Thursday 16 August 2018

Extracts from 'Francis Brennan's Book of Household Management'


Francis Brennan. Photo: Barry Murphy
Francis Brennan. Photo: Barry Murphy
Select and allocated daily chores
Homemade remedy - lemons

While modern life can be busy and stressful, a tidy, orderly place for you and your family to come home to can be the perfect antidote to a chaotic world. Sharing all he has learned from running the famously warm and welcoming five-star Park Hotel in Kenmare, 'Francis Brennan's Book of Household Management' contains everything you need to know to create a happy home.

In the following exclusive extracts from the book, he shares some of his tips and tricks to getting your own 'hotel' spick and span. With Francis's advice, you can truly relax, knowing that the silver is polished, the napkins are laundered and the sofas are cosy and clean!

Household planner

Select and allocated daily chores


* Put dishes into dishwasher/wash up.

* Tidy away newspapers and magazines.

* Make the beds.

* Open the post and check what needs to be done that day and what can wait.

* Wipe the countertops and cooker - just a quick wipe with a damp cloth.

* Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

* Make lunches - get your children to do this as soon as they are able, and to put their lunchboxes in the dishwasher when they come home from school.

* Sweep the kitchen floor.

* Sit down for 20 minutes and have a cup of tea and a read of a magazine or book. This might seem a bit odd to add to a planner, but sometimes we need to remember to make time for ourselves. So, now you have it scheduled in and you are more likely to do it.


* Cook a home-cooked Sunday dinner and get all of the family around the table. Another surprise in a planner, but with family time at a premium, maybe it's worth reminding yourself and everyone else to get together once a week. Even better, schedule in your teenager or your older child to cook a meal; it may not be haute cuisine, but it will broaden their repertoire - start them with simple things like chicken fajitas, which are easy-peasy, and then suggest that they try spaghetti bolognese, meatballs, etc.

* Select and allocate daily chores: making the beds, tidying bedrooms, putting yesterday's newspaper into the recycling, filling and emptying the dishwasher, walking and feeding the dog.

* Hoover. How often you do this depends on a lot of things. If you're out at work all day, you won't need to hoover more than once or twice a week; if you're at home, or if you have pets, you might well find that hoovering is a daily task - or certainly in busy areas, like the kitchen and living room.

* Clean the bathroom.

* Compile the weekly shopping list - checking cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you have first.

* Mop kitchen and bathroom floors.

* Do the recycling/put out the bin.

* File correspondence. I used to do this every few months and found that I had to spend a whole afternoon at a job I hated, so now I do it once a week.

* Call a friend/send a birthday card/buy a present. Again, it might seem like nonsense to schedule in a phone call, but we know how busy we all get nowadays. I certainly find a reminder to call someone helpful, and the same is true for reminders for birthdays, Mother's Day and other occasions. I put everything in my smartphone calendar and it reminds me by buzzing all the time - annoying, but I don't forget the important things!

* Water and feed plants, lift weeds and do a little tidy in the garden.

* Wash bedlinen and towels - weekly is a bit of a big 'ask' for this, so I always try to change the sheets and wash towels fortnightly.

Easy patching

There might come a time when you pick up your favourite jumper or pair of jeans and discover that you have a hole in the elbow or knee. Not to worry - you can repair it yourself.

For your jumper, you can darn the hole, as long as it's small. Turn your garment inside out and, using a thread of the same colour, 'pick up' the threads on one side of the hole then the other, until you have - very gently - pulled the two sides of the hole together. Don't pull the thread too tightly, or you'll end up with a puckered mark instead of a hole!

Before you tie off the hole, turn your jumper the right way around to check that you've fully sewn the hole shut, then tie off.

Turning your garment the right way around, smooth out any puckering. It won't be perfect, but a tiny ridge is better than a big hole.

Handy homemade remedies

Homemade remedy - lemons

Lemons are one of the handiest things you could have in your household-management repertoire. They can quickly solve a number of tedious housekeeping problems:

As a fridge de-stinker. Squeeze lemon on to a small piece of cloth or cotton wool and pop it into your fridge door drawer. You can use whole lemons, but they go mouldy more quickly in the fridge.

To freshen up food. Of course, a squeeze of lemon juice works wonders in keeping foods like avocado and apple from going brown, but it will also help to freshen a wilted lettuce. Soak your lettuce in the usual way in cold water, but add a few teaspoons of lemon juice to the mix and leave for a little while.

As a kitchen cleaner. Rub your chopping boards with the cut side of a lemon to give them a lovely fresh smell - but be sure that they are clean first! Pour 300ml of warm water into a bowl and squeeze half a lemon in. Drop the rest of the lemon into the bowl and pop into the microwave for a lovely lemony steam-clean. Set your microwave for three minutes and keep a close eye on it: more powerful microwaves will cause the water to evaporate more quickly! When the cycle is over, wait a moment before opening the door and removing the bowl. The lemon juice should have loosened all that horrible baked-on food, and all you'll need to do is give it a little wipe with a clean, wet cloth.

As a stain remover on your chopping board or butcher's block. Simply sprinkle salt onto the stain and scrub with the cut side of half a lemon. Leave to settle overnight and rinse away. Don't use lemons on porous, delicate surfaces, as the acid isn't good for them.

As a cleaner for funky lunchboxes. Rub half a lemon, cut side down, over the lunchbox, then rinse with more lemon juice, leave and then wipe away. At last your lunchbox will smell good!

Carpet stain removal 

The one thing that fills any carpet owner with panic is staining. The main thing is to deal with the stain quickly to minimise the damage. After that, the following instructions might help:

* Blot up as much of the stain as you can with kitchen paper - don't use anything else. Pour salt on to the stain, as it will absorb the wine (or whatever else may have caused the stain) - bicarbonate of soda does the same thing. But you have to do this immediately.

* For grease, bicarbonate of soda is the thing - sprinkled over the stain and left to absorb for a few hours, then vacuumed up.

* For pet 'accidents', either mix 50ml vinegar in two litres of water and spray on to the offending area, or do the same with laundry detergent, which is also good at removing stains and neutralising the smell. But for really persistent stains, you might need to use a specialist stain-removal product. Vinegar and a gentle detergent will help to lift coffee stains from carpets, but always blot the excess first.

* If you are unlucky enough to have a bloodstain on the carpet - don't use warm water. Always use cold. Mix in a little washing-up liquid and spray it on the stain, before blotting again. You might have to do this a few times before the stain fades, so keep at it!

* Wood floors need care too, and as they come in all kinds of finishes, it's best to pick a specialist cleaner for hardwood floors. Some people will tell you that you can mop a hardwood floor, but I'd advise against it. If you do insist, make sure not to leave any standing water, as this will damage the floor. Another thing to avoid is scraping the floor with your vacuum-cleaner attachment, so make sure that you have the soft brush down when you hoover.

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