Saturday, May 18, 2019

Timely order for my sewing room...

We've been in our home, our very first 'own' home, for almost eight months. When I mentioned this to my husband yesterday his immediate response was "No, it can't be...can it?"

Incredible isn't it? All that time spent saving for a deposit and then looking for a house which would suit our needs at this stage of  life - it seemed endless and often frustrating when we were going through it - yet here we are, eight months along and still finding our home-owner feet. 




We had rented all our adult lives and when you do that for more than three decades there's a particular mindset which has carved itself into the way you live, the way you plan or look at things in the home. There's a hesitancy to make changes, internal shudders when the vacuum cleaner hits the door and leaves a gouge, mental pressure to always keep things as perfect as possible...and you're always counting down the weeks until the next quarterly house inspection.




My mind has been very ..s..l..o..w..l..y.. removing those thought processes and replacing them with enthusiasm to change and confidence to express myself genuinely within our walls. My husband on the other hand accomplished those changes rather quickly in comparison to me. 




Whilst our focus recently has been on the January monsoon repairs, now that the ceiling, laundry and roof have been completed I had a deep need to make changes in my sewing room - as it's my place of work. 




Last year Rosie and I had discussed the notion that the best way to freshen up a room and keep only what you need/want/love was to remove everything and slowly bring back only that which truly meets this criteria.




So this past week that's exactly what I did, removing everything which wasn't nailed down or attached. My hallway, bedroom and living room were taken over with 'stuff' and little by little I cleaned, sorted and considered how to utilise this work space to best advantage whilst also making it a joy to be in.




Hubby asked if there was anything I needed to make the room more practical and in response to my need for better storage solutions (after I removed a set of totally impractical drawers) he bought and assembled a wonderful set of deep and wide drawers. Just one drawer alone was able to hold neatly everything I'd kept in all six drawers of my old chest.




There's a lovely ease to the room now and I feel refreshed of mind and spirit, ready to finish new designs which had been left uncompleted due to the frustration of my environment as well as health and family time constraints.




What to hang on the walls? That was not an easy choice to make as there are many projects which had been packed away when we moved and not seen the light of day since...but as I removed each one from their various storage containers I found it surprisingly easy to choose after all. 




It was also lovely to display some special gifts along the shelving, like that beautiful cross stitched sheep (above) which Jan Skinner made me many years ago.




My basket of applique scraps is now right above the sewing table where I can take it down to sort for just the right fabric in new designs...




...and my beautiful shelving unit has been scrubbed and the fabrics refolded. I also removed and donated any materials I don't want or need. 

The ELEFANTZ sign was a gift from Fee way back in 2010. Isn't it the prettiest thing? I love that it has a place to be displayed now.




The adjustable table Mr E bought me for Christmas is now facing the opposite direction so when I do my morning Bible study inside or plan the working week ahead I can look out at the wild birds which frequent the native Grevilleas planted along the fence line. Before this the table faced the house next door and I really don't want to watch other people on their balcony so this new layout is fabulous.




I'm considering looking for some pretty second hand sheets to use as decorative curtains because I do think they'd be prettier than the solid white drapes which hang in front of the sheers. 
And I want to make a jelly roll rug for the floor as well, but all in good time. For now my sewing room is perfect as it is and brings me joy.






The blue and white chest of drawers you can see in one of the top photos will be spray painted in white semi-gloss next week as its not been touched since we bought it eight years ago at a garage sale. I use the top of it as my sewing room ironing board and the drawers hold things like craft rulers, quilt hangers, Blossom's vast beading supplies, and small gifts for giving. I'd considered donating it and buying something new but then those words God whispered in my ear late last year came back..."Use what you already have". 




So this entire exercise of change and order in the room cost us one set of extremely useful drawers and a can of white spray paint yet to be purchased. I was also able to gift many fabrics, supplies and ornaments to the local Salvation Army op-shop.

Knowing that I can keep this room the way I want and even bang in a few nails here and there to hang new things I may make in years to come has helped me overcome that old 'renter' mentality and given me the confidence to approach each room in our home with the same care, thought and delight.
Small steps at the right time. No rush. But there are plans forming...

God bless you precious one and may your day be one of delights and joys which surprise you, moments which remind you that God loves you more than your mind can possibly comprehend, and ideas which spark fresh creativity.

hugs


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 16...



After a two week break let's get back to this year's The Gentle Art of Domesticity book study, and the chapter we're beginning today is titled "Practical".

As with all Jane's chapters this one is divided into many smaller sub-topics and the first of the Practical topics is...

LIFE SKILLS

In the quote I used for this week's study photo (above) Jane's writes in Life Skills about the very basics of returning to a gentle domestic life, the arts which once were practiced as a matter of course by most homemakers, yet which over the years have become regarded as "mildly eccentric, touchingly nostalgic and outmoded." (page 116)

I love that Jane champions these beautiful arts which we can adapt to suit our lifestyles and skills, that she encourages us to bake a cake of our own and forgo the shop bought one, to knit bright and cheery socks instead of buying off the rack, to sew a pretty quilt and leave the production line version on the shelf. She's asking us to take up our domestic arts tools and be uniquely creative and to do so with confidence in our skills, regardless of how well honed or lacking they are. She asks that we "just have a go". (page 124)

"Embedded in the gentle arts is a slyly subversive streak that encourages free thought, individuality, creative self expression, imaginative thought processes and not a little self-determination. All this and a great deal of pleasure too." (page 116)


KIT AND CABOODLE

This mini topic reminded me of those first years teaching myself and Blossom hand embroidery and patchwork, how imperative it seemed that we should have at our side a huge variety of tools, threads, fabrics and notions because otherwise we'd not be accomplished in those arts. 

As Jane points out in Kit and Caboodle, you don't need to buy everything for a particular craft all at once and in fact little by little over a period of many years is how she gradually built her own 'kit'.
A phial of pretty pink beads one day, a perfect blue yarn the next month, edible green colouring another time...


By purchasing what she genuinely loves, just a little at a time, Jane avoided having supplies which really weren't her style and had to be stored away, gifted on or thrown out. She also chose not to fall for a lot of consumerist advertising and looked for other ways to make what she loved.

"I sometimes feel there is huge marketing pressure to buy every single tailor made item for a certain craft, when in fact a make-do approach can be far more economical, satisfying...and creative." (page 117)



"A domestic artist can build up a collection of kit and caboodle over time. There is no rush, and plenty of time to savour each addition." (page 117)

"The sheer ordinariness and anonymity of practical domestic kit is what gives it charm." (page 118)

Jane does try to buy the best quality of things like cooking utensils, bowls and tins but explains she does not own a lot, preferring a few good pieces to many that will not last the distance.

"...it is worth paying a little extra for something really excellent that is not only pleasing to use but is also capable of standing the test of time." (page 118)


APRONS

Jane describes herself as having two apron modes. 
Firstly, the sensible and practical apron wearer whose long, straight garb washes easily, has a large pocket and is made from sturdy cottons and linens.
Her second self embraces the 1950's Doris Day style of apron-wearer, the frilly, gathered, pleated, shaped aprons with huge bows made from highly impractical delicate fabrics.

"But both my apron personalities agree that an apron is a wonderful thing and that this simple, modified piece of fabric with its marriage of form and function possesses all sorts of creative possibilities." (page 120)

Below you can see the apron Jane knitted over nine evenings. Made from linen yarn she found it interesting that when she reflected on the photo of herself and her husband below, they were both wearing their work clothes - he in his business attire and she in her working uniform of an apron, her newly knitted linen apron.


"...this is one that drapes beautifully, flatters the hips and it wouldn't look bad on my frillier alter ego." (page 120)


READING ROUND THE EDGES

Jane's mother in law had four rowdy sons but still managed to read books as she cooked a meal. It was her way of switching off from the crashes, noises and fights, though she did keep her wooden spoon close at hand.

Jane had three children under three and found she could only manage snatched moments to browse magazines, but soon lost interest in the glamour and perfect interiors between their pages.
Realising that a good short story may be a better option she sought out writers who offered her a gentler touch of reality in their prose - and not surprisingly most of those writers who penned about their everyday lives were women.

"Short stories...written in between dusting, bed making, answering the door and home-making are wonderful for reading in one sitting while you wait for the biscuits to brown, while children play, while the bread rises...or while stirring the gravy." (page 122)


Listed below are some of the writers of short stories Jane suggests...

Isak Dinesen, Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro, Helen Simpson, Molly Panter-Downes, Dorothy Whipple and Elizabeth Taylor.


SMALL SKILLS, BIG EFFECTS

"...there is a lot to be said for 'outsider' art and craft, the sort of thing that is made by ordinary people with ordinary skills. It has directness, sincerity and individuality often missing in more sophisticated, refined, knowing art." (page 123)

In this mini-topic we are encouraged to take a leaf out of the life of a child and express ourselves more freely with our creativity...simply, without fuss and fanfare, without unrealistic expectations. As we grow up most of us have "...lost the gentle art of self reliance, and lack of practice erodes this further." (page 123)



Jane compares the things a child loves to do - growing a plant in water, watching seeds germinate, playing with colours and sticking things together - to what we 'grown ups' can do that is in reality much the same - growing bulbs in glass vases, cultivating basil in window pots, stitching colours together as fabric and making a simple layered quilt.
"We need to rediscover and cultivate a childish enthusiasm and willingness to try, and attempt to conquer our doubts about our abilities. A misshapen biscuit, an uneven row of stitching, a floppy hyacinth and an uneven pot of basil are still better than the bland, neat and regular shop-bought versions that look and taste like everyone else's. Just have a go." (page 124)



Personally I loved the study this week and have a real desire to hunt down those short story writers, plan a new apron, and tend my herbs with a bit more love.

Please share your thoughts about the reading today in the comments below and tell me what stood out as something you'd like to take on in your own life. Will you knit an apron? Read or write a short story? Comb through your personal kit and caboodle to weed out the unnecessary and only keep what you love? Watch a bulb grown in water on your kitchen bench? Plant some herbs? 

OUR NEXT READING

I'm going to keep the book study running on a fortnightly schedule now as it's much easier on me and we get to cover a little more each time doing it this way. 

We'll be reading pages 126-135 for our next study post on May 28th.


GIVEAWAY WINNER
The winner of this month's giveaway is...
Congratulations Debbie, I have sent you an email.


Every Gentle Domesticity book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant weekly book study post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired. 
 Please do not link to the same post on your blog each week.  Your posts should be new and relevant to the current week's study.
NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted. 

God bless you all so very much!
hugs


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Life and changes...

Unlike other May beginnings in previous years, this one brought a welcome cool spell, something we have not encountered before winter's arrival since moving to the tropics in 2009.
The nights may not seem cold to many of you who live in more temperate or indeed 'cold' regions but when we woke to 16 C (61 F) the other day it was breathtaking in a wonderful "now we can wear socks and eat soup" kind of way, so of course I made a pot of soup and some delicious bread to serve with it.

KITCHEN DAYS 

The bread recipe is from my most used breadmaker cookbook but one I'd not tried before, Pesto and Pinenut Loaf...




Our garden has an abundance of basil at the moment, there's always a bag of pinenuts in the fridge and who doesn't have parmesan cheese on hand?




The only thing in the recipe that I changed was switching white bread flour to whole grain bread flour...




This loaf has now been added to our 'bake regularly' menu planner because it was so delicious!


 

We had it with big steaming bowls of lamb, vegetable and barley soup that night, and toasted and smothered with avocado for breakfast yesterday morning.




Some of you may be wondering why I've baked and eaten bread after switching to gluten free almost a month ago?
As I mentioned at the time my migraines were out of control and every day had become one long painful stretch. Having eliminated all my known migraine food triggers with no relief I decided to be very strict with gluten free to see if there was improvement to the frequency and severity.

There was no change whatsoever. The migraines continued to bombard me day after day until I was worn out beyond words and fell in a heap, battling to hold back tears of frustration and weariness.

The only other avenue/treatment I had not tried for a long time was to get my long hair cut very short.
All my life having long hair has been a migraine trigger so every so often I'd cut it short. The migraines were the kind I've had since childhood, the same pain with all my migraines regardless of the triggers. 
But this past year they were much worse, debilitating to the point of my being unable to function most days - and this may be why I had overlooked my long hair as the enemy. I was secretly scared something far more sinister was in play, especially as my father and uncle died of brain tumours when they were the same age I am now.

Nine days ago I walked into the hairdresser and asked her to cut all my hair off. Her eyes widened and she asked, "All? You're sure?? You have beautiful thick and lustrous hair - you want it gone?" I explained about the migraines and indeed I was managing one right there in her salon, my eyes barely open as I squinted under the lights. But "Gone it must be", I assured her, "I'd like my short, funky, slightly spiky hair to make a return." She nodded and began to prep me for a shampoo.

I thought I'd be sad as ruler lengths fell to the floor but instead, I felt free.

Ninety minutes later, after a shampoo, treatment, extra long head massage (which helped with pain management by relaxing me) and that ever so important hair cut, I drove home and dived into the pool...like washing away some part of me that needed to go.

By mid afternoon my migraine was gone. Nine days later and it has not returned. I thank the Lord for the prompt to do this and removing a major cause of my migraines.

Bread is back on the menu and I'm smiling more than I have in a long while.

Soooo....more of the kitchen stuff. Salads are now my every other day lunch (as I am back to enjoying curried egg sandwiches on the in between days) often with fruit and always with avocado.




Mid-afternoon snacks usually consist of grapes, seaweed rice crackers and dip. This has become my reading time and at the moment I'm savouring two favourite English magazines, the ones I have been collecting for years and regularly pull off the shelf to re-read because they're never out of date. Though it is May in Australia the March issues have only just arrived on our shores so I'm reading slowly, savouring each page.






I'm not a great lover of bananas, which is weird as they grow everywhere in the tropics and are cheap as chips, but Mr E loves them so we always have a hand or two on the bench.

The other day when I baked the bread there were three bananas which had gone too far in ripeness so I searched the internet for a good banana bread recipe. I will eat a slice of banana bread if there's no better options when we're out for coffee, and I do like a good banana and date loaf smothered in butter, but I'd never made my own banana bread before - cake yes, bread no. 

THIS recipe by Donna Hay had so many rave reviews that I decided to give it a go...




...and guess what? I'm hooked. It is delicious!



As soon as I finish this post I'm brewing a pot of Tulsi tea and slicing a thick piece for morning tea. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.


BIRDLIFE

I was hand washing in the laundry tub the other day (we've had no washing machine or power out there for over a week while the various tradesmen come and go to repair the flood damage) when this bright flash of lime and red caught my peripheral vision through the back door so I stepped outside to see what it was.

Up near the pool on the branch of a tree was the brightest green parrot, one which I'd not seen visiting our yard before. I prayed, "Father God please keep that bird on the branch while I get my camera so I can zoom in and get a photo!" and ran inside for my camera.

Swiftly but softly stepping outside again the bird was not there and my heart sank in disappointment...but then, just to my right in our bird feeder was the parrot. Lord, You brought it closer! 



Honest, the parrot was there for no more than ten seconds and I had no time to adjust the focus so I just snapped away until it lifted off and disappeared into the distance.

It was a Red Winged Parrot, a male in fact as it's back was black.




Glorious to see, and such a blessing too because you know I love watching and photographing our daily bird visitors.




We had galahs drop by again this week...




...and of course our regular girl, Betty, who has breakfast with us each day.






SEWING

Having a clear and pain free head has allowed me to finally press forward with bringing together all the blocks of Phyllis May's Kitchen and individually piece and quilt around the applique and embroidery. I've completed 14 out 16 but those final two blocks need something extra added as they are pivotal to the final display so I'm not rushing them. 

Pattern writing for all the blocks is also happening, quite time consuming but it's better to write and photograph each block as I go along instead of having one mammoth week of pattern writing later on. You do know pattern writing is my least liked process of designing?

One new change I've made to pattern writing when a number of different fabrics are being used is to copy Lori Holt's idea and make these wonderful swatches...




I traced circles of fabric from my BOM scraps and used Vliesofix to fuse them to white paper gift tags. This afternoon I'll tie strands of the matching threads used for this project through the wee holes.
They also look lovely as a sewing room ornament but I do think the threads attached will add some extra prettiness.




When I was drawing the circles for my fabric swatches I gathered the fabric scraps into one basket and thought there must be a lot of uses for these little bits. And the fact that I was drawing circles at the time gave me an idea to draw up a few tiny little stitcheries that could feature a spot of applique and dwell inside these small circles. 

Here's the first one...




I've stitched two more and there may be a fourth or fifth yet to make an appearance at the end of my pencil.
There's also a few ideas for projects they could become which are at present juggling for top spot in my imagination. A sweet set of useful patterns, I think. 


FAITH

Holding tightly to Jesus through the pain in my head for so long has taught me that there is nothing in this world I need to get through alone. Yet oddly enough I do try to fix problems in life through my own over-inflated strength and overrated-ability far too often and it's not until I am ready to give up or crawl into bed and hide away under the covers by myself because my efforts are not working that I remember HE IS THERE for me.

Late last year I shared with you a long list of things which I had planned for Elefantz in 2019, plans which were of themselves very good and filled my heart with excitement. But as most of you know, there are good plans and there are God-plans. This past week I have come before the Lord and relinquished some of those plans because in order to follow them through I would need to strive like I've never strived before, lay aside my God-given desire to be a committed every-day homemaker, and follow a path He has not blessed. 
He may bless those individual plans, one by one, in a different season of life, but for now I'm putting my heart, soul and creative energy into what is right before me today and giving thanks for the opportunity to do so.

Like the freedom I felt as my long hair was cut away and dropped to the salon floor, so too I feel freedom in my spirit and within my heart having let go, and cut off, plans which were not suited to the life God has given me in this particular season.

I love this verse from Ecclesiastes. It reminds me that we will have seasons in life where what we have sewn together (our own plans) may need to be pulled apart in order to bring together a better plan, a God-plan for our lives.



I'm joyous to be following His plans, especially the ones I'd not considered, and also grateful that He's with me in the adventures I've desired and prayed about and been able to pursue within His blessing.

Now I must away to make that cuppa and cut a slice of banana bread. The very last of the tradesmen will be here any moment to reconnect the power in our laundry and install new lighting as well...which means I'll have a laundry again and can give my hands a break and let the washing machine be my maidservant once more. (proverbs 31:15)

May your day overflow with great delights, revealing the hidden blessings you might not have noticed but which the Lord has given because of His great love for you.

hugs