Saturday, June 15, 2019

Pulling back...


You really don't.
You might think you must, but you really don't. 
This is what I used to regularly tell myself, but then I gradually stopped and life began to look like an endless mountain to climb, a mountain of my own doing. 

So yesterday I pulled out this old stitchery and finished it up as a little mini quilt to hang over my desk. Now it's there every day, the first thing I see when I open my laptop each morning and prepare to begin my working day. 

I'm a doer - the one who gets asked to do things because others know I will get it done, and if you're a doer you'll understand how life can often seem like one adrenaline driven project after another - whether that be cleaning the house, designing a pattern or writing a magazine.

I'm also an introvert - being around people exhausts me, too much conversation exhausts me, so I need a lot of alone time, quiet time, to replenish my energy and reclaim a calm state of being. 

I have adrenaline issues - God gave me a whacky adrenaline problem where I get a whole lot of adrenaline build up (which is why I'm a doer) and the only way to release it is to push myself to the point of absolute emptiness. Once empty, I collapse in a heap for days before my body charges up and into overdrive again. There's no steady ebb and flow of adrenaline for me. It's all and nothing. 




Many people write and say to me, "Jenny, just slow down...rest up", and that's great advice - if I didn't have this adrenaline overload which simply has to be worked out of my body. 
My naughty side, though, is to try and push myself when the tank is empty. 
And right now the tank is empty.

Maybe it's due to the emotional and physical completion of Phyllis May's Kitchen.
Maybe it's because we haven't stopped working on our home and gardens since we moved in late last September.
Maybe it's because I've spread myself too thin with Elefantz (not the blog, but more to do with social media business stuff)?
Maybe it's because I try to do it all???? 
Yeh, I think that's the root of this empty tank which isn't filling as quickly as it used to. 



This Scripture really is the place I fall when the overwhelm catches hold. 
That sweet reminder of where I need to lay my heart, where I need to rest my thoughts, and Who can revive me. 

I'm nothing without Jesus, nothing at all.

Though I may overlook Him, He never overlooks me.
Though I may choose to ignore Him and go my own way, He will never ignore me and patiently greets me when I realise my wrong and turn back to His open arms.

One night last week the Lord very gently impressed upon my heart a warning to slow down.
The next night He came to me in a dream to warn me again. 
"Slow down Jennifer, you don't have to do it all"

Now there's something mighty powerful about the Lord giving you a very clear directive two days in a row, and giving it at night because you've finally slowed down enough to hear and see and understand what He needs you to know...for your own good, because you are His child and He loves you.

A big mistake I made last week was to run ahead of Him and start a new Facebook group for the women making the BOM I just launched. It wasn't until that night, when overwhelm hit me in the pit of my stomach that I realised no prayer had been given to the matter - I'd started it because I thought I should. And to be honest, I should not. My cup was already full to the brim with stuff and now it was overflowing. Peace was slipping away. 

So for the remainder of this year there'll be a lot more prayer about how to manage my days, and hopefully a winding down so that next year I can leave social media behind and just stick with blogging and designing, sharing Jesus and trusting God to bring the customers instead of following the social media formula. He may have a different path for me, I never rule out His Hand in my journey - but for now that's what my hopes are. 

I also turned to my prayer partner Allie, who without knowing it, spoke words of life into my spirit and confirmed something the Lord had asked me to do. I tell you, even though we live on opposite ends of the world her prayers and counsel are graciously God-gifted.


It might surprise you to know that I have been too busy to stitch lately, and as it's one of those few things which relaxes me I decided even if it's just something small I needed to stop and sit with needle and thread for an afternoon. 
You see, the actual hand embroidery side of Elefantz is a very small part of the business, but it's the part I love most - and I've missed it badly. 




Over two evenings I made this simple hexie embellished mug rug. 
Truly, I'm not normally a lover of mug rugs, but I really needed one for my sewing room table where I sketch and plan, read my Bible and drink my afternoon cup of tea or decaf coffee.




Around the outside of the hexie is a edging of chain stitch, something I love to add and which I first saw about nine years ago when a friend, Cheryl Goss, sent me a birthday hexie block made that way.
It's such a pretty effect don't you think?

Don't ask me why but I love adding tags to small projects so I followed that habit...




...and now I have a decent size mug rug for the sewing room, made from a variety of scrap fabrics.
Nothing more satisfying than a completed scrap box project, even when it's small.




You can probably imagine that I have many stitcheries floating around which have never been made into a project, right? About 200 in fact. 

Yesterday I framed one of them as a gift for a new friend. 
That tiny peek of floral Tilda (also from my scrap box) was all it needed before being popped inside the shabby chic cream wooden frame.




Do you have a lot of completed stitcheries that could be framed (or made into a mini quilt like the one at the top of this post)?




A sense of completion, satisfaction, comes from finally 'finishing' a stitchery setting. I'll be doing more of this.


The patterns for this framed stitchery and the mini quilt are now in my shop.


In the eight and half months we've lived here in our first home I've not once bought myself a bunch of flowers - yet before that I would buy an inexpensive bunch every week and display them on the dining table. I love flowers!

But with so much garden coming alive here and a mortgage to pay off in ten years I made a few decisions to save $ and one of them was no flowers.

Well, imagine my delight when a friend dropped by for morning tea yesterday and brought me a bunch of gorgeous gerberas and carnations!




Gerberas are one of my absolute favourite flowers and truly, my heart was overjoyed. How blessed was I?!


I've been listening to Mr E out front whilst writing this. He's planting the jasmine and trimming branches, watering the new hedge plants and clearing weeds, so I'd best be away and take him a cool drink and some grapes.

I pray your weekend brings joy and abounds in the delights of the Lord, that you pray over your own to-do list and see if He wants to make changes - because if you ask Him to, He'll guide your path.

hugs




Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Style within domesticity...





In today's Gentle Art of Domesticity book study we begin the chapter on Style and I'll share some titbits from the first few mini-topics.

STYLE COUNSEL

"Personal, domestic style is...a matter of confidence, of thinking about what you choose and not blindly following media and retail trends...It's a question of developing your own taste, being open to influences and inspirations, and valuing the significance of what is meaningful to you." (page 138)

Lately we've been watching the new season of House Rules on television. If you've never seen this program it's a competition between six couples who do makeovers on each other's homes. The homes are always in a pretty bad state, and each week one pair of home owners goes off while the other five pairs work exhaustingly on their home to make it beautiful. 

This is the fourth year I've watched the program and can honestly say it's been incredibly educational because I've discovered more about decorating style this way than I would have any other...and the best thing is that what I originally thought I'd like suddenly doesn't appeal any more. Over time my husband and I have taken inspiration from various ideas and finishes the teams have made in their allotted rooms and areas, and we've also widened our plans for what we'd like to do in our own home one day. 

What we do in our house may not be on trend, but it will be a melting pot of styles which truly reflect who we are. And I think that's what Jane is talking about...yes, be inspired by trends or someone else's style but don't be a slave to them. Be YOU. Make your own style.


PHILOSOPHIES

Jane remarks on the joys of watching her children develop their own personal styles.

"The fact that they all came out of the same pea-pod does not automatically mean they are as alike as peas." (page 138)

Her daughter Phoebe decorated and baked the cake below... 




"The day she made it was an object lesson in the diversity of the individual philosophies in our family." (page 138)


IT'S MY HAPPY HIPPY HEART YOU HEAR

"I suppose I am still an old hippy at heart. For one thing I think Bob Dylan is magic...in my study to listen to his brilliant Theme Time Radio Hour...His delivery, the word-pictures, the connections, the very simplicity and ordinariness of his interests, all rework everyday life into something special and memorable." (page 140)

Jane found Bob Dylan's rule breaking and creative approaches to making became her inspiration towards a touch of hippy style within her domestic space. She donned her previously unworn Missoni stripy knee high socks and thought the colours would be perfect for something knitted or crocheted. She also loved the way they matched her Flower Power quilt top...


She did eventually decide to let the hippy stripy colour inspiration into her crochet by making the ripple blanket we saw back in the Colour chapter earlier this year, but then made a second crochet ripple blanket (above) inspired by...


SCOTTISH DANCING

On a visit to Inverness in Scotland Jane fell in love with tartan.

"I amused myself by looking at books about tartan, and for the first time, I realised that a huge number of permutations in tartans all reflected local, natural colours; the reds of rowan berries, the purples of the heathers, the oranges of the autumnal bracken, the blues of the water, the grey-greens of the fir trees and the emerald greens of the deciduous trees. The combinations of subtle and organic colours are so clever and varied that you could never become  bored with designing tartan." (page 140)


PURE STYLE

"Great style should appear effortless. There should be no signs of hard work, no joins no lapses. It's what you leave out, as much as what you include, and I think this is why so many of us fail to achieve a single, personal style." (page 142)

Reflecting on her favourite style icons from the past - Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly - Jane singles out Cary Grant as being the one in her opinion who had pure style. 



"Whenever I am in need of a masterclass in style I watch a Cary Grant film. (page 142)

Jane lists her favourite Cary Grant movies:

North by Northwest (1959)
That Touch of Mink (1962)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
To Catch a Thief (1955)

I've watched two of these movies in the past, and loved To Catch a Thief - but can I confess it's Mr Grant's comic ability in Arsenic & Old Lace which really made me like him?


THE QUEEN OF HEARTS

"Jam tarts have always appeared to me to be the epitome of cosy domestic style and the stuff of nursery rhymes, stories and teas. They evoke a warm kitchen, good baking smells, wearing aprons and helping mother to roll out the pastry. They are the ultimate in making-do - using offcuts of pastry and leftover jam at the bottom of jars." (page 144)



My Nana would make jam tarts on bread and butter plates and bake them for my afternoon tea. 
This is a memory which I let sit upon my thoughts quite regularly, especially when I'm scooping jam from the bottom of the jar. 

Nana would roll out the pastry for apple pie and leave just enough to spread across a small china plate. Then she'd spread the pastry with jam and after rolling the final scraps of pastry into long narrow strips she would criss cross them over the top of the jam like lattice before popping in the hot oven for ten minutes to bake. 

I'd wait so patiently, licking my lips, for the hot jam to cool so that I could go sit on the lush grass under our clothesline and break away chunks from the plate, every jammy morsel a treat beyond compare. 

As a mum I made the same tarts for my children and they loved them just as much as I...though I may have been more generous with the jam and not waited till the jar was almost empty.


KITSCH

*Kitsch means tawdry, cheesy, tacky, without taste.*

"I think the key to kitsch is a certain knowingness and irony. I am too much of a realist to be straightforward in my enjoyment of cake stands and crinoline lady tablecloths. I know that you know that I know this is all quite amusing and frivolous. But underneath it all, I am interested in what made these objects tasteful at some point....But what's not to like about a kitsch cake stand?" (page 146)




Her husband loved it, her twins barely noticed it, and her youngest daughter loved it.

Their house painter Tim "hated it and reckoned that anything I'd paid for it was too much. And yet he didn't turn up his nose at the fondant fancies and was quite happy to eat them when I'd finished my photography." (page 146) 


Our next reading will be pages 148 - 155 and I'll share that book study post on June 25th.



Well, we had a number of varied topics to consider in this week's book study so I'll ask you to ponder a few different questions this week.

* Which topic spoke out to you? Why?

* Who would you consider a style icon and what do you admire about them?

*  Do you gain inspiration from trends or are you confident in your own style?

* Do you collect anything kitschy? Tell us about it. I'm sure many would consider my collection of vintage linens as kitsch.

Leave your comments below because I would love to hear your thoughts and I know there are many others who would love to read them as well. 


I've had a rotten tummy bug for a few days so haven't ventured far but bless me, the worst is over and I'm on the mend. 

Mr E watches me like a hawk when I'm under the weather and as we have real hawks who circle in the sky above our house I was beginning to wonder if he had them in his employ to keep an eye on my doings while he was at work.

Now, if you've been waiting for the first two blocks of Phyllis May's Kitchen to make it into my Etsy Shop you're in luck - it's there today along with a few more pattern additions.





I haven't forgotten about that recipe for my Cinnamon Scrolls, it's just been a hectic couple of weeks since Blossom's birthday and I'm only just now beginning to see things slowing down.
In my next post I'll have that recipe for you and a cute little freebie as well.


GIVEAWAY WINNER

This month's giveaway winner is Bezaz!
Congratulations, I have emailed you and once I have your address I can post off the fabrics and threads. 



May our precious Jesus be your guiding light, purest love and eternal hope every day in every situation, bringing peace and joy to your heart and home.

hugs


Saturday, June 8, 2019

This weekend only...



A few unexpected days this week left me a wee bit behind on work so this weekend will be a catch up at my desk to get the first double pattern of Phyllis May's Kitchen emailed out to BOM members on Monday.

Must admit, I was disappointed when we first moved here because there was just no way I could fit my computer work desk and file shelving into the sewing room so we had to create a little corner in the living room. But you know, I really like sitting here to write patterns, do the bookwork, write blog posts and stay on top of Elefantz and personal correspondence now! It's a pretty corner, a cosy and inviting corner...




Once the front garden is established and in bloom I'll even have a gorgeous view out of the front window to my left. That's something very special to look forward to. 

Poor Princess Sophie, who is almost nine years old, struggles terribly with our winter - even though it's very mild and does not require any heating in the house. Born here in the tropics she thrives on our very long humid spring/summer/autumn months but come winter she looks for places to hide away and warm up. I found an almost new $1 baby blanket at the op shop recently when I was dropping off a box of donations from Blossom and after a good wash Sophie claimed it as her own.




Must admit, I love having her inside with us right now as most of the year she spends all her time out in the heat, sleeping under one of her two favourite trees. Bob-the-dog on the other hand, is twelve years old and was born in very cold Esperance (Western Australia) and though moving to the tropics with us in 2009 he has never acclimatised, preferring to be inside spread out under the air conditioner. With the cooler temperatures at the moment he's quite in his glory. 

These days I'm keeping my hands busy each evening with crochet. After the success of Rafaella's 1st birthday blanket using the Sweet Pea pattern from Lucy at Attic 24 I decided to order the yarn pack for her new pattern, Dune. 

But I soon realised after going through the instructions with Rosie (who is progressing beautifully with her Dune blanket) that I should make the decision to switch patterns and make an older one of Lucy's - The Cosy Stripe Blanket. 




My design day is spent concentrating on patterns - planning, sketching, fine tuning designs, stitching, machine sewing, pattern writing, pattern promotion etc - and the Dune pattern would require me to concentrate at night too, and that's why I chose to use the beautiful Dune yarns in the much simpler to keep track of Cosy Stripe.

Loving how this is coming along...




I'm also hand stitching a brand new design of my own during afternoon breaks but as it's still in progress I will wait until I'm further along to show any sneak peeks.

The other night Mr E came home from work and discovered our shower taps were ready to perish. We knew when we bought this house last September that the bathroom needed a lot of work but we had other more important things to update and repair first.

Deciding not to wait any longer we headed out to Bunnings and bought new taps which he fitted as soon as we got home (which meant dinner was rather late on Tuesday night). We also bought matching taps for the bathroom vanity and hubby will replace them over the weekend as well. They were inexpensive compared to most of the taps we saw but they were also our favourite. 




The taps look really classy in our old bathroom but in time we'll decorate and replace everything else around them.
Who'd imagine starting a bathroom makeover with the taps first? Us of course!




We've decided to get back in the habit of visiting garage sales on Saturday mornings, looking especially for planter pots and garden ornaments. I rarely buy anything for inside the house because it's a small home with minimal storage so why clutter the place? If I really love something at a garage sale I take a few minutes to consider carefully these three questions - where can I put it, is there storage room available, and can I donate something in it's place to make room.

You know, so far everything we buy and bring home after those Saturday jaunts has been for the garden so I'm really good at walking away from lovely things that I cannot find a home for. 

But last week there was a garage sale with lots of crafting things - bag handles, buttons, patterns, fabrics etc. My initial response was to 'grab a bargain' and fill my bag, but then I applied those same three questions to what I was holding in my arms.

Mr E even looked with surprise as I put things back and came home with just a couple of lovely large pieces of fabric. The bird print will be a simple spring outfit for Rafaella and the lovely textured print will become a tote bag for me.




THIS WEEKEND ONLY

In my newsletter which was emailed out yesterday I shared the news that I shall be giving my Etsy Shop a makeover next week. 

Some of the single patterns will be removed, such as the six "Alphabet Pincushion" patterns which will be re-released as a full 26-pattern set instead.
I'll also be removing the twelve single "A Year in the Garden" patterns and re-publishing them as one single pattern with a quilt layout.

Now because I'm doing this I felt it only fair to offer you the opportunity to complete any of those sets you may have been partway through with a 25% off coupon which runs from now until midnight on June 10th.

This discount applies to ALL patterns currently in my shop until midnight June 10th. 


From June 11th and over the following week my shop shelves will be updated with new patterns for embroidery, projects and quilts!

Truly, I get excited about updating things like my blog, pattern shop and even my older patterns and covers. One of my little happy quirks. 

Here's a few patterns currently in the shop you may not have seen?






And it's never too early to stitch for Christmas!


If you've never signed up to my newsletter why not do so today?
It's free and you'll be sure to never miss out on free patterns, new designs, sales, news and tutorials.
Pop your name in HERE today. 



LAST CHANCE TO JOIN "PHYLLIS MAYS KITCHEN" block of the month.

Memberships to join at the special reduced rate will close at midnight Sunday June 9th.



Well, I'd best get back to my pattern writing, though first of all I'll get a warming beef curry in the crock pot for dinner tonight. And I should bake a pudding too.

Hope your weekend is a joyful one, the kind that invigorates your soul and is God-blessed with goodness, grace, laughter and memories which can be treasured. 

hugs


Monday, June 3, 2019

Free pattern and the garden in winter...


We spent all weekend working in the garden, a garden which has entered winter and for the first time we're observing those seasonal changes which these cooler months bring.

Compared to those who live in more temperate climates our tropical winter temperatures are quite mild, most days around 24 to 26 C (around 77 F), but we did drop down to 14 C (57 F) overnight recently when a cool blast of antarctic air moved right up here to remind us what a beautiful thing a cold change can be.  Apparently we're in for more cool nights this week which means soup will be on the menu and fresh bread must be baked because hearty soups with thick slices of bread warm my husband's heart as well as his tummy. 

This month the free pattern I've decided to share with you celebrates all seasons...



I  stitched it onto a cream tonal quilting fabric using a few of the Cosmo Seasons variegated threads, but you could just as easily use any variegated floss. 

The pattern will be available as a gift download until July 1st.


Since the floods in January and early February a lot has changed in the garden. There were trees and plants which simply were unable to cope with the endless monsoon rains, rising water and weeks of waterlogged roots, so Mr E has gradually cut them down, dug out roots and worked at replenishing the health of our soil.

Right in the midst of the monsoon that huge asparagus looking plant outside our bedroom window
 began to topple and was ready to fall on the power lines. 

(photo taken before the monsoon)



It measured 20 feet high at the time and was still growing. In the pouring rain with water up past his knees my dear husband wrestled it down away from the power lines and over a period of an hour brought it up roots and all. 

We left the affected garden beds bare for a while and spent time drawing up plans as to what we really wanted in the front yard and a timeline for getting it done.

For ages out front it has looked like a sad muddy construction site, but very slowly we're making changes which will one day pay off with a beautiful front yard.

All the crackerdust in front of the house beside the carport is gone now and a load of good rich soil was delivered. We chose to plant one of my favourite trees, the pink trumpet flower tree or Tabebuia Palmeri across the front for privacy, shade and beauty. In winter this is covered in a million gorgeous flowers which leave a pink carpet across the ground underneath.

(the area between the tree and the front of the house will become raised garden beds)





We've also planted fragrant vines such as Jasmine and Hibbertia in front of the brown wooden noise barrier which also acts as privacy screen for our bedroom.

Behind the brown noise barrier there's another Tabebuia planted but this one has white flowers. We're still deciding what else to plant across the back of the barrier but I want pretty colours as this will be the view from our open bedroom window.




Both the Tabebuia trees have grown about two feet in the past six weeks so they are obviously happy in the soil.

Where that giant asparagus plant once was is now clear and after rejuvenating the soil Mr E planted two Syzygium shrubs there which will also add to privacy around that window.




Just beside the Syzygiums our huge desert rose survived the monsoon and was flush with leaves for ages but now that winter has arrived the leaves fall away and soon it will be covered in pink blooms. Desert Roses can only do one thing at a time - bloom in flower or have leaves.




Two huge variegated hibiscus lost the fight after the floods, becoming so diseased from top to root that we removed them and let the soil sit for a bit. This weekend a Melaleuca tree (Tea Tree) was added in their place which grows to around 4 metres - not too high for the power lines but a nice height for privacy.





You'll notice throughout that Mr E has replaced and updated all the pipes which carry flood waters from the pumps in our yard to the storm drain in the kerb. Being that we have a wet season in the tropics it was important to do what was needed to protect the house from another deluge like this year's monsoon and floods.

Further down that side of the house we've planted more Syzygiums between the Bottle Brush and Grevilleas. These Syzygiums grow taller than the ones outside our bedroom because we want both shade and privacy along that side of the house as next door is 2-storey and can look right in. Nobody wants their neighbours peering down into their bathroom, study and sewing room, right?






Back out front...at the entrance to the house there was an overgrown narrow garden full of kalanchoe and a pretty lily type flower but they hung over the walkway and constantly needed trimming. We decided to dig them up and replant in the back garden (they're doing well) and lay stones in the garden bed as a base to pots of lavender and rosemary which need good drainage and can be moved to higher ground should we get flooding rains again.




We've got two pots so far and next weekend head to Bunnings for another couple of lavender and rosemary plants.  That window is the dining/living room and my little corner office set-up so those fragrances will be beautiful wafting in each day and in the evenings!




The backyard also had plant losses in the monsoon floods but most survived unscathed, apart from another variegated hibiscus and one of the guava trees near the pool which have now been removed.




We'd only just planted a passionfruit vine a week before the monsoon and it was hit and miss as to whether we could keep it going afterwards. Not liking wet feet the passionfruit dwindled fast and looked like we'd have to buy another and start over but with love and care and patience it made a return and is now growing crazy over the structure hubby put up.




There's not much colour in the garden anymore apart from the ever beautiful pink bougainvillea and the occasional hibiscus (the non-variegated hibiscus trees are thriving still), a pink kalanchoe which blooms in winter and my tomato and zucchinis which are fruiting.










Our two cherry tomato plants are thriving, having grown to over 6 feet tall and loaded with fruit. Between them is one 'ring in' plant which sprouted up from the organic soil we bought in late March. Looks like they will be full size tomatoes on that plant but we'll wait and see...








All the herbs are doing well apart from the mint, but the basil is all over the yard in various places, parsley in two pots, chives, oregano, thyme...all coming along beautifully.








I lost three young frangipani in the monsoon but with lots of care the fourth has struggled on and is now growing happily by the laundry door until we decide where in the garden to plant it.
The sad rosemary beside it was another plant which looked doomed but again, careful tending has kept it alive and there's still hope it will pick up again in spring.




Hope you didn't mind the photo wander around some of our gardens. I've got more but they can wait for another day.


GIVEAWAY

As it's the first Monday of the month I have a giveaway for you.

Last Friday I launched my new Block of the Month, Phyllis May's Kitchen and the feedback since then has been overwhelmingly wonderful - thank you!



 So I thought this month I'd bundle up a couple of fat quarters from the Tilda Apple Butter fabric I used in this BOM, three threads from the pattern and a nice big piece of the cream hanky linen I used for the embroidery and applique block backgrounds.
I'll also throw in a free BOM subscription which runs for eight months.

(If you've already joined the BOM I will refund your first month and the rest will be free)



GIVEAWAY CLOSED
The winner was Bezaz


SOON...

I was going to post the recipe to those Cinnamon Scrolls I made Blossom for her birthday but today's post is already long enough so I'll share that later this week in my next post.

Dear friends, thanks for reading along with this rather lengthy post. As I write it's as though we're chatting over chocolate brownies and frothy cappuccinos in my living room and wouldn't it be precious if we could do that for real?
Perhaps I should consider a meet up somewhere for anyone local where we could all chat face to face and bring our stitching along as well. Perhaps at the Tea Rooms on Hervey's Range? Do you live local to Townsville? Would you be interested in something like that?

Righto, I have bread to bake and patterns to write so indeed it is time to sign off.
May our dear Lord BLESS your week, fill your days with laughter and joy, and carry you over the unexpected puddles of life in His strong arms.

Love and hugs