"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

Thomas Moore

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sprinkling JOY

Do I pray with joy when I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ?

 Paul writes: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:3-6

 You know, if I received a letter from a fellow believer telling me that every time they pray for me it is with JOY I think my faith would soar to new heights! Sadly, there's probably only a few times I've ever said this to someone, even though I have prayed for joy after answered prayer or when giving thanks for something.

But to be honest, I don't think I pray with JOY often enough at all. Though my prayers always begin with thanksgiving and praise to God, too many prayers are filled with angst and tears and longing and pleas for intervention, and afterwards I get up and feel relief at unloading all that on God, but not often enough do I rise from my prayer time with a JOY-ful attitude.  

 Maybe some of you are already praying like Paul, but if you're like me, how about we start praying for our fellow believers with JOY? 
As Paul said, God is doing a work in them that WILL continue until the return of Jesus so no matter what they are facing God has it all in hand - there are no surprises to Him, it's all under control in light of the Big Picture.

There will still be times when we must cry out to the Lord and intercede over a situation, but we can also pray alongside that with joy. Just like in many of David's psalms - there was a need or a trial, but there was also confidence and JOY and praise!

Many of my prayers this year for Blossom have been anxious prayers about her pregnancy and the associated trials she has faced through it...but from today I'm sprinkling those prayers with JOY.

After all, there is always a reason to be thankful and to praise God - but there's also a reason, given in Paul and King David's example, to be JOYFUL, to even ask for JOY and to open our hearts to receive it. 

Today I am praying for you...with JOY.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When life gives you peaches...

I ordered one peach in my grocery delivery yesterday.
They sent me eight.

That one peach was ordered for Mr E as he likes a summer peach now and again with his Weet-Bix for breakfast. Mostly he enjoys strawberries, blueberries, bananas or mangoes, but every so often a peach takes his fancy.

But here I was with eight and no plan for eight, just a plan for one. 
A one peach plan for chopping into small pieces and scattering across two Weet-Bix. A moat of  milk would be poured around them and my husband would smile and nod as I placed the nourishing bowl of morning goodness before him. 
My lovely day dream was certain to become a reality ensuring all would be well in my kitchen and across the dining table on Tuesday morning.

But eight?
I'm not the peachiest person. It's not a fruit we buy a lot in season. 
Truly, give me plums, cherries, passionfruit and berries upon berries..oh the bliss of such delights! I could find a use for them quick smart - if they lasted long enough. 
I've been known to put my hand in and out of the cherry bag until not one remained. Entire punnets of raspberries have 'fallen' into my granola, quickly becoming no more than a wistful lip smacking memory. Blueberries are often mistaken for sweeties and nibbled on until my fingers are purple and the bowl empty.
Yet I have never relished a peach in that same way.

So whilst a cup of tea was brewing, I chose an old recipe book from the shelf and set my iPad to the Google search engine. My aim was to create a few things from seven of the peaches, plus what I already had in the pantry, fridge and freezer.

Firstly, three peaches were peeled, halved and poached. I'd decided to make Peach Danish for dessert and as I have never poached fruit before I found a simple recipe on Google and adjusted it to suit.

The poaching liquid was made up of water, sugar (not too much), a cinnamon quill and one split vanilla bean. Once it was simmering away in went the peach halves and five minutes later they were done. 
I strained them and let them cool...

Then began the baking of a quartet of Peach Danish.
A mix of butter, icing (confectioners) sugar, egg yolk, vanilla essence and almond meal became the 'bed' my peach halves would sit on before being wrapped in the pastry and baked.

Silly me, we had the Peach Danish for dessert last night and I completely forgot to take the after photos, but Mr E would like to assure you they were delicious.

While the Peach Danish were baking I chopped the remaining four peaches and made jam. We're almost out of the Plum Jam I made recently and I'd never made Peach Jam before so I thought 'why not?' Jam-making is a regular occupation in my kitchen these days and as I only ever make enough for a couple of jars it cooks quickly.

(I also used a little of the hot syrup from the jam to glaze the Danish when they came out of the oven.)

Who'd have thought my afternoon would hold so much fun?
And all because I had seven peaches to spare.

It showed me how easily a lot can be done with just a little, and in the process I learned about poaching stone fruit, how to make the delicious almond meal filling for use in a Danish, and that Peach Jam is really quite yummy after testing it on toast at breakfast this morning.

Oh, and Mr E still had the final peach with his Weet-Bix for breakfast...though he's quite 'full' of peaches for now. 

Back to berries tomorrow.

Thank you for all the comments and thoughts shared after my last blog post, both here and in our Gentle Domesticity group
A renewed vigour for working more diligently around the home is literally changing my life. 

Each morning I wake excited about what area will be my focus that day and I can see more and more this home taking on a sparkle in places it had very truly grown dull or neglected.

At the weekend there was a lovely breeze tempering the tropical summer heat so I spent Saturday morning pulling apart the outdoor room, scrubbing things down, re-arranging and clearing excess.

Whilst I polished the glass louvres between the living room and the outdoor room, Mr E fertilised our potted plants, trimmed a few back and re-potted some others. 

Sophie watched.
She considers this her play area and wasn't sure she liked it when I brought out coffee, toast and some reading to the table next morning.
We used to sit out there a lot when we first moved here, but then it got too hot and we simply stopped (hence the neglect). That's changed now...we have freshened, cleaned and reclaimed the outdoor room. 
She's adjusting.

On Monday I pulled everything out of the fridge and gave it a good scrub before the groceries arrived, and today I cleaned out the three large drawers in my kitchen island.

Top drawer...

Middle drawer...
(notice my fresh supply of sweetly trimmed tea towels?)

Bottom drawer...

It took just 30 minutes to empty the drawers, wipe them down and replace things neatly.
I was able to toss a few things, put a few more aside to donate and use various containers as organised compartments. 

Some days it's a big task I tackle, like the outdoor room, but most days it's one thing, one 15-30 minute focused task to bring organisation and add refreshment through my home. 
This 'one thing' is in addition to the natural routines of my every-day housekeeping.

I keep a record of what I do each day in my planner so I can refer back to it every couple of months and retrace my steps. This way nothing is overlooked and each area will be given a 'deep clean' a few times each year. 

Are you stitching along with Allie?

This week she released block 2, Gratitude, in her A Garden of Contentment stitch-a-long.

This is my version of Allie's block...

I was blessed to find the perfect quilt backing/binding for this project at Spotlight last week for just $5 a metre. It blends beautifully with the applique and border fabrics I'm using from my stash. 

If I get time tomorrow you may see borders being sewn to the first two blocks and I'll take a photo of the backing fabric too.

To find out about Allie's beautiful stitch-a-long visit her blog here. 

At night whilst watching the Winter Olympics I'm stitching my new designs for March. I think the joy I'm feeling in living this gentle domestic life is running over into my designing these days. In some ways it was always there, but now there's something more...something deeply heart felt and purposeful. And it matters to me beyond a pattern to plan, sew and write. It matters that each design have a message behind it. 

Here's a peek at one...

What are you doing around your home this week?
Do you have a seasonal routine to follow or do you tackle tasks as they come up?

Tomorrow I'm going through all my business/recipe/household binders and clearing out the unnecessary so I can file what's genuinely important or needful.  It's been a few years since I did such an overhaul so it's very definitely overdue...

May your week overflow with joy, purpose and kindness.

Bless you heaps,

Friday, February 9, 2018

Working with purpose and a grateful heart...

One of our neighbours came for a visit recently to 'talk school' with Mr E (they're both teachers, but at different schools) and during the course of the conversation he said something that caught me off guard.

In a world where all I hear is how much more people want to be paid, how much money someone wants to win, have, spend, inherit (you name it), our neighbour spoke of gratitude for his income, and not just gratitude, but contentment and a desire to be a good teacher and worthy of his wage.

Seriously, I don't think I heard anything else that night, our neighbour's words just replayed over and over in my mind.

He valued his work, valued the contribution he makes to the school and his students, and desired to do a job worthy of his skills and remuneration. 

That attitude just isn't heard in my world any more, not by folk who work outside the home, folk who bring in a working wage. Gratitude for having a job is one thing, but contentment with the fruit of your labour (your income)? 

The voice of the world today tells us to climb higher, go further, earn more, buy what makes your heart happy. The striving in those messages is exhausting, and with little encouragement to be content the consumer mindset too often takes over. 

I think God is teaching me something about this, or perhaps fine tuning my understanding so I can apply it to our life here at home, because He's used a few sources recently to direct my thoughts in the direction of gratitude and contentment.

First there was our neighbour, then I found this framed print at the op shop with a message I couldn't miss...

Then there was Annabel's recent 'World Within Our Walls' blog post followed by the February chapter of Rhonda's book and her accompanying blog post this week.

I should clarify that I'm a fairly contented person, and I'm not speaking out of turn to say my husband is not - he'd happily tell you that himself. His lack of contentment comes from wanting the best for me, bless him, but he's never truly accepted that I already have the best. 

But my being fairly contented is not my being truly contented. I have bought into the culture of wanting more many times over the years and wasted our hard earned money on countless things I did not need or wear or use. That 'poverty' mentality of my upbringing is partially to blame for those spending sprees and it took me a LONG time to figure out that because something is cheap or on sale is no reason to buy it. It took decades to acknowledge that I had enough and could walk past a sale item without a second glance. 

Not to say I don't have lapses, because I do, but mostly I've conquered the need to spend.

What I do now is write down what IS needed and before buying new I check the local op-shops and  roam the Saturday morning garage sales once or twice a month with Mr E. Most times I find what I'm after, but if not I shop for quality at a reasonable price. 
And I give thanks. Always give thanks. 

Something else God has been putting before me lately is the need to attend to my home each day.
My morning always begins the same with Bible/coffee/breakfast, then I do necessary housework before getting on with Elefantz business or sewing. 

But as I walked through our home last week I noticed things which I'd previously missed - like fingerprints all over the sliding glass doors and the window above the servery. We've been in this house 4 1/2 months now and you know, I've not once cleaned them. 

This is just one example of a few things which have been ignored, but the point God is making with me is that my first 'work' is to attend to my home and care for it with love and gratitude. As much as I embrace a gentle domestic life there are aspects of it which are not lining up with what I believe about it...gasp.

So getting back to our neighbour and his appreciation for work and wage, Mr E and I subsequently discussed the ways of old. God's ways.
Six days shall we labour and on the seventh day we rest. 

It seems most of us these days want to work less for more.

When I was growing up my Pop worked to provide a roof over our head, to buy ingredients for simple home-cooked meals, to provide clothing when it was necessary and to pay utiltities, bus fares and a small treat for Nana and myself.

When Nana and Pop needed a new table for the kitchen they saved for six months, just as they did for any big item. 

(On a side note - Pop's wage was hard-earned and he was it's master because it served him, but I think many people today are the servants and their money is the master.)

Nana worked hard in our little 3 room flat (apartment). Every day she'd sweep, mop, dust, wash, polish, cook and iron. When I woke in the morning she was already in her apron and breakfast was  prepared and waiting for us...her day had a rhythm of doing, a meandering from one task to the next, and her laughter was music to my ears. 

She was a good homemaker, and a proud one. Her home may have been very small and in the poor part of town, but it sparkled and I loved coming through the front door after school and being wrapped in her plump arms with a hug so tight and welcoming that I never doubted how much she cherished me.

It was only in my mid teens that I felt bad about being poor, and that message came loud and clear through my middle class school friends. Sigh.

I grew up, moved away and lived in slightly larger flats. Then marriage, babies, and bigger houses came to pass.
The more children the bigger the home, the harder it was to stay on top of things, but I kept trying, remembering Nana's example. 

But then came the 'business', success and busyness. Some of my natural desires for homemaking waned in the process. After all, something had to give because it wasn't possible to balance home, work, wiving and motherhood 'perfectly'.

I won't repeat stuff I've written about before, just to say God is gracious and allowed me to figure out over a period of a few years that I wasn't perfect, never could be this side of heaven, and that I needed to choose what was most important and let that be the main focus on my life.

I chose the gentle domestic life.
In my heart this truly is my most important calling, the role which brings the most satisfaction and pleasure to every day. 

And knowing this, choosing this, I still need to fine tune my day to day responsibilities so that I walk in the ways best suited to me and let the other things fall in place where they fit.

Gosh, did all of this makes sense?? 
Nana meandered from task to task and I meander from thought to thought. LOL!!
You're very sweet to read along. 

Two other things confirmed where my heart should be this week.

I've been making myself some new tea towels (kitchen towels) and pulled this fabric off the shelf to trim one of them -  "live simply" stared me in the face.

Then the title of this book I found at the op-shop when dropping off a bag of donations yesterday...

You understand why I believe God is catching my attention, right?
It's been everywhere!
So I'm paying attention, praying and responding.

I actually found two books at the op-shop which look great and at only $1 each I was happy to bring them home as I'm building up a Homemaker's Library for reference and learning this year, hopefully with ideas to share here on the blog. 
Over the weekend I'll take time to read through and begin taking notes.

The reason I'm making a new set of trimmed tea towels is that it's my habit each January to do so and this year I was late. 

The towels were purchased before Christmas and they are good sturdy ones which will last a while. I spent a few hours last night while Mr E was writing lesson plans sewing them up. One has a redwork design from last year featured on the trim and another has an appliqued tulip. The rest are simply trimmed with strips of fabric. There's still three towels to trim but I'll get to them over the weekend.
My kitchen drawers will then be re-organised and the old towels given to my husband for use as rags in the auto workshop at school. 

Would you like to use the tulip applique on your own tea towel?
It's free and HERE in my shop waiting for you.

If you need help trimming tea towels I have a tutorial here. 

As I said the other day, there are so many conversations in my mind to have with you about living a gentle domestic life, about embracing who YOU are and letting the essence of your unique self shine, about taking care of home and not neglecting ourselves either. 
In time, all in good time.

Right now I have to do some dinner prep and then sit down to write a few patterns before Mr E comes home. Balanced. 

May the Lord BLESS you so much this weekend!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Goose egg cake and a quilt to make...

Sylvia lives not far from me and is a fellow crafter who reads my blog. We'd been planning a catch up since about November but my life got in the way so it was delayed until Mr E returned to work and Blossom was 'safe and sound' with her pregnancy. 
As Rosie was coming over for our regular morning tea/stitching get-together last Tuesday I invited Sylvia to join us, and what a nice visit that was.

When she arrived I was handed a large paper cup which held an enormous goose egg. Knowing that I loved to bake Sylvia thought I'd appreciate her 'home-laid' gift and she was right.

Initially I was going to use the egg to bake a sponge but when I popped my apron on this morning for a few hours of baking I decided to try a recipe Sylvia suggested, the Golden Cake for March. 
(She found the recipe on The Quince Tree blog which you'll find here)

What a clever recipe this is! I've since discovered it's an old recipe, and one which Mary Berry uses. I love Mary Berry and almost everything she bakes. 

The goose egg weighed the same as three chook eggs and had a deep orange-yellow yolk...

The recipe is actually known as the "weight of an egg" cake because you weigh the eggs and then add the same weight of butter, sugar and self-raising flour to give you one perfect cake!

The goose egg when cracked weight 147 gms so I creamed 147 gms of castor sugar with 147 gms of butter before adding the egg and 147 gms of self-raising flour.  I also added the grated zest of a lemon for flavour.

The cake mix was a lovely yellow...

I thought it might be nice baked in a ring pan (a bit quicker than a square or round tin) and 30 minutes later it slid out of the cake tin beautifully.
Once cooled I spread lime butter cream icing over the top before finishing with a scattering of coconut.

Reminded me of the frangipani flowers in my front garden...

Inside the cake is soft and golden, beautiful to eat...and the tangy lime icing is delicious too!

As I'm visiting Blossom tomorrow the cake was just the start of my baking day. She loves having mum arrive with home baked goodies!

Scrummy Slice is an old favourite, full of medjool dates and coconut with a lemon butter icing...

I'll keep half aside for us and give Bloss the other half along with some of the goose egg cake.

I had a reader ask recently "what is a slice" which made me think this is an Australian/NZ term and not used elsewhere? In the UK it would be called a traybake, but not sure what my American friends would call it.

A slice is baked in a long tray and usually has two, perhaps three layers. It's not very high and is cut into squares for storing and serving.

Scrummy Slice is baked in one complete layer with the iced topping added afterwards while it's still warm so that it 'just' begins to melt into the base.

The third recipe I baked was a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. 

Mr E had requested 'old fashioned' hamburgers for dinner tonight (the kind we grew up with from the corner fish'n'chip shop with fresh beef mince, beetroot and pineapple, pickles, sauce and loads of onions) and the only can of Australian pineapple slices I could find was a really large one so I needed to use up the extra, and what better way that an Pineapple Upside Down cake?

Now the odd thing here was that I didn't use my tried and trusted recipe, but used another from the Commonsense Baking book. 
Normally I make this in a large round tin with very high sides and that's the pan I prepared, so I greased the tin as usual, spreading the butter, brown sugar and pineapple across the base.

But then I made up the cake batter...and realised it was a much smaller amount than I normally make. 

Forging ahead I poured the batter over the caramel pineapple base and popped it in the oven for the suggested time.
It looked great when I pulled it from the oven and following my regular habit it was left on the bench to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

And that's when it happened.

Small cake in very large tin.
Long way to fall from tin to plate. 
It was in pieces.

I flipped it right side up and the aroma was tantalising. That's when I remembered Mr E's words from another broken cake a few years back..."It still tastes the same when I eat it, so don't worry. It will be delicious anyhow!"

Bless his heart, I knew he'd say the same about this cake. 
I made a lime jelly, bought some custard (not everything has to be made from scratch in an already busy day), and decided we'd have this 'trifle' for dessert the rest of the week. When he came home from work an hour ago and I told him he just licked his lips. 
Love that man!

My dear and very talented friend Allie is hosting a Stitch-A-Long on her blog! 
Every week until early April there's a new block in her "A Garden of Contentment" quilt and this week she began with the 'Peace' block.

I'm sewing along (well I may have gotten the blocks early and be stitching ahead of time...LOL!)...

These are the pretty "Meadow" fabrics I'm using for the applique and block sashing...

There's a blue in this range as well and at first I wasn't going to use it but you'll see next week that I changed my mind because it features in block 2.

I've stem stitched the flower stem and added running stitch around the applique pieces and beside the stem. You'll see this a lot in my work...next to back stitch, running stitch is my favourite. 

Visit Allie HERE and you may find yourself sewing along too!

This is Allie's finished quilt top with all the blocks. I love it!

I have a lot on my mind I want to write about but it will have to wait for another day, and another day, and another day. This gentle domestic life keeps providing the most wonderful rabbit trails to follow and I find myself learning more and more as I follow them.

Hopefully I'll be back in a couple of days with the first of those thoughts. 
Until then, smile, laugh, be kind, give thanks and embrace even the smallest nugget of goodness because it may just keep you looking up when all else fails. 

Precious one, you are wonderful.