Saturday, February 25, 2017

The virtuous wife (a printable)...

I jarred my finger polishing our bedroom furniture this morning and don't want to aggravate it by typing for the next few days so this weekend's devotion is more of an opportunity for each of us to seek the Father's direction about our wifely ways.

I find a great deal of instruction, gentle encouragement and warmth in the example of the Proverbs 31 woman and thought it would be a good idea to create a lovely printable of this passage for framing and displaying in my home.
How about we ponder and pray over this example of a virtuous wife and ask God to draw our attention to one area we may be neglecting? 

You're most welcome to download the printable for your own use (here) or to frame and give it as a gift to friends. 

May the Lord bless us as we draw closer to His heart and allow Him to make us more and more like Jesus,


Friday, February 24, 2017

Recipe and a free pattern to end the week...

Fridays are lovely aren't they?

The working week winds down and if you're like me there's a bit of loose-end tying up, putting things back in their places, sewing preparations planned for the weekend, a final run through the week's check list in my diary, and if all goes well I give a jolly good satisfied sigh about 5pm.

Mr E doesn't quite know himself these past five weeks being back at school teaching again. After two years of six-day weeks selling used cars he pinches himself on Saturday mornings to check this is real and he can now stay home for the entire weekend! 
Of course teaching comes home with him as many hours go into planning classes, writing tests and marking papers, but the point is that he's here at home where he can take a break whenever he needs to and I can brew us a cuppa and serve a slice or two of something delicious. Like this...

I wondered if perhaps you'd like to try some?

Bananas, dates and ginger baked as a loaf style cake has long been one of my favourites to serve with a pot of tea in the afternoon, especially when the children were eager to play outside as I could cut away thick slices for them to 'carry on their way' without them having to worry about a sticky mess on their clothes and hands with nowhere to wash it away.

You can download the recipe HERE or click on the photo below to enlarge it and save to your computer,

This week in our Gentle Domesticity Facebook group we're putting our heads together to share ideas for simple gifts to make through the year for Christmas, birthdays, pay-it-forward, swaps, or other occasions.

The ideas can be free patterns or tutorials we've found on other blogs, Pinterest etc, or perhaps projects we've created ourselves.
The only stipulation is to keep them as simple as possible, the kind you can make in a day.
They could be sewing, papercrafts, knitting, crochet, baking, preserves, jewellery, pot plants...I'm sure we'll hear about things we would not have considered before!

In a week or two I will compile all the ideas and links into a single document which will be stored in our group files for any member to access or download.
Having something like this in one place, in one PDF file, will certainly be a great resource for gift ideas!

Our Gentle Domesticity group has grown to over 1600 members now and if you'd like to join you are most welcome, but perhaps you'd rather share your gift ideas here in the blog comments? 
That's great! Please do so, and once the file is ready (and as long as I am able to contact you via email)  I'll send you the file when it's done.

To start the ball rolling with a quick gift idea, here's one I designed back in 2013.
It's a gift 'card' which is also a needle-book or tea wallet, and features an invitation to meet up for tea.
Though originally I did this as a Christmas pattern, it can be used any time of the year.

Open it up and you have some pretty felt for needles and pins, and a pocket for tea bags or a pack of needles. It even fits in an envelope ready for posting! 
Wouldn't you like to receive this in the mail from a friend?

The pattern is a free gift from me to you and includes detailed instructions for the embroidery and sewing the needle-book.

That's it from the blog this birthday week. I can hear Mr E's Jeep pulling in to the driveway and I still have a newsletter to send off so it might be nice to take twenty minutes for cake and a cuppa with him first...

May your weekend be blessed, happy, creative, and refreshing!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The tea cup of my dreams, with wool...

I found it. 
Gingham and roses - honestly, is there any cup and saucer set more beautiful in all the world to capture my heart?

Blossom, Cully May and I found it at The Tea Centre on my birthday. It's an over-sized tea cup and saucer, unusual for me as I like dainty cups, but it has a lovely slim lip for easy sipping and will hold two of my normal cups of tea so I won't need to get up and down for a refill during my afternoon indulgence time
It makes tea taste even more delicious than usual and I feel wonderfully domestic just holding the cup and looking down at the soft green gingham saucer, as though I should be planning a new apron or browsing the pages of a spring bulbs catalogue.

Indeed, this is the tea cup of my dreams.

Just in case you're wondering the maker is Roy Kirkham Tableware and the design is called Eleanor's Roses. 

I mentioned the other day that when Blossom and I were at Spotlight shopping for her fabric supplies it completely slipped my mind that I'd intended looking for suitable yarn to knit dishcloths or washcloths, so this morning I decided to go it alone and see what I could find while the store still has a big sale on all their knitting and crochet supplies. 

Shez mentioned in her comment on Tuesday's blog post that she uses dishcloth patterns to knit polishing cloths and I thought that was a brilliant idea! Merino Superwash Wool was half price at Spotlight and the colours were sublime so I came home with 11 balls which will be plenty for polishing cloths and washcloths (or flannels as my Nana called them) and should keep me busy for a couple of years at least being that most of my hand work is taken up with embroidery.

I also discovered some $2 balls of yarn that looked interesting as they had a free scarf pattern included and to my eyes seemed fairly quick to make because you only need two balls per scarf.

You're probably aware we don't get much use out of scarves in the tropics, but I did think one each for Blossom and I to throw around our necks with a thin cardigan on cooler winter evenings might be nice so I bought enough of the silvery grey and a tealy blue to have a play.

Of course, it may not be this winter we wear them...but it's nice to have a project 'there' for when I feel like doing something different and easy.

Another $2 sale bin which caught my eye held Perle #5 skeins of DMC thread.
I gathered these four lovelies and quickly walked away before being tempted to purchase more...

My final fling into the shopping bag was this beautiful decorator fabric...

...which will be used to recover two white chairs.

The chairs were originally an awful yellow and about 9 years ago Blossom painted them white. Since then I've recovered the cushioned seats twice and now it's time for another freshening-up.

Simple knitting will be good for me. It reflects a lesson in life about giving concentrated time to things that require more effort (my stitchery designs) and then relaxing to enjoy the simpler things that have no deadlines or business involved. 

Next Wednesday (March 1st) I'll be sharing block 2 of "The Love of Home" with you.

Would you like to see how I'm putting my version together at the moment?

You'll receive the free stitchery pattern to use any way your heart desires, but perhaps you'll gain a little inspiration from how I display my block too.
Not long and all will be revealed!

Now I think it's about time for my 20 minutes of wonderfully refreshing afternoon indulgence. I have a new magazine, some banana and date loaf, and a very pretty tea cup waiting.

Is it time for your indulgence too?


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Yarn and a yarn...

My Nana was a knitter. I never saw her do any crochet, but come autumn she'd have the knitting needles out and a familiar click-clack would sound through our flat each evening as we watched the telly or sat in the kitchen listening to the radio.

Mostly she knitted socks, scarves, vests and balaclavas, all to be worn by my dear Pop in the cold night hours whilst loading cargo off and on ships at the Newcastle Port. To my knowledge she never knitted any other clothing, but there was an occasional tea cosy made to dress the pot when it's old finery had worn thin. 

I was reminded of Nana and her seasonal employment with yarn when a newsletter from Eco-yarns arrived in my email inbox one day last week. I bought a few skeins of Eco-yarn as a gift for a friend last year (and it's absolutely beautiful) which is why I receive their newsletters. I do swoon over their natural dyed wool but it's too hot here nine months of the year to take knitting or crochet seriously so I swoon a while and then delete the email. 

But in this latest newsletter they'd included a lovely, simple washcloth pattern of which I think I'll knit at least one if I can find some suitable yarn here in town. 
It's garter stitch for the washcloth with an option to crochet around the edge when you finish. The pattern is free and you're welcome to make it too by clicking on the link above the photo.

So that's the first 'yarn' in my blog title, now on to the other 'yarn'.

A yarn is what my Pop would call a chat. He'd say, "I was having a yarn with Joe at smoko..." or "Jennifer, come and have a yarn with your old Pop and tell me what you've been up to today..."

Whilst looking at that photo of the washcloth above I realised for the first time just why a chat was called a yarn. Because a yarn is lines of conversation interwoven from one person to another, back and forth, round about, creating a story, making something permanent - be it only a memory - out of mere thoughts.
Just like we use woolly yarn to weave, crochet or knit - in and out, round about, back and forth, creating something tangible, something more than an idea.

Nana and Pop had many yarns while she knitted with her yarn.
I usually sat nearby and just enjoyed being with them, eating bread with butter and jam and loving how right everything was in our little world in the poor side of town.

Thinking about the yarn and the washcloth also got me thinking about my favourite domesticity  book, in fact the book which inspired my year of gentle domesticity in 2015, a year that ran over into 2016 and is still giving me food for thought and joy in my ordinary today. 

Tell-tale signs of a well loved, well used, and generally read cover to cover and back again book...

The author, Jane Brocket, adores yarn.
She knits socks, lots and lots of socks.

In fact when I bought another of her books (The Gentle Art of Knitting) what was the very first pattern in that book? Socks.
I tried knitting socks...let's not relive that experience. 

I do like her cable knitted hot water bottle cover, though. When my children were little I knitted many cabled cardigans, vests and jumpers (sweaters) for them, spending many a contented hour click-clacking away on wintry Melbourne nights. 

Sadly we've had no need of a hot water bottle since moving to the tropics in 2009, but I do think one might look rather nice just lying beside a stack of Jane Austen classics, a vase of carnations, and a notepad. 

In Jane's knitting book, which I'm sad to say has not been read cover to cover, nor have I made one single thing from it, she also has a simple washcloth pattern which if memory serves me right I did intend making a while back??
(the red and white caught my eye, something Nana would have it)

Fortunately washcloths and dishcloths all serve a purpose no matter what the weather or where in the world you live so I DO intend making at least one this year, perhaps even before my winter (which is more like a springy autumn) begins in June. 
And I do think that red and white is rather charming. Or is the heart ribbon wrapped around the dishcloth adding a touch of sentimentality that's got me romanticising? Mmmmm.

Today is my birthday and I spent most of it with Blossom and Cully May. We had cake and coffee at a nice cafe where for the first time Cully May was introduced to a high chair, which she "loved" almost as much as my lemon syrup muffin.

Afterwards we roamed our local Spotlight store so that Blossom could choose fabric and supplies for her fledgling baby and toddler clothing design business. I had plans to check out their yarns section for my washcloth/dishcloth plans but in the excitement of being the centre of Cully May's attention for those two hours I completely forgot!

There's always tomorrow.

When I arrived home mid afternoon my exhaustion level was on extreme, but my happiness meter was overflowing.
To top it off Mr E arrived home from work half an hour later with the biggest bunch of flowers and the whole house smells amazing!

We're going out for dinner tonight, then I will need to rest and recover all day tomorrow,
but for the blessings of today it's all worth it.


Thank you to everyone who entered my Splendid Giveaway.
There were 560 entries!
I asked my husband to choose a number between 1 and 560 for the winner and he said -
"Number 1, first in, best dressed."

You can visit Sheryl's blog here. I met her in Melbourne a few years back and can honestly say she's a really gorgeous lady from the inside out.
Congratulations Shez!!

Bless you all, and may your day be especially happy too.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Being indulgent with yourself...

Mostly we can't accurately know exactly what the week ahead will hold, but for sure there'll be a to-do list, a hope-to-do list, and perhaps even a 'wish-I-could-do-that' hope fluttering around in your heart.

My friend Rosie Heather made this beautiful hanging heart for me recently and I think it sums up what I'm thinking today about the week ahead, or perhaps even the year ahead.

Often the little things we do, or don't do, seem so simple and insignificant that we are surprised when they turn out to have consequence later on, and that can be either good or challenging.

The good - teaching your little girl to sew when you're only just learning yourself. 
Now she has a little girl of her own and is skilfully designing and sewing beautiful baby and toddlers clothing.

The challenging - cleaning the oven. Number one on my to-do list this Monday morning but a chore I've neglected for months, moved from Monday to Monday in my diary and found plausible reasons for doing so because next to mopping floors it's my least enjoyed domestic responsibility. 

In early January, as is my yearly ritual, I scrubbed and re-organised my kitchen from top to bottom...but I managed to overlook the oven, promising myself to do it the following week.  Here we are about six or seven weeks later and that oven is still ignored.

Last night I was winding down after another migraine and Mr E wasn't very hungry so we decided to heat up some leftovers from the freezer in the oven. I did notice on Friday when I was baking Rock Cakes that the oven was a little smoky, but last night it smoked out the house! 

This morning after Mr E left for work (the Jeep is back on the road and he's driving himself again) I sat down with an old favourite read for a bit of down to earth homemaker inspiration... through a few simple steps...

...and gathered my supplies for a workout.

While I'm writing this my oven is heating a large bowl of vinegar and water to boiling point, which will steam the inside walls and the glass, softening the grease buildup. Once done I'll leave it for about 60 minutes to cool down enough so I can begin scrubbing with bicarb and vinegar.

Now if I were a wise woman I'd do this every month and not every 6-9 months, which would save me a lot of elbow grease. It's in my diary now...hopefully lesson learned at last.

I like using natural products that can be put together at home as much as possible, but I'm not averse to taking the easy route as well for some things because I only have a limited number of hours each day. Picking and choosing carefully where to cut corners whilst still doing a good job is important to me, so last week I decided to try these wipes on our wooden drawers and you know, the drawers came up beautifully! 
After the oven scrubbing today I'll do the rest of our woodwork...

The washing is done and  hung on the line, bed is made, plants watered and the cat fed.
I still need to plan the week's menu and grocery list, and give the bathroom a quick once over, but all that should only take about 40 minutes (the oven could take an hour??).

I'm becoming a true believer in self rewards after mornings of physical household labour and what I like about it is how 50's house-wifey I feel - in fact, I was even tempted to go grab my pearls on Friday when I did this! 
I'll brew the kettle to make a pot of tea (or switch on the automatic cappuccino machine if I want coffee), get out the vintage cup, saucer and cake plate, grab a magazine or book, and sit 'proper' at the dining table to enjoy my treats. With a vase of colourful blooms beside me by the window I can relax for 20 minutes or so, a lady of leisure. 

It's not a long time, but I was quite surprised on Friday how refreshing a 20 minute indulgent break can be, and I call it indulgent because I'm choosing to give it to myself as a gift, and because it's a gift I'll plan to have my favourite tea on hand and also a pack of special biscuits (cookies) that I enjoy for days when I haven't baked.

I already purchased a very special Caroline Zoob coffee mug late last year which shall be used on my coffee days, but I intend shopping this week for a special tea cup, saucer and cake plate for the 'indulgent' tea days. Having special cups for that daily 20 minute indulgence break adds to the ceremony of it, I think...and I'm one who likes that sort of thing. 

What about you?

On the stitching front this week I am playing with the March block for "The Love of Home" BOM, another sweet reward...

I'll have this ready for you to download on March 1st. 

Well my lovelies, I've just heard the "ping" of my oven timer which means it should be cool enough for me to don my apron and go a-scrubbing...

have a wonderful week,

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Are you enjoying the fruits of your labor?

Ecclesiastes isn't often on my reading list and that's not a purposeful avoidance by any means, it just isn't where my Bible opens most days, weeks or even months.
But a couple of times in the past few days it did, and both those times it fell open to same page in Ecclesiastes. The verse that on those two occasions caused me to stop, ponder and sigh, was...

"and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor - it is the gift of God"

You may think me odd, and to be sure in many ways my husband would agree, but both days my reading of this verse brought forth in my mind a picture of a large freshly baked apple pie. 
The pie had one piece missing and I felt within myself a deep satisfaction, as though I were the one who had baked the pie and eaten that delicious slice.

Now that's not something which would happen in my kitchen. 
I bake for the family and it is from my love of serving them that when a pie such as this is placed on the table they are always served first. 
Generous slices are cut and slipped into aged dessert bowls with scoops of ice cream on top for all to enjoy, and only after everyone is seen to do I attend to my own piece - and I see nothing wrong with that.

But I sensed with this Scripture that God was wanting to make a point with me.

My life runs on a track of serving, working, giving, working more, serving more, giving more...all with good intent, loving intent, giving intent. I grew up watching my Nana do this and her example is the only one I knew to follow so it was natural that her rhythm of life would become mine, and the rhythm of my life would have an effect on my daughters years later. 

What I failed to realise until now was the lack of Ecclesiastes 3:13 in Nana's life, in my life.

That 'vision' I had this week of the fresh baked apple pie with a slice eaten filled me with delight, a wonderful sense of satisfaction in work well done. 
It was as though I'd spent the morning picking apples, peeling, chopping, stewing them with a little sugar and cinnamon for the pie filling. Then I would have rubbed butter and sugar into flour and deftly made pastry dough, rolled it out and blind baked the pie case before filling it with the cooled apples. Another roll of dough and perhaps a lattice criss-cross of half inch strips like Nana would do across the top, a few leaves cut from the pastry scraps pressed onto the centre, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and into the oven to bake.
A tidy of the kitchen bench, wash the bowls, sweep the floor, hang up my apron and 'ping' goes the kitchen timer - my pie would be ready!

"and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor..."

Then imagine.
I don't wait for the family dinner.
I brew the kettle, choose my favourite tea cup and pretty cake plate and I cut into that apple pie. 

One lovely thick slice, the fruit of my labor to enjoy. 
No guilt. No rushing to do other things. Not today. 
I savour every delicious morsel because I'm relaxed, just letting myself delight in the reaping of my 'harvest'.

There's plenty of pie left for everyone else but right now it's okay to serve myself and thank God because...

" and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor - it is the gift of God"

Don't forget yourself.
Don't forget to enjoy life, to enjoy the fruit of your labor, to enjoy the gifts of God.

Working, serving and giving are very important and we must continue doing those things, especially from the heart with generous and loving motivation - but we must also laugh, breathe, embrace each day, be kind to ourselves, learn to say no sometimes, and enjoy the fruit of our labors.

It's not just about apple pie, though sometimes it may well be. It's about stopping to enjoy what you've put effort into - whether that be a relationship, a project, an event, a harvest, anything that required something from you. 

There's something else I should mention.
Teach this to your children if like me your example has been one of too much work and not enough enjoying the fruits.
I see two of my girls especially, who diligently care for their families and expect nothing in return because they love being wives and mothers, they delight in being homemakers, and find ways to work from home.
 I see them weary, burnt out, laughing a little less and in need of a harvest.
I see a bit of me in them already and think it's time to update the family rhythm. 
It's time they knew about Ecclesiastes 3:13 too, so they can teach their daughters.

Be blessed dear child of God, you are worth more than you know.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The slow week...

With a heatwave, two migraines, Mr E and I both catching a tummy bug after some dodgy Thai food on Sunday night, a giveaway to organise and the Stitchery Club due out on Friday, I took every opportunity I could this week to rest in the afternoons with my needle and thread, and began watching a 'new to me' Australian television series set in the 1950's that I'd borrowed from the local library.
(The Doctor Blake Mysteries in case you wondered)

Meals were considerably simplified, which got me thinking about the number of ingredients used in many recipes today, compared to my childhood in Nana's kitchen. It wasn't just life which was simpler back then, it was the cooking as well.

Hubby and I both had tummy cramps for three days after the Thai meal, and the meds I take for my migraines don't help either, so things like spelt & oat pancakes with maple syrup and fresh raspberries for breakfast were welcome for recovery. 
We quit coffee and opted for banana and date smoothies made with almond milk too.
Simple food, very quick to make, and our tummies began to recover.

In 2009 (or 10?) I did an online course with Jenny McGruther and loved what I learned about soaking grains and fermenting. On Monday I found her book when I was out with Blossom so this is what I'm slowly reading through at the moment and I'm remembering how much 'easier' on the tummy food was when I followed many of these steps.

Another book I found (Blossom and I went op-shopping) was this. I couldn't get past the sub title, "a quiet place where souls are refreshed" had to come home with me. Apparently it's based on the 'Glenbrooke' books but I haven't delved further along that road yet. Something to explore next week perhaps?

Stitching each afternoon has been lovely. 

I'm working on designs for March and they all have a garden theme.
One particular project is a set of four herbs which will become a mini-quilt. So far Rosemary is done...

...and I'll keep pottering along with the rest over the weekend.

Mr E and I have slowly been filling the house with indoor plants and our latest one, a gorgeous Peace Lily, is absolutely flourishing near the front entrance way.
Peace lilies filter toxins from the air so we intend to add more in the bedroom, my office and his study...

Two surprises arrived in the mail this week. The first was from Leanne, a truly sweet friend down in Tasmania who designs the prettiest things (visit her blog here and have a look-see). She came into possession of these very old tatted crosses and thought of me...isn't that precious? I'm going to use them in some special projects this year.
She even wrote me a letter on Cath Kidston notepaper. I was doubly blessed...

The second surprise was a large box from Japan. 
Mr E carried it in after work today and I wondered what on earth it could be?
Bless my socks, the very generous Yumi at Lecien Cosmo had sent me boxes of all their new thread colours to play with. Pastels do have the ability to make my heart race with delight.

The carnations I bought for $5 on Monday are still smiling beautifully as I sit here and watch the sun dip closer to the horizon from my office window...

...and I can hear from the carport below that Mr E has the Jeep running again after 6 weeks off the road.
The end of the week holds promise of a lovely weekend.

May your weekend be blessed too.