Friday, August 23, 2019

Contentment and simple things...

You can learn an awful lot about life, and yourself, from a child.

On Tuesday I was blessed to babysit for Blossom and Ross so they could go out for their first meal 'alone' in a little over three years. Since before Cully May was born, actually.

Rafaella went down for her afternoon nap and this gave Cully May and I some one-on-one time together. We played hide and seek, shared lunch (the girls always like to share my lunch), made houses out of bright coloured felt triangles, twisted pipe cleaners into bunny ears (which she insisted I wear) and sang songs.

So much fun we had playing together and I got an excessive amount of cuddles which filled my happy-nana-heart to overflowing. Then we slowed a while, shared some strawberries and custard, and I asked "What would you like to do now?" Without skipping a beat Cully May's smile beamed wide and she answered "Nana, will you make me a superhero cape?" and handed me a bunch of pipe cleaners. 

"Honey, I don't think we can make a superhero cape out of these." 

"Yes you can, Nana!" she responded, her eyes sparkling and her voice full of confidence in my abilities. So I stopped for a bit and thought about it. 

You know, we adults can tend to overthink problems, but that's something young children are free from. They're right there in the moment and when you let go of your own ideas and expectations of 'perfection' or 'the right way' and consider how simple their needs really are, simple solutions soon follow.

Like my calico grocery bag which goes everywhere with me - if you think like a child it is the most amazing superhero cape!

Those pipe cleaners Cully May felt needed to be part of the cape tied the handles together around her neck.

Around and around the room she ran, superhero cape swishing behind her. She was happy, I was content. Simple things bring joy.

Then she stopped in front of me and asked, "Nana, will you make me a mask?" 

Aware now that I wasn't to raid Blossom's fabrics and set up her sewing machine whilst googling 'patterns for a superhero mask", I considered what we had in front of us on the table. More pipe cleaners and paper!

I'm telling you, the way to a little girl's heart is paved with a shopping bag, pipe cleaners, paper and simple imagination.
I mean, really, is this three year old happy or what?!

When Blossom and Ross came home their little girl insisted I make daddy a mask too, so I did, and they both played superheroes. Happy and content, this nana said her goodbyes and headed home, quite impressed with how a three year old reminded her to stop, consider, and think of simple solutions before trying anything more complex.

Wednesday I did a lot of housework including a thorough cleaning of my front loader washing machine (inspired by this post of Annabel's) before sketching and preparing new designs as part of a larger project in the future...

Later that day I removed the border from a very special old design from 2010 which had been displayed in a frame.

Here's the stitchery removed from the frame but still with the dull dark blue border.
I'd chosen the fabric you see behind it as my cushion print but the stitchery border now needed a brighter blue to match it...

So I found this lovely blue print in my stash and it looked as though it would really 'lift' the overall finish of what was to become a cushion.

A thin 3/4" border of the blue and then large floral borders all around transformed my "Little House Sampler" stitchery...

...into a beautiful new addition to our bedroom.

The cheery brightness of these fabrics has brought life again to a heart-felt design I've always loved but had grown tired of in it's old setting. 

It's called the "Little House Sampler" in honour of the many years we homeschooled and the thousands and thousands of kilometres we've driven across Australia listening to all Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books along the way.  When I designed this we'd just completed our homeschool journey and both my 'young ones' were now adults and working their first jobs. It became my personal way of stitching a memory that spanned eleven wonderful years.
So to have it now on our bed is rather special.

I've decided to offer this stitchery pattern as a gift to all new Rewind Club members who join by September 4th. 
Below is the cover with photos of all the patterns inside the next issue.

The other day my precious husband bought me a rose.

For years the only roses I received were the occasional bunches he'd buy to fill a vase on the table of each rental house, but now that we have our own home he thought it time we had a permanent rose.
It's called Shocking Blue and is in a very large pot outside the bedroom window where it gets a lot of sun but can be moved to safer ground should we find the next tropical wet season to be more than it can take.
After the January/February floods we're a little cautious.

Yesterday Blossom came by with Rafaella and Cully May and we had morning tea out back watching the cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets feasting on seeds from the feeder.

I bakes scones which were served with homemade strawberry jam and the little ones shared mugs of (very weak milky) tea with us. Rafaella is almost 18 months old now and I've nicknamed her Climbing Houdini because she appears and disappears and she climbs up, over and under everything. She's so quick and when you catch her that cheeky little smile you see in the photo below is paired with the cutest laugh. Love.

Cully May helped me pick cherry tomatoes which we'd then pass to Rafaella who would take them to Blossom who filled a bowl to take home. Teaching them about the garden and fresh food is a joy!

Too soon my little munchkins made their goodbyes, but I must admit to needing a rest later as time with them is always full the very best possible way.

These past weeks I've thought a lot about contentment and the simple things in life which fill my heart. None of them were big things in themselves, just a number of small and simple joys and doings that satisfied my wife, mother, nana and domestic heart. 

Things like baking scones, making jam, hanging the washing out to dry, brewing tea in a pot, picking tomatoes and fresh herbs for dinner, planting healing herbs under the lemon tree, preparing my husband's lunch box for work, taking freshly dried sheets off the line and airing the bed, sewing a special cushion, sharing deep thoughts with Blossom, buying fruit and vegetables at the market, preparing a simple pot of tea for my love when he comes home, making a superhero cape from a shopping bag, sitting out back to watch the sun set with the man I love beside me, praying for a friend, making a small gift, discovering an orphan tomato plant ripe with fruit in a hidden corner of the yard, listening to my son in law as he shared an idea I may try, choosing not to spend on things we don't need, letting gratitude well up from deep inside for all we've been blessed with...being still and knowing God.

I'm intentionally slowing my life because it's too precious a gift not to savour, and my prayer today is that you also embrace a slowing of days, of things, of doings, and give time to considering the blessings which have come your way.

May the Lord be your anchor in the storm, your guide in the darkness, your delight in the sunshine, and your hope in every new sunrise. 


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Gentle Domesticity book study - luxury pt 1...

Honest, I kind of cringed the first time I turned the page to begin this chapter because I didn't want to read about lifestyles of the rich and famous and fanciful opulence, know what I mean?

But then Jane begins writing in her wonderfully casual and engaging manner about how we need to look at the smallest indulgence in our lives as a true luxury...


"It helps to have a state of mind that can turn even the smallest indulgence into a luxury. This means looking positively at your life - considering not what you want to have, but what you can, or already, have." (page 178)


"Little luxuries are more conducive to sustained well-being and pleasure than big ones." (page 179)

I've mentioned this before but for those who are new to my blog or this study, let me share a little luxury which made a big difference to my husband and I during four very lean years when he was at university and we were homeschooling the two youngest children.

Our budget was tight and it was my responsibility to manage it well. Our belief was that all bills were paid first, groceries and clothing came last (Jesus told us not to worry about what we'd eat or wear and we lived that out), but the one small luxury we allowed ourselves each fortnight was a jar of the best instant coffee on the supermarket shelf. 
It was that one small thing which carried us through four years feeling as though we were millionaires. Silly, I know, but at the time it was a wonderful mental and emotional boost to offer 'good' coffee when guests dropped by. 

Today we have a great coffee maker which grinds the beans and makes us a cappuccino or long black at breakfast - a luxury we don't take for granted but choose to simply enjoy and thank God for the upgrade.

"The gentle arts offer such a wealth of little luxuries that it's not difficult to create a chain of small pleasures that link together to make a necklace of non-precious gems to adorn your life. Pretty buttons, trimmings, ribbons, lovely yarn, half a metre of beautiful fabric, a good novel or book of poetry, a few squares of chocolate, a box of French macaroons, are all strung on my personal necklace of luxuries." (page 179)


Jane and I could easily sit for hours over coffee and macaroons to discuss the bliss of buttons.
For the longest time searching out vintage buttons at op-shops has been one of my rituals, especially in small country towns where they seem to be in vast supply and for just a few cents.

"Has anyone else noticed that buttons are like sweets for grown-ups?" (page 180)

"And the great thing with buttons, unlike sweets, is that when you have indulged in a little button consumption you don't need to clean your teeth afterwards." (page 180)

"I tend to buy only three or six of any button I like and then keep them until the right moment presents itself. This way, I don't feel too extravagant, and I can bring out my buttons when I need a little cheering up, and admire them before putting them away again." (page 180)


Jane lists her four favourite luxuries, though she finds combining them to be not quite as simple.

1. chocolate and books
2. chocolate and knitting
3. wine and books
4. wine and knitting
5. books and knitting
6. chocolate and wine


Japanese craft books. 

"If you are new to their magical, eclectic world, Japanese craft books are unlike any craft books you have ever seen. For a start, you can't understand a word." (184)

For someone who spent much of her younger years reading dull, bossy and regulated craft books, Jane found Japanese craft books to be somewhat of a delightful revelation, and an experimental world of domestic creativity with their fresh and clever ideas, photography, and brilliantly imaginative details. 

"In many ways, the fact that you can't understand the often extensive and professionally laid out instructions is quite liberating. Instead of simply following the rules, you find yourself looking, perhaps for the first time, at the way something is made as you try to figure out the structure and the process from the drawings. There are a few measurements and numbers to help you out but, for the rest, you are on your own..." (page 184)

I used to pin Japanese craft photos on my Pinterest boards because even though I can't read Japanese or work them out, they truly are gorgeous and my heart wants to make many of them.
Recently I found a site that helps people like me to understand them, just in case you'd like to know...

JAPANESE SEWING PATTERNS - it's really very helpful!


Not impressed by those who pronounce chocolate as chocklit, Jane pondered a bit and decided to think out side of the box to what Choc-Lit could be and decided it could be construed as a reference to a whole category of literature; choc-lit, or books to be read whilst eating chocolate. 

For her, it's the domestic novels (many of which we discussed back in THIS book study post) which are the chocolate biscuit books, and the classics best to be read with a block of chocolate.

"I find that it is the classics that are best with chocolate. I suspect this is because I have to digest and savour them slowly (they are not always the easiest reads), and need to read them in bite-size chunks..." (page 187)

Next study post will be one week from today, August 27th, and we're reading through pages 188-197 to complete the Luxury chapter.

If you've missed any of the book study posts for The Gentle Art of Domesticity go here and I've listed the links for every one.

1. What would you read with chocolate?

2. What are the luxuries in your life?

3. Are you adventurous enough to sew from a foreign book you cannot read?

Have a wonderful week and may each day be a blessing in the making,

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Scrappy Vintage Kitchen block 4...

How appropriate that the next block in My Scrappy Vintage Kitchen celebrates the making of jams and preserves because last weekend I was hard at work preparing jars of strawberry jam to use now and some to store for later. 

Mid to late winter is peak strawberry season in the tropics and they are very inexpensive so I always make luscious and rich strawberry jam, sometimes plain and other times with apple and vanilla bean.
And of course I bake scones to serve with our first jam for the season. 

Of course once you begin to bake you tend to keep on going, right?
The jam and scones were quickly joined by date muffins and rock cakes so my dear husband was quite a happy chap all weekend...

Today Rosie came over for the morning to stitch but before we took out needle and thread we feasted on cappuccinos, scones, strawberry jam and whipped cream. It's her birthday tomorrow so a slight indulgence was in order and we had the best of times! Amid the laughter, food, coffee and sewing I forgot to take any time I shall remember. 

This afternoon I finally put the binding on my completed Scrappy Vintage Kitchen wall quilt and it's so pretty. Now I just need to consider where it shall hang and once I do a few photos will be shared.

For now though, you're only up to block 4 and I must not run away with myself because it's not till October that the final stitchery is shared and I'm sure you're getting excited about finishing your own wall quilt.

The pattern will be a free download until November 15th.

If you missed the download links for Blocks 1, 2 and 3 go to the My Scrappy Vintage Kitchen page. 

I've previously shared my strawberry and apple jam recipe on the blog but in case you missed it, I'll share this yummy treat again. The recipe is for a quick jam and only makes a single jar, but I tripled the recipe last weekend and made a larger amount without any alteration to the steps apart from needing an extra ten minutes to cook the mixture down. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste - oh my, delicious!

I must apologise for not sharing the scheduled Gentle Art of Domesticity study this past Tuesday. 

Monday was a big day of housework, grocery shopping, planting lettuce and herbs, and preparing soups; Tuesday I was out with Blossom helping her and the little ones do their big grocery shop and running a few other errands; Wednesday was more gardening, catch-up sewing, washing and the dreaded vacuum/mop duo chore; and today I spent the morning with my best friend and the afternoon finishing my wall quilt before watering the garden, cooking a stew and pruning plants which needed a trim. 

Oh, and then I wrote today's pattern for Jam & Apples and here I am blogging about it. 

The weeks fill up quickly these days and though I have a desire and many good intentions to stay on track with the book study I've come to realise that this cooler season in our tropical climate requires a lot more outside work than when the heat and humidity climb high again and many more daylight hours are spent in the air conditioning. 

So I shall have the next instalment of The Gentle Art of Domesticity next week on Tuesday, which actually works better for me because then I don't have the book study and the Scrappy Vintage Kitchen stitch-along in the same week. Should have thought of that before, right? Ha ha! Live and learn.

Have a wonderful day wherever you reside in our precious Earth, and may the Lord's favour fall mightily over your home and fill every corner with peace, laughter, wonder and family.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Fresh finds and a fresh direction...

It's been a lovely quiet week here, days where I spent much time in my Bible, prayer, sketching, planning and sewing. Oh, and gardening. AND celebrating Cully May's birthday!

Last Sunday our sweet Cully May had her 3rd birthday and what a joy and delight to have spent three years watching her grow and bloom, always a smile on her face and abundant cheeky laughter to fill the air. Words cannot express the joy she has brought to us, her grandparents. No matter how tired he is, Poppy's energy is restored when our little princess runs to him and wants to play. 

On Monday morning I met Blossom and her girls at the Aquarium and just as we did on Cully May's 1st birthday we wandered the incredible underwater world of the Reef and often just sat to watch the sharks, rays, fish and other sea creatures going about their watery life. Often they seemed to slow just enough to give us a look up and down of their own. Cully May loves the 'kwarium' and asked me on Thursday when I was visiting for morning tea "Nana, can we go back to the kwarium?". 
Fortunately Blossom has a family pass for the year so we'll be back often.

Out in the garden our tomatoes are going bonkers. Every day I pick a large bowl and offer the excess to Blossom or our neighbour, but mostly we eat them as snacks or in one of the MANY tomato recipes I have. Mr E said the other day, "How will we ever eat store bought tomatoes again? Next winter is a long way off for our next crop."

Out in the front yard our beans have grown and are beginning to set fruit, plus the carrots are coming along as well as the rockmelons and garlic. We've also got a capsicum fruiting and a heritage tomato (black Russian) taking off. Herbs of all description are thriving - basil, parsley, mint, oregano, sage, chives, dill, thyme, rosemary...and the lavender is quite happy as well.

I'll take photos next week for you, along with a big change to our back yard. Everything looks a mess at the moment but here in the tropics it's the winter when we get out in the yards and do the most work as the weather is warm, sunny, dry and comfortable. 

Something else which makes winter so wonderful in our climate is abundant, luscious and inexpensive strawberries. We have them every morning for breakfast with fresh pineapple and rockmelon, but I also use them in simple puddings.

I just slice the strawberries and grate an apple, spread them over the base of a small baking dish and cover with a little sponge before scattering oats across the top and baking.
We have this with custard and a pot of earl grey tea after dinner. 

Some nights I'll switch the strawberries in this pudding with pineapple chunks, frozen blueberries or raspberries; other nights I'll just chop strawberries and banana into custard and sprinkle with nutmeg. 
It's all simple, basic foods and eating simply is a big part of our life journey these days.

This morning we did our usual round of garage sales and I was blessed to find these 1950's Amish Butterprint Pyrex casserole dishes for a grand total of $9 (about $6 US). 

Aren't the prints on them beautiful?

I'm very conscious of not owning more than I need so one of the things I do when we're out early scouring the few garage sales in our town is look for better quality household items to replace what we already own, and then donate the previous items to a local op-shop. This keeps our home clutter free whilst allowing us to inexpensively improve the quality of what we own and use.

Recently I mentioned to Blossom that I'd like to find a little planter that would fit on the kitchen windowsill and hold about three plants. You know, God is the silent listener to every conversation, and a few days later at a garage sale I found a beautiful cream candle holder with three shallow little 'bowls' for holding candles. After removing the glass cylinders which sat in the bowls I knew it would be perfect for my windowsill plan.

I have been dividing a few of my larger indoor plants and have a number of small ones beginning to take off that sit in tiny beige pots...

...and they all fit together in the old candle holder as though they were made for it.

We now have 34 indoor plants around the house which purify the air and add so much beauty that you can't help feeling calm and content within our walls.

The old refashioned church pew in the front entrance is filling up with pots and appears to be a favourite place for the divided newcomers or those who have been doing poorly because they thrive there.

At another garage sale I bought this beautiful jug for a few dollars. I planted one of my divided peace lilies in a tall slender pot and slipped it inside - another wonderful display and the plant is rather happy too.

There has been a lot of prayer this week as I came before the Lord about the next stage of my designing and writing life. He's been so abundantly generous with the creativity He's given me these past ten years, and I cannot thank Him enough, so asking Him to open the eyes of my understanding and my heart and show me what direction to take next and how to honour Him with it was natural. 

He knows my plans, the ones I've written down and pondered for a couple of years now.
But in His wisdom He also knows what plans I ought to pursue, which are to be laid aside, and when to set forth with those He deems worthy. 

Over the past month I've sensed Him drawing me in a certain direction, which is why this past week I've given a lot of time to sitting in His presence and 'listening' to that still small voice for a clear vision. And the Lord does not disappoint. When you ask "What can I do for YOU Lord?" be assured He has an answer.

So all I can tell you right now is that I'm excited, more than I have been about designing and writing in a long time. New ideas, fresh designs, wide-eyed thoughts and a God-gifted path have begun to form and each day the delight in what comes next grows.

Little peeks of 'just a few' sewing things...

Some began months ago, some this week, and many more I won't show you yet.
But in time, in His time, something new will begin and I pray it blesses many, just as He blesses me.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that the double pattern for blocks 5 and 6 of Phyllis May's Kitchen is now in my Etsy Shop if you're following along that way with this project. 

There are two pocket pages this month, using the tea towel and the yummy bakes blocks.

The verse below is one of my life favourites, a promise that when I dwell in Christ His goodness and mercy are mine always. In fact all of Psalm 23 is a favourite...

May the Lord hedge you in on all sides and be your shield, your comfort, your strength, your hope and your great Deliverer all the days of your life.

bless you heaps,