Monday, October 14, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 26 book study...

Our second last chapter in this year’s “The Gentle Art of Domesticity” draws our attention to Nature and how it inspires, parallels and brings life to an everyday domestic life.


“Nature forms a wonderful backdrop to domesticity. It’s like an external room with an ever changing wallpaper…” (page 226)

“Nature can inspire the domestic artist not only with its visual treasures, but also with its sense of energy, its rhythms and its fundamental need for cycles and repetition. Nature is doing outdoors what we are doing indoors…” (page 226)


Jane’s love for gardening is mainly drawn from the actual growing and not the hard labours of digging, mowing and raking. She enjoys shopping garden catalogues for bulbs and seeds, planting purchased seeds in germination trays, and the handling of her grown herbs, flowers and produce far more than the months given to tending them as they grow. In fact she’d love to wear pearls and direct a team of dedicated under-gardeners who could apply themselves to the tedious parts.

Her family have grown accustomed to an assortment of seedling trays covered in cling wrap scattered through the house and along every windowsill in spring, a practice which delights Jane, especially when her seeds show signs of budding life.

She also welcomes seasonal self-sown flowers with open arms and blooms such as cosmos, verbena and nasturtiums are regular return guests in her garden.

“…I think self-sown flowers encapsulate all that is good about an ordinary domestic garden.” (page 228)


“I learned long ago that you don’t need to have a celebrity budget or spectacular herbaceous borders to appreciate flowers.” (page 230)

Jane once bought five deep violet tulips the day before she was due to fly to Moscow for a week, and for the next 24 hours she took the small vase of flowers everywhere with her – to her room whilst packing, into the kitchen while she cooked, to the bathroom whilst enjoying a long soak and into the living room where she watched television. Though left behind when she left next day for the airport, every detail of their shape and colour is still imprinted on her memory.

“What may have seemed like extravagance was actually an education in flower appreciation.” (page 230)

She goes on to describe in detail what she loves about the Oriental Poppy, David Austen roses, and a blue bearded Iris.

“Flowers are not a domestic essential, but even if you can only have five tulips or a single hyacinth or a free branch of lilac, it’s worth taking the time to look properly at nature’s incredible cleverness.” (page 230)


Autumn is a wonderful season to be ‘looking down’ as you walk along the way. Jane discovered this when feeding her chickens stale croissants and left over cous cous one day. Watching the hens happily pecking and scratching she couldn’t help but be drawn to the russet and orange carpet of fallen leaves beneath her feet.


Not a fan of modern machine embroidery, Jane prefers a more natural free motion form of machine embroidery.

“At first it’s quite terrifying until you learn to treat the needle as a pen and the fabric as paper, except that it’s the ‘paper’ that moves while the ‘pen’ stays in the same place.” (page 234)

 Admitting she is hopeless as drawing Jane discovered that natural subjects such as fruits and vegetables are the perfect subject for her free stitching and at the same time satisfy her deeply ingrained allotment nature and imagination.

She enjoys repetitive embroidery in her machine work; rows of buns, washing on the line, cakes…but then returns back to her beloved fruit and veg.

Unable to resist a touch of girly-ness, she will hand sew a few beads or gold thread into the background of garden pieces to create highlights and texture.

“And then I look down and see my fruit salad and I remember that Grace Kelly never wore a fruity frock. She didn’t know what she was missing.” (page 234)


Jane waxes lyrical on the beauty of a quince…

“When the creamy flesh is cooked with sugar and nutmeg and cloves it is transformed into translucent jelly, like garnet or ruby stained glass.” (page 236)

…and each Autumn she picks them from her tree to admire, smell for a few days, and then bake with sugar and spice to serve with thick cream.

(Just out of curiosity, have you ever tried quince? How did you serve it?)


“I have always thought of Hollyhocks as belonging to a world outside my domestic domain…belong(ing) to traditional cottage gardens, Suffolk lanes, French kitchen gardens and Monet’s garden as Giverny.” (page 238)

Unsuccessful in planting hollyhocks from purchased seed packs or bought as plants from the nursery, Jane lost hope of ever growing them – until she scattered a handful of seeds collected from the garden of a friend, promptly forgot about them, and was surprised to see them popping up in the most unlikely areas of her garden.

“It was like having a group of famous people turning up unannounced. I took photos to prove they had been there and set up a bodyguard zone around them so no-one could get within two feet of them. I bellowed at them if they tried.” (page 238)

Jane stitched some lovely hollyhocks which no-one could pick and goes on to mention how prominent they are in old pieces of Crinoline Lady linen, something I’d not noticed before…but she is quite right!

As she so often does, Jane then draws our eyes to a painting which evokes a strong sense of what she’s trying to convey in her words – this time her love of hollyhocks and their old world beauty.

Hollyhocks (1889) by Henri Fantin-Latour

We will complete the chapter on Nature by reading pages 240 – 253 for our next study post on October 29th.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with some pics of the latest in our own garden, a much loved piece of nature we’re working hard to tame in order to bring about productivity and a touch of beauty.

What’s happening in nature around you?


Friday, October 11, 2019

Another hospital visit and the next free vintage kitchen block...

Nana used to say "It never rains but it pours" and so it's been with our family recently.
This morning Cully May, our 3yo ball of endless energy, decided to climb, climb and climb some more till she reached the highest place in Blossom's kitchen where the medicine is kept safely out of harm's way. She then chewed and swallowed a codeine/paracetamol tablet which Blossom takes for her migraines.

It was as she swallowed that chewed tablet and her face screwed up (because it tasted awful) that Blossom caught her, at first thinking Cully May had eaten a vitamin but then discovering the more sinister truth.

I met them at the hospital and we were seen immediately, Cully May monitored for the next five hours. 

Initially very drowsy and just wanting to sleep, she picked up as the hours wore on and after regular monitoring by the nursing staff the doctor gave us the all clear to take her home. 
Praise God! There was a lot of prayer offered up in the hospital and Mr E was praying at work too.

Blossom was amazing, so calm under pressure (takes after her dad) which is important in situations that can frighten children. We're just so relieved Cully May is fine and the emergency is over.

A motorbike accident, a dog bite and Cully May in hospital - all within 13 days.
Mr E, Blossom and I all agree that we could use a break from accidents and hospitals right now!

I'm sharing the second last block in My Scrappy Vintage Kitchen today and it's one of my favourites, The Apron.

You can DOWNLOAD the pattern here as a free gift until November 15th.

If you've missed any of the previous patterns in this stitch-along the links to them are here. They are all currently free to download but only until November 15th so if you've missed any might be a good idea to get them now. 

We're planning a quieter weekend than those of late and I do pray your own will be restful and calm as well.

Excuse me for the short post today but there's a cup of chamomile brewing and a dear husband waiting to watch a documentary so I'm going to sign off and settle in for a restful and hopefully uneventful evening.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Shabby Old Roses - a new pattern...

Back in June I received a bundle of fabrics from Tilda Australia with which to 'play'.
Over July and August I designed and stitched this new quilt pattern, and I'm not really known for quilt patterns, which challenged me to step outside of my own embroidery box.

It's no secret that I love the older Tilda prints, those soft romantic florals which have been missing from her fabric lines these past couple of years...but this return to softness and roses captured my attention big time.

And so I played.

The quilt measures 20" x 30" and can be hung wide or long...either way, it's beautiful against our cream living room wall, right beside my desk.

The pattern is available from today HERE in my Etsy shop as an instant pdf download, and the Old Rose fabrics by Tilda are available from many quilt stores world wide. 

I'd love to know what you think of my 'out of the comfort box' design.
Maybe I'll do more quilts one day...


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

An unexpected visitor...

As his school holiday break drew to a close Mr E harvested the first of his two rows of carrots from the front yard. He'd planted them to break up the soil, just as he'd planted beans to nourish the soil...this all being in preparation for a 'proper' planting season next year due to there being such a lot of work to do on the dreadful soil we inherited when we bought the house a year ago.

He pulled around 8 kilos (17 pounds) of carrots from that first row, which I later scrubbed and juiced (Mr E loves carrot juice and drinks it every day), the pulp destined for our tumbling composter which he made recently from a 44 gallon drum, though a handful was given to the chooks who gobbled up every little bit. The second row will be pulled next weekend and I'll blanch and freeze some of those before juicing the remainder.

Our glut of cheap winter strawberries came to and end so I made more jam... well as a Strawberry Shortcake. And here's where it all gets interesting.
After I prepared the shortcake base, spread it with the fresh jam I'd made the day before, scattered grated apple across the jam and a sprinkle of lemon zest...

...covered everything with sliced strawberries and finished with a smattering of more shortcake mix...

...I popped it in the oven to bake for around 40 minutes.

At the 15 minute mark a loud commotion from the chickens ripped through the air and we heard panic. Flying out the door we saw a dog with one of our chooks in its mouth racing across our front yard and heading down the side of the house.

Mr E flew after the dog and threw himself on it which allowed the chicken to escape in terror.
He wrestled the dog to the ground, holding it the best he could in its now panicked state whilst yelling to our neighbour (it was one of their dogs which had escaped their yard and dug under our fence) for help. I opened the gate for our neighbour and raced out back to find the chickens.

The darker one was the victim and huddled in the corner of the coop; the lighter one was hiding behind Mr E's shed - both of them traumatised. 

Once the neighbour wrapped his dog in a blanket to calm it and take it home my husband came out back and said, "You need to take me to the hospital"...he'd been bitten to the bone in his left thumb and had numerous lacerations across his arms.

The chickens were safe so we locked them in the coop, switched off the oven, grabbed bottles of water and headed out to the hospital where we spent the next five hours.
My love had a tetanus shot, got x-rays of both hands, had wound irrigation, antibiotics and dressings applied - apparently a dog bite cannot be stitched closed as it can lock in the bacteria if there's any present.

Arriving home that evening we pretty much collapsed on the couch and that's when the shock set it. At first adrenaline is driving you on, but then it drains away and the reality of what has happened becomes clear. My beloved has very sore hands still and his neck took a pounding when trying to restrain the dog so he's quite stiff and achy there too...but he's okay. 

This all came on top of the motorbike accident we witnessed a week before, during our drive around a very windy deserted road in the mountains. First on the scene and having watched it unfold, my dear husband kept everyone calm and did what he could until more help arrived and eventually an ambulance. The rider went head first into the mountain after his bike flipped and along with concussion he had some nasty facial and hand injuries...but his helmet and protective riding gear saved him. 

Watching how Mr E stayed calm at that awful scene and in doing so kept everyone else calm, especially the injured rider, I was able to do the same during and after the dog incident. This had been a big life lesson for me and my dear husband commended me for it the following day. All I could think of was "God never wastes a teaching opportunity" for indeed I would have been a bit of an emotional mess if not for seeing how my husband handled a very stressful situation the week before.

We renamed the chooks (for those not in Australia, we call chickens 'chooks') because we didn't really like the names they came with (Nutmeg and Cinnamon) still felt like they belonged to someone else.
After the nasty dog incident we named the injured chook Bess (she's the darker one) because we used to have a very brave chook named Bess many years ago and this new Bess of ours is very brave too. She survived the attack with just the loss of many feathers, and though she no longer shows any desire to wander into the front yard she is back on the lay, missing only the day after the attack. 
The lighter chook is now Daphne because she's very funny and we always thought the character of Daphne in Frasier was quite a hoot.

Back to the kitchen:
I finished baking the strawberry shortcake that night and drier than usual it was still delicious and we enjoyed it covered in custard. There's something to be said for comfort foods.

I've also had a successful sour dough bake, first for the year as I'd not pursued bread making this year the way I used to.

Personally I thought the dough a bit wet but it baked with a good crumb texture and Mr E loved it.
Next time I'll bake it in a tin but for this loaf we wanted rustic to serve with bowls of savoury mince.

I had enough starter left to build up for the next loaf but decided to pop it in the fridge for a few days because we didn't yet need another loaf. It will come out today and I'll begin feeding it again for a new loaf on Friday.

I've also returned to a process I followed many years ago when my son couldn't stomach wheat. 
We did gluten free for a long time but then discovered Sally Fallon's book and by soaking the flour for 24 hours before baking with it my son no longer had any digestive reaction.

Mr E and I have decided to follow this way of baking again and indeed, it's so gentle on the digestive system that we wonder why I ever stopped preparing muffins and cakes this way. 

The only thing I do differently from Sally's recipe is swap her teaspoon of salt for just a pinch, otherwise it's too salty. 

Here's the blueberry muffins I made, and I also made apple cinnamon muffins for freezer.
There's a huge difference in texture and delight when muffins and cakes are made this much better.

Well I've already scrubbed the shower with vinegar and bicarb this morning and tended to the animals, done dishes and a general tidy up - plus wrote this blog post - but now I need to vacuum and mop before brewing a cup of Twinings chamomile and spearmint tea (my new favourite) and sitting down to write the pattern for a project I completed in August. 

Note to self: "Do not put off pattern writing, you just create a stressful mind, Jennifer."

I pray today that the Lord will use every trial and every blessing in your life to teach lessons which will carry you in good stead for the future. After all, He wastes nothing, neither should we.

Big hugs

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Around about home...

Boy, it seems so long since I just 'wrote' here on my beloved blog. 
This year has been taken up with many things, and a consequence has been not as much time to simply write and share about those book study posts, as wonderful as they have been for myself and others, really eat into the everyday blogging I love. 
I was going to host a new book study next year but have decided against it because my heart is more alive to write, to share, to encourage and to be real with this very ordinary life I live.

So how about I just start tapping away on my laptop and open my home to you, today? 
Truly, a lot goes on behind the scenes here, lots of physical work inside and outside, lots of technical and design work too. And lots of prayer, lots of good food, lots of deep conversation and lots of nights when we're so exhausted we literally fall into bed not long after dinner ready to wake before dawn and begin a new day.


I'll begin in the front yard where to the outsider it looks a ghastly mess, but to hubby and I there is productivity and preparation dwelling side by side.

Being mindful to use what we have and to source materials we can use which someone else no longer needs, my husband spends the late afternoon and early evenings out front mixing our own compost, farm manure, purchased sand, unwanted/donated soil, and water, into wheelbarrow loads which are then taken into the backyard for the creating of our no-till garden.

The local council have a water-wise initiative running and gave us some tea tree mulch and a worm farm. We'll mix that mulch with our sugar cane mulch once the garden is ready to be covered.

Interesting that our three-day/two-night trip north through the tablelands and rainforest last week wasn't the kind of rest and refreshment we thought we needed. Before we had a home of our own (it's only been a year) escaping the boredom of a rental home where were unable to make any changes to house or garden was something we did three or four times a year, those few days adventuring through rivers and mountain tops revitalising our souls. 
But not this time. Our few days away drew us closer to God whilst also teaching us we didn't need the escape any more. In fact the whole time we were away we talked about what we could be doing at home and how we couldn't wait to get back there! 

Don't you love those lessons? I do. 

My man has not stopped since we got home and though weary and aching from head to toe there's a deep satisfaction in his smile.

The winter beans are at an end now and ready to be turned over into the soil, whilst the carrots are about a week away from harvest.

There's been no rain for many months and the garden in general shows it, but careful watering as well as plenty of mulching have kept our first winter's food production quite abundant.

I've found a number of surprise crops popping up from our compost; not sure if these are cucumber, zucchini or rockmelon but we'll find out soon enough. Of course, now that the sting of our tropical spring heat has arrived there's a possibility the fruit won't set (which is why we don't grow tomatoes, cucumbers etc in the tropics during the endless hot and humid summer)...

The desert roses are once again in bloom, which is a wonderful burst of colour in our rather parched non-food garden. This one is near the front door and really lifts the spirit...

I have now added more pots under the front living room window. Between the lavender and rosemary are some pretty daisies, another nod to needed colour.

So that's what's happening out front, now let's go to...


This is where Mr E is preparing our no-till garden. The plan is to have no lawn, no grass to mow, but good fertile productive food and shade gardens.
The process to create a good no-till garden takes time and energy, but our rock hard clay soil is unyielding so in the end our effort will be worth the time and muscle (mostly my husband's muscle, let's be honest).

The process is being done bit by bit in the late afternoon and evenings. Firstly the ground is watered, then covered in cardboard (free moving boxes people wanted to get rid of). Then hubby covers the cardboard with that mix of compost, manure, sand, soil and water which he makes barrow load by barrow load in the cement mixer out front. 
It's slow, but worth it, and after all, we're not young anymore.
Once that's completed he'll cover the entire yard with sugar cane mulch which we buy from a local farmer and between now and next April the soil beneath will become ready for planting our food crops.

He's also making a walking path over the sewer line so that we never dig into it, and this will lead to the recently relocated clothes line and the pool gate. 

The pavers which once led to where the clothesline used to be and where a poinciani now grows (you can see to the left of that path) will be pulled up and used elsewhere as he continues to cover the yard with cardboard and the soil mix. 

I pulled out the last of our cherry tomato plants yesterday because the weather is too hot now and aphids have been partying and multiplying among them, despite my sprays (natural based) and daily 'squishing' of the little blighters. But I can't complain, we've had four months of abundant produce from them and the freezer has many bags of roasted tomatoes for pasta sauces.

I still have a small Italian tomato plant (like mini Roma tomatoes) producing so I'll nurture that as long as I can, but the aphids destroyed my Black Russian savagely and once the few tomatoes which are left begin to pink I'll pluck them and remove the plant.

Our new chooks are as happy as can be and we receive two eggs every morning without fail.
They free range but have no interest in any of our greens (I have lettuce and herbs all over the place still), only interested in bugs. They do not care for layer pellets (their previous owner gave us a bag) or the seed/greens mix I purchased myself. All they want is to forage and that to us is wonderful because it's as it should be. 
At night they put themselves to bed as the sun goes down and all we need do is shut the coop door until sunrise when they set forth on another day wandering the yards.

Another burst of colour are the bottle brushes, glorious rich reds and thriving, bringing more bird life to visit.

We sit out back and watch the chooks, Bob-the-dog and Sophie cat while sharing breakfast, morning tea, lunch and dinner each day. Each of them comes beside to see what we might offer from our plate but apart from a pat we leave them wanting. 

Today we finished the final pot of strawberry jam with our currant scones and tea.
Fortunately the last of the winter strawberries are available very cheap so I'll buy a fair few punnets and make more jam for the months ahead. 
I always make plum jam in the new year and can't wait for them to come into season again, but for now strawberry and vanilla jam is just fine.


On the weekend we bought a wider double door pantry cupboard for $5 at a garage sale and I'm preparing to store all my baking supplies, bulk purchases and storage containers in there as my actual pantry, though a wonderful walk in, has very narrow shelves and I've not had extra room to 'store up for tomorrow'. Now I do.

The white cupboard I used to have in the kitchen was about 8 inches narrower and holds all my business paperwork and files, household accounts, stationary, gift cards, wrapping paper etc. Hubby moved that one into the living room where my tall bookcase used to be (which has now been moved over in the corner beside the other bookcase)...

I roasted the last of our ripe cherry tomatoes this morning, and have the last of the green ones on the bench to ripen for salads...

 I've also got a new sour dough starting as we plan to return to what once was an everyday thing for the family, fresh sour dough bread.

I hate to admit this but I shall. 
During the January/February floods our dining chair seats grew mould and even though we soaked them in vinegar and then another mould killer supplied free to our town's residents by companies who specialise in this sort of thing, the mould went bu the stains on the seats did not budge. So we decided to recover them once we found fabric we liked...not as easy as it sounds. 

Apart from the fact upholstery fabric can be ridiculously expensive we never found one we liked. So I covered the chairs in cloths or pillows and promptly forgot about the recovering. Until this week.

The fabric is a heavy duty beige cotton and is actually curtaining. I got it on sale and one by one they're coming along. After I remove 60 staples out of each chair seat. That's why they're coming along one by chair and 60 staples out, then 30 staples in, is all my hands can manage per day. But they are getting done.


Currently I am stitching a new Block of the Month which I'll be sharing next year as a freebie.

I've always wanted to design and stitch Psalm 23 as free BOM but life does tend to run its own course and God has led me a different way sometimes, but just over a week ago His gracious gift of creativity began to flow into a set of nine stitcheries which will come together as one of my favourite psalms. I hope you join me in 2020 to stitch this.

And for those who have been asking, yes, I am still going ahead with the Faith Sewing Club and it's not far away. As with all things, when I let the Lord direct my paths He also directs me in the when and how. How blessed I am.

Okay, that's enough of a catch up today. If you read this far I'm sending you a big hug and offering you a currant scone. ((hugs))

I shall leave you with a photo of Blossom and Cully May, one of my current favourites...

Bless you ever so much,