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

Thomas Moore

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Revamping the verandah a bit...

Today was incredibly productive!
We have a stationwagon and by lunchtime it was packed to overflowing with *stuff* to drop off at the local charity shop. I went through all our cupboards and plastic tubs with the plan that if it hasn't been used in 12 months it will more than likely not be used at all - so let's give it to someone who will use it. I even gave away some of my earlier quilts...I didn't tell Blossom though. She'd have my hide! Honestly, though, we have enough lovely quilts, and those earlier ones were never used so they will be far better off with someone who'll give them a new purpose.

As promised I'm showing you the beginnings of our little verandah makeover.


and AFTER!

Remember, it's a very old and unloved house so this will be a labour of love over time. We plan to live here two years, so we'll try and get a veggie patch happening as well, and maybe do some internal painting.

I can't show you the new shelving in the sewing room yet as I was busy all day elsewhere and haven't finished sorting out where things are going yet. Maybe tomorrow. :-)
Speaking of tomorrow - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! \o/


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Swap gifts, ideas, makeovers...

How lovely it was to receive all your best wishes for our wedding anniversary - thank you so much!!
You blessed us both!
Have you received all your Christmas Swap gifts?
Due to our mail being held at the PO until the school office opens again on January 4th, I have not received my Secret Santa Swap gift yet, but I cannot wait! Just 5 more sleeps until I have another Christmas gift to open and I can discover who my secret santa is. I wonder, is she reading this???? Hmmm...who are you??? ;-)

I can still show you the gifts I made for my own Secret Santa swap partner. She is Karol-Ann and lives in the UK where the snow fell so perfectly at Christmas. Karol-Ann has some lovely snapshots on her blog!
These are what I sent her - a Christmas Tree wallhanging (from one of my A Christmas Package In Stitches designs), a beaded and embroidered Christmas stocking ornament (another of my patterns from the same set) an applique cushion cover, a redwork pincushion, and a Melly & Me pattern ...

Karol-Ann said she loved them, and that's so good to hear! :-)
I did get to open my main Advent Swap gift on Christmas Day, though! My partner was Jeanette, and she made me this beautiful poinsettia table runner! Isn't it gorgeous? I always admire those who do needleturn applique - and Jeanette's a wonderful stitcher. Thank you so much, Jeanette!!
(did you see the tea cosy she made me at the start of the swap?...have a look here!)

The Advent Swap was a straight swap, so I was also Jeanette's partner. I discovered that her favourite colours were red and purple, and by watching her blog I also found that she *loves* bags! So, these are the gifts I made her.
A raw silk embroidered and appliqued bag, the perfect size for storing patterns in...

...a large embroidered shopping bag (do you remember I showed you a sneak peek of how I used the Moda twill tape on this bag?)...

...and a matching Tea Wallet.

Thank you Jo and Fiona for hosting this swap!
How do you store the blocks you are working on?
When we drove across Australia in July to move here I hit upon a wonderful way of keeping my blocks clean, tidy, and flat whilst stitching in the car. I bought pastry sheet storers!

They are lovely are big, and hold quite a lot of blocks! I have one for finished blocks that haven't yet found a permanent home...

...and one for blocks on the go.

I'm going to buy another one to keep all the blocks I have traced but not begun yet...and I may even get more so that I can keep all the blocks from one project in their own 'compartment'. I love organisation!
Mr Elefantz has built me a large shelf for my sewing room, and tomorrow I'll show you how it looks. I cannot believe the difference it makes to the room - now I have all the table space for my cutting boards and planning. It's wonderful!
We're also going to give the ugly old verandah a mini makeover in the morning, so I'll have some before and after photos of that too.
I'm still working hard at making this neglected old house into a home, and now that the Christmas decorations have begun their journey back to the storage tubs I'll be able to do more of the sewing jobs I have on the planning list.

Have you been working on making your own house more of a home?
What changes have you made?

Enjoy the end of 2009,

Monday, December 28, 2009

18 wonderful years!

Today is our 18th wedding anniversary.
Mr Elefantz never quite remembers the date, but assures me every year that it's the Saturday after Christmas! Why? Because we got married on the Saturday after Christmas in 1991. I don't care how he remembers it, I'm just so blessed that he chose me to be his wife and has stood by me through good and bad, struggles and triumphs, all these years. He's my true beloved.
Today he surprised me with a voucher for TWO one hour massages! He ch0se a lady close to home who specialises in people who suffer migraine, so I'm going to book in for my first session next week. Mr Elefantz thinks through what gifts to give, and always surprises me with something I'd never get myself but something I love.
As you know I have only been sewing for just over 4 years. The first quilt I made was just three months after I picked up a needle and thread - it was a wedding quilt for our 14th anniversary in 2005....

No-one was around to teach me, so I didn't know I should start with something smaller, or easier. I saw this pattern in Country Threads and loved it, so in one week I made it! The colours aren't what I like to decorate with anymore, but the sentimental attachment is so great that it spends every summer on our bed.

As promised here is Blossom's quilt!

She is finding it hard to get out of bed in the mornings now. She loves to be wrapped in her quilt and visiting far off lands in her dreams....she even has an afternoon siesta under it.

Today I took a break from recycling of towels, and finished my new BOM! Well, it's almost finished - just a bit more quilting and then the binding. I will give you another little sneak peek....

She is adorned with beads and lace, and her name is "Bouquet".
January 7th and you'll get to download block 1!

Just a short blog post tonight, I'm off to have some celebration Chocolate Ripple Cake that Blossom made for us!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rain at last, and plans for 2010...

Hello dear friends!
How was your Christmas? Are you finally winding down again after all the excitement?

We had a very quiet, but lovely day, just the four of us and Bob-the-dog. After all these months of intense daily heat Christmas morn heralded *rain* at last!! The day was the coolest I can remember since we arrived in July, and it was followed on Saturday by similar weather - I think it got down to 30C (86F), which felt like autumn!!
The rain continues to come in sporadic showers, but the heat is up again and we're feeling the high humidity. Still, we need the rain and it will be blessing a lot of the farmers. Father Bill's prayer for our town at Christmas Mass was for rain, and everyone cheered. Then we got home and the heavens opened! Thank you Lord! \o/

Guess what?
I spent all day Christmas Eve working on Blossom's quilt. I still can't believe I basted, machine-quilted, and bound it all by 10pm, but I did. My arms were aching like you wouldn't believe, but as I wrapped it...

...I felt incredibly satisfied that my goal had been achieved and my girl would have her new quilt for Christmas. I'll take a photo of it on her bed tomorrow - as I said before it's quite large and drops almost to the floor, and most importantly she *loves* it!

Deb in NZ challenged Blossom to decorate Christmas Puddings using Chocolate Royal biscuits. Well, Deb, here are Blossom's (we're watching your blog to see yours, Deb!), she made them Christmas Day...

...and the lovely Blossom in her new Christmas dress!


What plans do you have for 2010?
Do you make resolutions?

Normally I don't, but last year I made a decision to work hard on our budget in 2009, especially in the area of debt reduction and saving. I began a blog about it (Dollars to Sense), but this blog (Elefantz) got enough for me to handle after March so my savings blog was ignored after that.
However, I'm thrilled to say that I did achieve some of my goals! I saved $1000 for Christmas, and I did save $1000 for the holidays (although we spent it on air conditioning a couple of months ago - well worth it, too!). It has been amazing not to have to use the credit card for Christmas, and now that the habit is instilled I shall continue with this savings plan through 2010.

Next year, however, I am going to add a new savings plan to my agenda. I want to save in practical ways with what we already have. For example, yesterday I bought some new bath towels at the Target Boxing Day sale. We have been in need of new ones for a while and these were good Egyptian cotton and 40% off. I was tempted to buy some bath mats (also needed), but then I had an idea on how to save that money instead.

I made 4 bath mats from two old brown towels. One half yard of fabric (from my stash) was all that was needed to bind the ends of the 4 bath mats.

Tomorrow I'll make another 4 from the red towels, and use these for laying in front of the bathroom handbasin.
I used another 2 towels to make 2 dog beds for Bob-the-dog. Poor thing never got a Christmas gift from us but he's very happy now with his new beds! His beds are two old pillows of ours that used to be covered in old pillowcases, but I made new pillowcase covers from the towels (the cotton towelling is much cooler for him to lay on), and added a cotton fabric covering over the top side. The fabric is an IKEA piece I've had for years and never found a use for. They are so lovely and bright, and he has one in my sewing room and one in the living room.

Whilst in my sewing frenzy I also prettied up two hand towels with cotton lace, and I used some more of the Moda cotton tape for the hanging tabs on the back.

The last *new* thing I made today was a new quilted cover for my sewing cushion (do you remember that I rest my hands on a sewing cushion when I embroider instead of using a hoop for stability?), and it's made from leftover fabric I used in my Shabby Roses quilt.

Tomorrow Mr Elefantz is putting some shelving up in my sewing room, so I'll potter around and find more things to do with those towels. Do you have any ideas?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

~~~ A Merry Blessed Christmas ~~~

Dear friends,
Thank you for a year of blessing, of new friends made, hearts reaching out across borders and oceans, and time given of your day to come visit with me. I have loved every minute!
My prayer for you this Christmas is that next year we continue to grow in our friendship, and meet often in front of these screens with a cuppa in hand and a smile for each other.

This Christmas I wish you....

~ and ~
~ and ~
~ and ~

But mostly I wish you the graces of the Christ Child, God's perfect gift to you and me!

From my family to yours,
Merry, Blessed Christmas!!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BAGuette finished...

Only three sleeps till Christmas, and all the presents are wrapped and waiting under the twinkling lights of our tree.
I would like to make a pillow cover for Bob-the-dog before Friday as we haven't got him anything yet, but I'm also still holding on to the dream of finishing Blossom's quilt. I guess I'll wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Today I went looking in my very small UFO pile and chose to finish the BAGuette Bag I began a few weeks back. As long as I don't have to use the rotary cutter my hands and wrist are fine to use the sewing machine, so a few hours of play later and I had this ready to show you...

I've made mine slightly different to Natalie's instructions. As I intend using the bag through summer I chose to omit the three sets of ties she had on top - I'd go mad tying and untying them every time I needed something from my bag, and to leave them untied and just hanging would look messy.
I also chose to add binding along the top, and my inside pockets are made differently in order to store my wallet and my phone.
I'm so glad I chose the Snippets Honey Bun! The colours are lovely and bright, and definitely shout SUMMER!
Tonight we had a lightning storm that lasted a couple of hours and we waited to see if rain would follow, but nothing. We're due for more lightning tomorrow, so maybe the rain will arrive then. It would be so nice to listen to raindrops on the roof - it's one of my favourite sounds and I especially love to go to sleep with rainfall as my background choir. I also think rainy days make wonderful stitching days, don't you?

Paulette requested that I share my Chocolate Mousse recipe, and I am happy to oblige but I cannot take credit for the recipe - it's one of Nigella Lawson's chocolate delights, and so easy to make!

You can download the recipe HERE.
I have all of Nigella's cookbooks and some of her DVDs. Slicer comes and sits with me to watch them as he just loves her chocolate episodes! We also have all of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks and DVDs, and once again Slicer comes to watch with me. He doesn't cook himself but he loves to watch others cook whilst directing me on what to make! Boys and food, eh? ;-)
Do you have a favourite cookbook you turn to regularly? Care to share the title with us and tell why you like it so much?

I've been battling a migraine today in the midst of the sewing, and I fear it has gotten the better of me so I'll say goodnight to all your lovely smiles and pray your day is calm and relaxed as we countdown the hours to the big Day.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Back to an old project, and Mr Elefantz has been busy...

I think I've mentioned to you before that the accommodation provided to us by the school is in need of some love and care?
I had big plans for the place when we first arrived, and a few of them were achieved, but with constant heat it's very hard to maintain momentum when all you want to do is superglue yourself to the air conditioner with the passion of matrimonial vows on your wedding day!
However, this is where I re-run in my mind the story of the Tortoise and the Hare...slow and steady, and all will be accomplished eventually. Keeping the end in sight and ever inching towards it is the wisest attitude to have, don't you think?
Today Mr Elefantz installed a kitchen shelf for me, and tomorrow he'll repeat the process on the other side of the kitchen AND in my sewing room. I think I'll have to whip up an extra large chocolate mousse to reward him for this!

Having the shelf helps me because I get some bench space for meal preparation at last. I'll be finishing the shelf with filled jars after Christmas, and a runner to drop over the sides and cover the metal braces holding up the shelf.

Do you remember when I began planning and sewing the blocks for my Churn Dash quilt back in early September? The idea was to stitch two blocks per day, but like all good plans life got in the way. ;-)
The upside was that I cut out a lot of the block pieces back then, so I was able to sew another three blocks today without doing any harm to my hand or wrist...

I still have enough pieces cut for another nine blocks so I may do more tomorrow.

Tonight I'm using Elisa's idea and making a summery mozzarella salad with fresh herbs and tomatoes, served with grilled chicken on the side. Simple, cool, lovely.
This morning I made a pineapple cheesecake (the refrigerated kind, not baked) so we'll kick back and enjoy our dinner and dessert while we watch the light rain fall outside...yes, it's finally beginning to rain.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

I know - how come two posts in one night??

Yes, it's strange to write two blog posts one after the other, but this one is about the gift of friendship and the gift of giving - you to me, and me to you.

This last year has been a journey for me - one that was not planned, but one that has proven to be an adventure in taking chances, having faith, and opening myself up to receive the hand of friendship from across oceans and miles. You are a big part of this eventful year, and I want you all to know how much your 'being there' has encouraged and blessed me week after week.
{{{thank you}}}

Last week a parcel arrived from Kate in Massachusetts. We'd been chatting about pumpkins (of all things!) and as her son is an avid gardener and had never grown a grey/blue pumpkin before (one of Australia's favourite) I told her I'd send him some seeds. Well, bless her heart, she sent me some packages of the yummiest maple sugar!!

To my knowledge you cannot buy maple sugar in Australia, so this is a REALLY big treat, and I am only using it sparingly on my porridge...it is absolutely delicious! She also sent me some summer reading, ribbons and organic cranberries too. Thanks so much Kate!

Deb in New Zealand, a sweet-hearted gal whom I just love to pieces, sent me this heart-filled tree ornament...

...and these gorgeous beaded milk jug toppers! I love things like this and she said as soon as she saw them she thought of me. :-)

Today was day 20 of the Advent Swap and I wanted to show you some of the things I've received in my daily present box from Jeanette...the coffee sachets have all been drunk, and the rose candles are displaying themselves in my bathroom so I can't show you them, but I am so amazed at how well she *knows* the things I love! Haven't I been spoiled?!

Now, what have I given you?
~Shabby Roses~

Look at how Lin has displayed her Shabby Roses blocks! How creative is she?! Lin doesn't have a blog so she sent me the photo, and I wanted you to see another possibility for displaying your own Shabby Roses blocks.
Lin, I feel so humbled by your beautiful use of my designs!

And Betty has been stitching up a storm with these bookmarks from my free Shabby Roses Bookmark design!
What gorgeous Christmas gifts they make, Betty!

The free download for my bookmark design and alphabet can be found HERE.
Before I finally sign off for the night I thought I'd show you a photo of the tablecloth after the first Oxy Clean treatment. It's definitely faded from THIS don't you think?

Goodnight dear friends. I'll leave you with the Christmas tree all alight - Mr Elefantz switches the lights on every night after sunset and plonks himself down next to it. I think he's looking forward to Christmas too.



Sunday mornings used to start with me baking a pile of lovely fresh blueberry muffins, but as I try to avoid heating our already-hot-house as much as possible, this lovely tradition has fallen by the wayside in latter months.
But 17yo Slicer has really missed those muffins.

Yesterday he nominated himself to be my official trolley pusher for the weekly grocery shop, something I am unable to do right now with my wounded hand. His reward for helping was to add a few special treats to the trolley as we wandered along - and do you know what he popped in? Two punnets of plump, fresh blueberries.

So what is a mother to do?!
Get up before dawn and bake those muffins for her boy!

I even added choc-chips without being asked.
Morning tea was around 11am, and this time the treat was mine.
Every year since Christmas 2005 Woolworths have had these unbelievably scrummy fruit mince filled shortbreads in December, and every Christmas since 2005 Slicer and I gorge ourselves silly on them all through December!

Fortunately he was busy with the muffins today so I got them all to myself while I read Country Style magazine and made notes for the dream house we hope to buy one day.
What is your favourite Christmas morsel to treat yourself with?
By Sunday afternoon the house was too hot to think about eating anything more than a chocolate ice-cream, so I decided to forget about food for a while and play with the Cath Kidston treasures I bought at Target!

One pedicure later and pretty pink toes were smiling up at me!

Alas, my stitching lies waiting, waiting, waiting.

My right hand and wrist are much better (thank you for your lovely care!), but now it's my left hand that is feeling the strain of compensating for the right. I think another day of rest for both hands will see me returning to the needle and thread by Tuesday.
Sunday nights I do not cook. I used to, but about a month ago I decided that we're all grown up enough to forage for ourselves on Sunday evenings. I do make sure the fridge is stocked with salami, olives, fetta, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, nectarines, grapes and watermelon (all their favourite snack foods), so it's really easy for them to make a plate of nibblies.
Personally I decided to have breakfast for dinner - a bowl of Sultana Bran and tinned peaches. It was as I sat down at the table that I noticed how similar my bowl was to the Rouenneries fabric range by French General...

...not the same of course, but there is something familiar to both. From now on I'm calling this my Rouenneries bowl, and I'll imagine myself in the south of France each morning at brekky. Now, if I can find a good croissant I'll be a very happy lass.

Thanks for all the tips on getting the stains out of that beautiful tablecloth! I found some Oxy Clean and used it today - it has definitely faded most of the stains (there are a LOT of them), but the bottle does say stubborn stains may need a repeat treatment so I'll do it again tomorrow.
A few of you gave me some natural remedies, but as I'd already purchased the Oxy Clean I decided to try it first. If it doesn't clear the stains after the second treatment I'll give them a go next.

Do your Sundays have a regular rhythm to them?