart was published in an article in the Q150 commemorative edition (see The article was provided by a reader of this website blog as a Thank you gift for the National Library of Australia’s 2016 article about feet on tables in libraries.

Some people are lost for words when they see poor behaviour exhibited in the workplace and in public. Others vent their spleen by penning letters to newspapers, magazines and social media sites. This is done in an effort to record their passion for good manners.

One particular issue ‘gets on the goat’ of some older travellers: some public library readers continue to use any available coffee table as a foot rest. Furthermore, this is even after the readers’ have received genuine feedback on appropriate use of furniture in the library as a public place.

Hopefully, the original article provided in the Guide to Good Manners will highlight the following matters:

Courtesy, Politeness, or Good Manners, means kindly and thoughtful consideration of others.

A Celebrated writer has said that a Boy who is Courteous and Pure is an honour to his country. Brave and Noble men and women are always Courteous.

Courteous boys and girls are careful to observe the following rules

As to themselves: Keep out of Bad Company. Keep your Face and Hands clean, and your Clothes and Boots brushed and neat.

At School: Be Respectful to your Teachers, and help them as much as you can; their work is very difficult and trying.  Observe the School Rules. Do not cut the Desks, or Write in the Reading Books.

At Table: Always Wash your Hands and Face before coming to the Table. Do not put your Knife in your Mouth. Do not Speak or Drink with Food in your Mouth. Put your Hand or Handkerchief before your Mouth when you Sneeze or Cough.

Everywhere: Do not forget to close the door quietly after you. Never interrupt when a person is speaking. Always Mind your own Business.

Remember: Do what your conscience tells you is right.”


The article highlights good manners expected of children. In particular, this applies when they are at home, in schools and libraries, and in public.

However, some people continue to learn good manners until their old age. Importantly, the children of children can look forward to this occurring.

Learning points

Firstly, I recall that sometimes I regrettably laugh with my mouth open. Secondly, I will put my hand over my mouth in the midst of laughing at a good comedy. Thirdly, I will remember not to laugh when in public.

In this regard, good manners maketh the woman.


*Proverb 445, ‘Manners maketh man’, English Proverbs Explained, Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting, (1967, 1969), Pan Reference, Reading, Great Britain, p. 116.

Text from the ‘Good Manners’ chart was published in education views by the Department of Education, Training and the Arts (Volume 18.01), Queensland Government, February 2009. Originally published by F.J. Arnold & Son. Ltd Educational Publishers. Leeds, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Copyright of other text: Fiona Rothchilds 2021 and Ridout and Whitting as cited.
Image copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2020 of item at the AWM.
Uploaded 02 May 2021.

Auction houses and war medals


Commercial hubs such as auction houses provide immediate access to family history and war service. Auction houses are centres which display products of the past and services rendered.

The memorabilia displayed include medallions (medals) with colourful ribbons. You might see sashes with rosettes or metal badges with engraved insignias. Sometimes, citations and testamurs are displayed with the metal work.

Usually, the memorabilia are placed on velvet textiles or on glass slides in wooden cabinets. Further, there are signs detailing who was awarded the medal(s) and for what reason. In addition, sometimes the metal work and sashes are displayed as ‘For Sale’.

Service recognized

It is an honour to receive recognition of one’s Service to the Crown or to a nation or in a field of endeavour. The medal or sash should be worn with pride. It is a family keep-sake.

Sometimes, on the back of the Service medal, the Service number of the person who was awarded the medal is engraved. The medallion is a badge of honour to be displayed with respect by the person who was awarded it.

A descendant of the relative who was awarded the medal is permitted to wear the medal under certain circumstances. For example, it might be worn at military parades and services alumni events to respect the relative’s service.

Display of medals

Property buyers for motion picture houses (the movie sets), theatre set designers and associated props managers look for memorabilia. They search for war medals, and sashes with rosettes, to use in fictional representations of the truth (bio-pics). These professional buyers offer contracts to hire militaria for use with film or theatre productions.

There are some people who sell family war medals to commercial hubs. Perhaps they probably shouldn’t. Sometimes it is done as a way for family members to ‘cash-in’ on their relative’s war legacy.

By that I mean, that selling family medallions and accompanying paperwork might encourage others, who purchase the items, to undertake forms of deceit and deception.

That is to say, it could lead to giving a false impression of war service or field service. I would not want someone misusing access to my Service number or decorations.

Misuse of access

It could be said that looking for suitable ‘old things’ to add to a family collection can be a part of family history making. It could also be a creative way to future proofing your grand-children’s inheritance.

However, bear this next thought in mind. By providing a sense of family history which is not accurate, you could deceive your relatives and, possibly, other people. Do you want to be confronted by that? That is to say, it is a form of fraud to do so.

Consider misuse of access and where and how the items might be used. Further, consider how purchase of the items could encourage others to lay a false claim to something to which they are not entitled.

A matter of conscience

It is generally agreed that selling family war medals and sashes is a matter of conscience. To this end, the following suggestions are made.

Firstly, contact your relevant government authority or armed forces representative. Check the current policy of war medals and sashes and the use of these items. The medals are tangible evidence of recognition by a government authority of service rendered by a particular person or group.

Secondly, remember the auction houses sell memorabilia and are in the business of trading goods. If the item doesn’t sell, auction houses can be commissioned to dispose of them. Furthermore, the items can be on sale at antiques fairs and collectable stalls. Will you be content to see the memorabilia For Sale?

Thirdly, do you take part in fraud and deceptive practices? That is to say, sometimes memorabilia are worn at military events. Further, occasionally, they are paraded at armed service reunions and alumni events.

Fourthly, some people wear medals they did not earn meritoriously. The medals are used to assist false claims and deception. Are you happy with that idea?

Points to consider

Here are some thoughts to share with your family members to aid a discussion with them about the memorabilia:

Firstly, if you did not render that service, do you have the right to sell or dispose of the medals or sashes?

Secondly, to sell or dispose of the medals or sashes, should you first need to consult with the relevant government authority or armed services authority?

Thirdly, how would you feel/what would you think if you saw someone wearing your relative’s medals or sashes?

Finally, would you think it right if that person tried to impersonate your relative?

Check first...

The poet, satirist and writer Alexander Pope (1688-1744) wrote about being too hasty. The phrase which he used is “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”* The phrase is sometimes referred to as “Angels fear where fools rush in.”

That is to say, people of wisdom (angels) avoid somethings. They sense the hazards or risks attached. Whereas foolish people tend to be hasty. They say things or act quickly to their cost.

It is always better to check first. Then decide what to do or say next.

Make sure you have the right to dispose of tangible militaria which you might not have earned. To team play, consulting all family members who might have a claim on the items might be a sound idea.

Or perhaps donate the medals and sashes to a war museum? Importantly, remember that medals and militaria are not boomerangs which will return at will. Once sold by the family, militaria are gone forever.


*Proverb 217, ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’, English Proverbs Explained, Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting, (1967, 1969), Pan Reference, Reading, Great Britain, pp. 69 and 188. This book quotes Alexander Pope in his book Essay on Criticism (1711).

Text copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021 and Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting 1969 as cited.
Photographic image of militaria at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT, Australia.
Photographic image copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
Text uploaded 26 April 2021.

ANZAC Biscuit baking supports Commonwealth values


ANZAC Biscuit baking at home was shared with family, neighbours, friends and work colleagues to support the same patriotic values as were shown in Britain and other parts of the Commonwealth.

Children are often impatient to taste the sweet delights of the ANZAC Biscuit because they like to be happy – and full of sugar. I remember making these biscuits while living in the Northern Hemisphere.

My father was on a university exchange with my Mother and she was ‘keeping house’ with him. I travelled overseas to their homestay house for a family celebration to share some time with them.

To help my Mother in the kitchen I decided to bake some cakes, slices and biscuits. For example, I made an effort with ANZAC Biscuit baking for the children in the neighbourhood.

The Mothers of the children commented to me that they thought the ANZAC Biscuits were ‘roughage’ for digestion (!) That is to say, perhaps they were not used to oatmeal biscuits and slices, for instance?

These days, ANZAC Biscuit recipes regularly pop-up on social media sites with substitute ingredients for people with dietary requirements or advanced gourmet tastes*.

However, on this page is posted the official version of the ANZAC Biscuit recipe as listed by ‘The Commonsense Cookery Book’ **.

1.25 cups (300 ml) of plain, sifted wheat flour.
1 cup (240 ml) traditional, rolled oats
0.5 cup (120 ml) caster sugar
0.75 cup (180 ml) desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons (40 ml) golden syrup
5.3 ounces (150 g) chopped, unsalted butter or margarine
0.5 teaspoon (2.5 ml) bicarbonate of soda
1.5 tablespoons (30 ml) boiling water.

Kitchen aids
Wear a bib-apron.
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees F).

One full length (bib) apron.
Cup/ML measuring jug.
Teaspoon/tablespoon measurer.
Knife to cut butter.
Scales for measuring butter.
One small saucepan.
One large mixing bowl.
One small mixing bowl.
Wooden spoon or large plastic spoon.
Non-stick baking paper or grease.
Two or three baking trays.

Cooking instructions
Firstly, place the flour, rolled oats, sugar and coconut in a large bowl and combine. In a small saucepan on the stove, place the golden syrup and butter. Stir ingredients on a low heat until the butter has melted. Take saucepan off the stove.

Secondly, in a small bowl, place the bicarbonate of soda with the boiling water. Stir until mixed. Add this mixture to the golden syrup mixture in the saucepan. This new mixture will froth while it is being thoroughly mixed.

Thirdly, pour this new mixture into the dry mixture in the large bowl. Most importantly, mix together to fully combine. Then, roll tablespoons of this mixture into balls. Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking powder or grease the trays to be non-stick. To aid the ANZAC Biscuits’ rounded shape, press down on the balls to slightly flatten them.

Bake in the slow oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Take the tray out of the oven and let it sit until cool. Certainly, the ANZAC Biscuits will firm with cool air.


As a suggestion, to keep the ANZAC Biscuits fresh, keep them in an airtight container. Finally, if the ANZAC Biscuits are needed at a later time, store them in an airtight bag which is placed in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator for up to one month.


* ‘ANZAC Biscuits with burnt butter, honey and rosemary’, ABC Everyday, posted online 25 April 2021,

**The Commonsense Cookery Book, Book 1, Metric Version, (1983), by the N.S.W. Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association, Angus & Robertson Publishers, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, p. 167.

See my web-log “A vacuum flask is essential for picnics” (dated 12 January 2021) for another picnic story.
* See my blogs on ‘Christmas in July at the Australian Parliament House’ posted July 2021; ‘High Teas with the birds and the bees’ posted June 2021; and ‘French Chocolate Cake for Valentine’s Day’ posted February 2021.

Text copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021 and N.S.W. Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association (1970, 1983).
Photo image copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
Uploaded 20 April 2021.

Updated 25 April 2021.

Diana Riggs’ critics’ reviews compiled.


In her early career, Diana Rigg was an actor who attracted a raft of critics’ reviews some of which bordered on poison pen writing. She understood the power of the pen.

To appease “the Gods”, as some critics believe they should be called, in 1982 Diana Rigg compiled a 192-page document containing a range of theatrical and television reviews of her performances.

The book, with its mixed reviews, reminds aspiring actors and performers that not all critics are alike. It highlights that some critics’ spleen venting could be done in private.

Some critics’ reviews in the book are worth a laugh although, perhaps, some readers might disagree. Instead they might be deeply disapproving of the comments published.

It could be said that some theatre reviewers could try to put down their pens and seek alternate employment to amuse themselves. “Take up the sword to earn a decent living!”, an actor might exclaim.

In fact, the performance world might be better served by cadet soldiers brandishing swords to cut a dash on the battlefield than by taking seriously the immature jottings of undergraduate-like theatre critics.

Should you wish for an hour’s light-hearted entertainment, Diana Rigg provided the perfect antidote to a boring day at the office with her book, ‘No turn unstoned: the worst ever theatrical reviews’.

Reason enough to read the critics’ reviews

The title of the book is a parody of the English phrase “no stone unturned”. Some reviewers’ works appear to be included in the book for their malapropisms and sense of comic judgment.

As a backgrounder to the thespian world, this book is a gem. For example, some of the reviews are, in essence, a form of theatre, which Dame Diana Rigg knew all too well. 

As a long-standing and award-winning actor, Dame Diana played to the audience just as theatre critics often play to their imagined readership and sponsors.

In a nutshell, most reviews in Rigg’s book are worth reading for their comic mistiming and vitriol. It is clear that some of the reviews border on professional pettiness tinged with a tad of jealousy.

Should you wish to access the book by Diana Rigg, the following information might assist you if you were to approach the National Library of Australia with such an enquiry.  

Also provided for your consideration is a catalogue listing for the musical score created for the television series ‘The Avengers’ in which Diana Rigg starred.

The book full of critics’ reviews

Bib ID                               792.95 N739

AuthorRigg, Diana, 1948-2020

No turn unstoned: the worst ever theatrical reviews / compiled by Diana Rigg.

London: Elm Tree, 1982
192 p.: ill. ; 26 cm.
NotesGreat Britain. Theatre. Performances to 1981 – Reviews (BNB/PRECIS) Includes index. Bibliography: p. 189.
SubjectsTheatre — Great Britain — Reviews.
Bib ID742677
AuthorJohnson, Laurie, 1927-

The television theme music score

Theme music from The Avengers [music] / by Laurie Johnson

By Johnson, Laurie, 1927-

Melbourne: Allans Music (Australia), c1966

4 pages; 29 cm.
SeriesSymphony Australia collection of music scores and parts.
NotesPl. no.: B.8782. Cover title. “Starring Patrick Macnee as John Steed and Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. Produced by Julian Wintle for ABC Television Ltd. at Associated British Elstree Studios. In charge of production Albert Fennell. Associate producer Brian Clemens”–Cover. “Recorded by Joe Loss and his Orchestra on His Master’s Voice Records”–Cover.
SubjectsAvengers (Television program) | Piano music. | Television music — Excerpts — Piano scores.
Other authors/contributorsSymphony Australia
Music Publisher NumberB.8782

Text copyright: National Library of Australia 2021 (retrieved 03 March 2021) and Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
National Library of Australia website:

French Chocolate Cake for Valentine’s Day


French chocolate cake with late summer’s cherries and whipped cream makes a heart-thumping dessert for your Valentine’s Day.

As you’ve both stayed healthy in this first 12 months of the pandemic and made it to Valentine’s Day, you do want to celebrate. Impress then with something which cannot be purchased at a (now locked down) bakery or patisserie.

Chocolate cake with cherries and liqueur make a decadent crescendo to any special meal. This is one chocolate cake recipe for which your loving partner will forever remember you.  

Try it … make it … taste it …

It tastes almost like a Cherry Ripe snack bar but is served as a sweet dessert for Valentine’s Day. Why is it called ‘French’ chocolate cake? The French are renowned for their support of expressing love on Valentine’s Day. Pastries are molded into the shape of hearts and chocolates are presented in heart-shaped tins.

But not every city or town has a French boulangerie to access for French pastries and chocolates. That is to say, don’t let that stop you though!

What’s not to like about this form of home baking? Especially when your partner learns that you made the delicious treat of a chocolate cake with them in mind? You can make it.

Here is the French chocolate cake recipe courtesy of two wonderful chefs each known as ‘Christine’. They continue to deliver ideas for easy-to-make, fool-proof desserts*.

Cooking utensils

23 x 5cm/9 x 2-inch springform tin
Kitchen butter brush
Aluminum foil
Flour sifter
Small saucepan
One large roasting tin
Non-stick baking paper
Large mixing bowl.
One wire rack

The set of equivalent measurements have been provided in the French chocolate cake recipe in the following order: Metric/Imperial/American.


250g/9oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
225g/8oz/1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
90g/3.5 oz/scant .5 cup granulated sugar
30ml/2 tbsp brandy or orange-flavoured liqueur
5 eggs
15 ml/1 tbsp plain flour
icing sugar, for dusting
whipped or soured cream, for serving.


  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4. Generously grease the springform tin.  Line the base with non-stick baking paper and grease. Wrap the bottom and sides of the tin in al-foil to prevent water from seeping through into the cake.
  2. In a saucepan, over a low heat, melt the chocolate, butter and sugar, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and stir in the brandy or liqueur.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly for one minute. Beat in the flour, then slowly beat in the chocolate mixture until well blended. Pour into the tin.
  4. Place the springform tin in a large roasting tin. Add enough boiling water to come 2cm/.75 inches up the side of the springform tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edge of the cake is set but the centre is soft.
  5. Remove the springform tin from the roasting tin and remove the foil. Cool on a wire rack. The cake will sink in the centre and become its classic slim shape as it cools. Do not worry if the surface of the cake cracks slightly.
  6. Remove the side of the springform tin and turn the cake onto a wire rack. Lift off the springform tin base. Carefully peel back the paper, so the base of the chocolate cake is now the top. Leave the chocolate cake on the rack until it has cooled.
  7. Cut 6-8 strips of non-stick baking powder 2.5 cm/1 inch wide and place randomly on the cake. Dust the French chocolate cake with icing sugar, then carefully remove the paper. Slide the cake on to a plate and serve with whipped cream or soured cream. Arrange the cherries around the French chocolate cake so the heart-shaped theme continues for Valentine’s Day. Voile!


*From ‘Chocolate: the ultimate reference and recipe book for all chocolate lovers’, Christine McFadden & Christine France, 1999, Sebastian Kelly, Oxford, UK, p. 79. ISBN 1-84081-104-8.

* See my blogs on ‘Christmas in July at the Australian Parliament House’ posted July 2021; ‘High Teas with the birds and the bees’ posted June 2021; ‘ANZAC Biscuit baking supports Commonwealth values’ posted April 2021.

Text copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021 and as cited above.
Photographic image copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
Uploaded 13 February 2021.

Key wordsFrench chocolate cake, chocolate, Christine McFadden, Christine France, chocolate treats, baking, dessert, sweet things, puddings, tea-time, chocolate lovers, cherry liqueur, orange liqueur, Valentine’s Day, French boulangerie.

A vacuum flask is essential for picnics.


A vacuum flask is an essential container used regularly for beverages on a picnic to enjoy dining al fresco.

A vacuum flask is the ideal companion to take on your adventures into the Great Outdoors.

Family outings

Not everyone enjoys being with others outside in the hot sun with the ants, flies and mosquitoes crawling around. What is life, if we can’t swallow our misgivings with a cup of hot tea or coffee poured out of a much-loved family vacuum flask?

Some people will recall how their grandparents took several flasks with them on family outings to dispense hot tea, coffee and sympathy. These days, the older type of vacuum flask will probably need replacing to ensure that hot liquids stay hot enough for the family’s picnic meal.

My family had an assortment of vacuum flasks gathered over their years of holiday trips to New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada. In these days in those countries, the standard liquid container was based on Imperial measurements rather than our metric standard sizes used today.

Some flasks had screw-in stoppers and others had stoppers with a ring-pull catch at the top to lift out the stopper.

The worst thing anyone in my family could do was to lose the stopper for the flask. The stopper as a single item was impossible to purchase at a shop. Wouldn’t a spare stopper sold with the flask have been handy?*

How many flasks are needed?

Whatever the occasion, the flask needs to be generous to meet all your picnic needs. If your adventure is for you and your friend then one flask might do.

However, if you have more than two in your travel party, then packing two vacuum flasks is better. One flask can serve for tea and the other for coffee.

Or, if you like various types of tea, one can serve English Breakfast tea. The other flask can serve for afternoon tea and is usually Lady Grey or Earl Grey tea.

What is a vacuum flask made of?

Most vacuum flasks are made from stainless steel. They come in all shapes and sizes but the standard flask is a tall version which looks a bit like a large bullet with a cap on the top.

Most flasks usually hold between 650 and 750 millilitres (ml) capacity. The dimensions of the flask are usually about 8 centimeters (cm) wide, 8 cm deep and 27 or 28 cm in height.

The stainless flasks usually feature an insulated interior which makes the flask competent to store hot or cold beverages.

Some flasks are made from insulated plastic and come with a plastic cup/lid. They are sometimes insulated which means they suit hot or cold liquids.

But if your flask does not have an inner insulator, then it is probably designed to store cold drinks only.  Check the label or printed guide which comes with the item for further information from the manufacturer.

How long will a vacuum flask keep the liquid hot?

My in-the-field tests conducted on current stainless-steel flasks in my household show a drop in fluid temperature after about a six-hour period.

That is to say, that if a flask is filled with boiling water (at about 95-100°C) and it has not been opened during a six-hour period, it will still retain a heated temperature of a minimum of about 70-75°C.  This is an acceptable temperature for a cup of coffee or tea.

Cold water or juice stored in the fridge and then decanted into a flask stays cool for the six-hour period. But after that time, the liquid becomes warmer which is not ideal to drink on a hot day.

How do I care for my vacuum flask?

When travelling, always store the flask in an upright position. This will ensure integrity of the flask container and correct storage of any liquid within.

Most vacuum flasks are not dishwasher safe. This means that the flask will need to be hand washed with liquid detergent after its first uses. 

After regular use, the container should be cleaned with a mixture of water and bicarbonate of soda. This will clean any residual tannin build-up. Your flask is no different to your teeth.  The metal or plastic will stain – just like your teeth(!)

Rinse the flask thoroughly afterwards and leave to aerate. Make sure the correct stopper and cup are put back together with the flask.

Store the flask safely by placing in an upright position. The base of the flask should be at the bottom and the cup at the top.


* Alessi does manufacture vacuum flasks and has spare parts for retail sale via its website. The author does not own an Alessi flask.
For another picnic story, see “ANZAC Biscuit baking support Commonwealth values”, 25 April 2021.

Text copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
Photograph copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2021.
Uploaded 12 January 2021

Time and wise words are worth their weight in gold


Time Masters are usually impatient because every second of the day, whether we are asleep or awake, time is ticking away.

These Masters might be impatient but they are also wise. They typically say things like:

“Time is a currency which we cannot afford to waste.”

‘Is that the best use of my time?”

“We don’t have time for that now!”

“Time is of the essence…”

“Tempus Fugit: time flies …”

“Time and time again, I would like to say, listen to what I say.”

“It is true that the best use of time is to do it now”.

“Don’t procrastinate – you don’t have time to procrastinate …”

What else do we know about this subject matter?

It is true that good use of time is the best way to goal-score.

Using your micro-seconds well is one of the keys to success.

Since we are unable to change the past, or to predict the future, it is essential that we make the most of the time that we have today.

That is to say, we only have today because yesterday is in the past and tomorrow is in the future.

Success is more easily reached because good use of your day gets you closer to your goals.

In other words, we each only have 24-hours a day to spend wisely to reach the goal we seek to achieve.

Therefore, make the best use of today so that tomorrow is available to goal score.

The consequence of using your seconds and hours wisely is that more will be probably be achieved in the next 24 hours than was achieved in the last 24 hours.

Most people do not pay for ‘free’ advice or want to buy time.

I offer that suggestion. However, we each know that it is important to be productive and to achieve goals.

Offering clarification through good use of time is one way to achieve this objective in a timely manner.

For instance, if I were to offer you a suggestion, please consider taking it to make sure your own day is productive.

In other words, were a gratis suggestion offered, it’s smart to take it on board because to not to might cost your team more than ‘just time’.

Time is a currency. It does fly… Every second does count.

What good will it do?

If all goes to plan, your team might commit to action. It might smooth out those wrinkles in its schedule to ensure that everything runs ‘like clock-work’.

However, if your team were not to take this well-meant, gratis suggestion, there might be a lapse of concentration. Your team might lose its way.

Missteps might occur which could throw out the production schedule. Goals and objectives might not be achieved in time.

Your team members’ might regret not taking seriously my suggestions. They might wish that you, and they, had listened more carefully to the free (gratis) suggestion offered.

It is true that making good use of something is like making money in the bank. It is the interest accrued which has a compounding effect on the original bank of money which was deposited.

In other words, if you and your team do as I suggest, then your teams’ goals will be achieved more easily and quickly. And possibly, more cost-effectively.

In conclusion, team: it is good advice to pay attention to feedback given when available. It is efficient and effective.

I say this because my best advice (and it’s a gratis suggestion) benefits others and your business matters will benefit in the long run. And, above all, it will make a positive difference to your bottom line.

Does the moment-at-hand permit you to re-read this article for your team’s consideration?

It won’t cost anything but two minutes.  And today, of all days, you might have some minutes left in your day. Wise words are worth their weight in gold. They are like money in the bank.

Have you made time to have a holiday?

If so, Happy Holiday wishes to you and your team.


Text copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2020
Photo image copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2020
Uploaded 25 December 2020.

Antiques and art as Christmas collectibles


Antique dealers and art dealers usually have a roaring trade in the lead-up to the Christmas calendar.

Sweet bon-bons, Christmas tinsel, pewter goblets full of red wine, champagne glass with sparkling, bubbling liquid come to mind.

My time in the United Kingdom in December 2009 was peppered with visits to delightfully tempting antique dealerships and art galleries all over London.

In this great city, I love to research fine arts. Christmas 2009 was a special time because London offers such a variety of fine art on display.

Temptation travelling

During my Winter sojourn, I became familiar with transport hubs such as Angel tube station for quick access to mews of antiques shops and centres for collectibles. It was a heady-time when I had to keep my wits and purse strings about me.

That is to say, there were so many antique wares and artworks to tempt me. I tried to resist. For example, the range of metal ware (silver, pewter and platinum with crystal glass) sent me to walks along Regents Canal thinking of which item(s) to purchase for family Christmas stockings.

Old Bond Street and New Bond Street became a familiar walking route as I meandered in and out of auction rooms and commercial art galleries. Time went without a thought or a care. I was on holidays, after all.

The high-gloss printed catalogues alone from these galleries provided necessary fodder as food-for-thought even if my purse strings were held tight due to my Australian currency conversion angst.

My love of fine art galleries was repeatedly fed with visits via the Green Park tube station to the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), and private galleries in the SWIA ILR postcode range.

Just up the road were other favourite visits to the National Portrait Gallery and private art galleries tucked in behind the facades of high-end commercial galleries.

I got stuck in the commercial hubs of London’s merchant trading and art-design centres. The temptation to purchase way above my price range was tantalizing. I sensed my mouth salivating at the thought of a delicious metal bon-bon treat. Or a crystal, cut-glass tumbler.

With regrets

Just to hold an item in my hand for a while was an aching thought. It was worth pursuing up until the time that I knew I would have to back-away.

Happily, my Aussie dollar had a poor conversion rate to the Pound Sterling. My thoughts of owning art heritage were academic and fleeting.

I smiled and thanked the traders for the chance to hold an item for a while. Saying ‘With regret’ in several languages was practicing. The phrases became habit-forming.

I admit it was difficult to tear myself away from these Christmas collectibles. I was tempted by trader talk. However, as my office associate used to say to me, “What can you do?”

She would then say, “There’s only so much time. The money is needed for other things!”

I laughed a lot at myself in London walking away from temptation. I did not collect the Christmas crackers with high-price tags. The art and antiques were so tempting to my artistic palate. However, I practiced restraint.

That is to say, that I learnt about creating detours to counter product temptations such as Christmas collectibles of antiques and art. Collecting anything can be addictive if not kept in check.

Caveat emptor!

I thanked my lucky-stars. My Mother told me not to fritter too much money on bon-bons. She was a hardened window-shopper. I know she hoped that the art of distraction would keep me solvent and sane.

As a doctoral graduate visiting London, I learned and practiced something else with art and antiques. I remembered my Mother’s advice based on a proverb ‘Art is long, life is short’.

The proverb means that art is a skill. It is a craft to be practiced and mastered. In the original saying by the Greek surgeon Hippocrates, art is referred to as a process of healing over time. *

Learning a skill does take time. It took me a little while to learn to walk away from the Christmas collectibles in London.

Instead, I purchased a decorative textile item from the RSA gift shop. It is for my own use at home.  After one decade, it still gives me daily joy. That is to say, my final choice has proved a healthy one over time.

In other words, “There is so much art to learn and so little time to learn it in.”


*Proverb 21, ‘Art is long, life is short’, English Proverbs Explained, Ronald Ridout and Clifford Witting, (1967, 1969), Pan Reference, Reading, Great Britain, p. 25.

The Royal Society of Arts ( and the National Portrait Gallery (

Text copyright: Fiona Rothchilds 2020 and Ridout and Witting 1969 as cited.
Photographic image of French furniture with rush seating at Canberra Rotary Antiques Fair 2019.
Photographic image: Fiona Rothchilds 2019.
Uploaded 10 December 2020.