Wednesday, December 1, 2021

POSIES BOM - final block and quilt instructions...

Today, after a full year of monthly stitching, it's time to share the final block of this year's free BOM "Posies", along with the quilt finishing instructions.

Have you enjoyed stitching your own Posies blocks this year?

Block 12 is rather willowy in nature as I designed it on a breezy day last year whilst watching the long thin branches of our trees, and the wispy garden herbs, carelessly swaying back and forth in the wind.

This block's fussy cut applique vase was a favourite - two love birds. I also chain stitched two wavy lines across the vase.
It's a funny thing when you come to the end of a project, but stranger still when you completed it a full year ago but are only now sharing those last stitches with others. 

Use the link below to download the pattern, which includes the quilt finishing instructions.

All Posies block pattern are free to download until December 31st and you will find the links HERE

A couple of weeks ago I sent off the final block to a friend, Joanne in the Netherlands, as she had been sending me photos of her blocks each month through the year - in fact sometimes they arrived within a few hours of my blog posts. 
I knew she'd complete the last block and piece the quilt beautifully and couldn't wait to see it. Her colours were much brighter than mine, but oh, how lovely is her version of Posies! 
Can you see that she also fussy cut the applique sections? Just beautiful. 

This is Joanne's completed quilt...

How about I continue with a little show & tell today?

This year I ran a membership only block of the month, Simple Days. To be honest I'd call this my magnum opus...the most heart-felt set of stitcheries I have ever created because they reflected my own life and the hopes I have for a simpler life.
At the moment I'm still hand quilting the completed quilt (below) and that's slow going in the midst of our 8-month tropical summer.

One of the BOM members, Robyn, has already completed her quilt and recently sent me a photo. What lovely work she has done! I'm so impressed.

This is Robyn's Simple Days quilt...

Another member of my BOM is Annette, and she has also completed her Simple Days quilt top! Her colours were very different to mine and Robyn's, but wow, so pretty! 

All the Simple Days blocks are HERE in my shop if you missed out on this block of the month. 
They are the kind of blocks that make your heart swell with gratitude for all the simple things in life.

Next week I'll have the final 'days of the week' tea towel stitchery to share with you, and I'll also be able to tell you about next year's free block of the month.
There's a little surprise attached to that as well, which you'll receive before Christmas.

I'll sign off today with a photo Blossom snapped the other day, one which I simply must have printed and framed. It's true to form, as this is exactly what it looks like when the children and I are together. They clamber over me and snuggle close.
 Goodness, how incredibly blessed I am to be their nana. Thank you, Lord.

I hope to see you back here next week my friends, and until then, may our merciful Lord flood your hearts with His abundant grace, kindness, provision, healing and most especially, LOVE.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Simple and free gift wrapping idea...


Have you noticed that things are becoming more expensive?
Do you think twice about your purchases these days?

About a decade ago I shared a simple tutorial for repurposing toilet roll inserts as wrappers for fat quarters, and recently it occurred to me that I could take that idea a little bit further by offering you a free gift idea.

Most of us who sew or quilt have a stash of fabric we've collected over the years, and if you're like me, some of those fabrics aren't our style anymore - or, we simply have more orphan fat quarters than we will use. So perhaps it's time to pass some along?

Now, you could do this by simply choosing a few pieces and gifting them to friends; or if you're part of a quilting group you might prefer to do a fabric swap. 

Rather than purchasing wrapping paper for your gift, consider this idea of mine. It's pretty, uses up smaller scraps of fabric, lace and ribbon, holds two fat quarters nicely, and it makes use of empty toilet roll inserts - turning something ugly into a thing of beauty.

A good idea is to choose a plain or low volume print for the insert cover if you intend filling the wrapper with patterned prints, and vice versa.

I made my first wrapper with a scrap piece of cream cotton/linen blend fabric, the same fabric I use for my embroideries. 

Cut through the toilet roll insert and open it out so you can measure the height and width.
Double the height and add 3/4".
Add 3/4" to the width.

My insert measured 5" high x 4" wide, so I cut my fabric 10.75" x 4.75"

Fold the fabric in half as shown below, and a little less than mid way up the top section, sew a piece of lace.

Cut two pieces of ribbon 10" long.
Sew them to each end of the lace edge.

Fold the ribbon ends into the centre before folding the fabric in half and pinning the sides.

Sew down both sides with a 1/4" seam.

Turn the fabric pocket right side out and press.

Place the toilet roll insert inside...

Fold over the edge to create a hem.

Ladder stitch or blind stitch the opening closed. 

Now you're ready to fold your two fat quarters into a roll and place inside the pretty wrapper.

Tie the ribbon into a bow and you have a very lovely gift for giving! 

My second wrapper was made using a print fabric, and the fat quarters were tonals.

Notice how both the wrapper fabric and the fat quarters blend together? Think of that when you're making these.

Another thing to consider when gifting fat quarters from your stash is whether the fabrics you have chosen are of a colour and style your recipient uses - after all, we don't want to give someone fabrics they won't like.

If you'd like to keep this tutorial handy, just use the link below to download it to print or save to your computer.

DOWNLOAD Gift Wrapper Tutorial

Hope you enjoy making a few of these - and if you have other ideas for what can be gifted inside these pretty wrappers leave them in the comments below. 

Have a wonderful day. I am off to visit Blossom and the children on this very wet and muddy day here in the tropics, so you know my day is already promising good things...


Friday, November 26, 2021

Simple delicious recipes made on rainy days...

 The wet season has arrived and the garden is happy once more. My roses are abundant, and the vases inside overflow with their soft beauty, filling the air with a gentle romantic fragrance.

Having heaven water the plants each day has freed up an hour or so every morning, time which is normally spent watering and generally tending to the regular needs of a tropical garden preparing to welcome another ferocious summer.

A few days this week that precious hour has been added to time spent in the kitchen, and I thought I'd share some of the tasty things which were made - plus some of the recipes. 

We had two pumpkins left from our winter planting and it's important to use them now, before the moist humidity rots them (which is what happened to a few pumpkins last year). We don't have anywhere cool and dry here to store produce at this time of year so I decided to work through a few recipes which could be enjoyed right now and also frozen for later.

Whilst cutting out recipes, household hints and articles from my very old Notebook magazines earlier this year, in order to discard what was not needed and thereby freeing up one whole shelf of a bookcase, I found this recipe for Roasted Pumpkin and Apple soup. 

I always roast the pumpkin for my soups because it intensifies the flavour, but had never heard of adding apple as well...

I chose to cut up the smaller pumpkin for this soup as I could use it all at once. My fridge held a few granny smith apples which needed to be used and I also had a half carton of cream and some chicken stock, both leftover from a mushroom pasta sauce on Monday night. It's important to me these days that I make use of what's already in the fridge before shopping for more fresh produce or cold items, so this recipe ticked a lot of boxes! It also called for fresh sage which we have abundantly in the garden at the moment.

Firstly I fried the sage leaves for a minute in olive oil until crisp and set them aside for later, then chopped the pumpkin, apples, onions and garlic (my pumpkin pieces weighed 900g, a bit less than the recipe called for)...

...before placing them in the baking dish and coating them with the oil I'd fried the sage in. A sprinkle of salt and pepper, then in to the oven for 40 minutes (I tweaked the instructions to suit my own preference).

Once baked, I poured three cups of chicken stock over the mix and let everything go cold. 

Then into the blender and once smooth I poured in the cream. This was so simple, and really delicious with the crushed fried sage and fresh chives scattered over the top. I'd call this recipe a keeper. 

The other day I also worked on using leftovers from the fridge, this time for dessert. My beloved really enjoys his dessert and thankfully is easily pleased with simple sweets. He especially likes it when I bake fruit in puff pastry, which is what I did with a punnet of raspberries, a half-empty tub of cream cheese and the small bit of raspberry jam left in the bottom of a jar. 

I buy sheets of frozen puff pastry to have on hand for these kind of desserts or for pies, but you could also roll out a block of puff pastry if that's all you have.

The photos below are of the second batch I made because after photographing the first batch (above) it occurred to me you might like to see the steps. This lot were a mix of raspberries and strawberries, and though they turned out just as lovely, I did find that strawberries have a lot more liquid than raspberries so there was time I'll stick with just raspberries (or blackberries, or many other options!).

Mix together half a cup of cream cheese, 1.5 tablespoons of icing sugar (confectioners sugar), and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. This is enough for eight pastries.

Cut the sheets of puff pastry into four squares each and place a small amount of the cream cheese mix in the centre. Add 1 level teaspoon of jam, and then place the berries over the top.

I can fit four on a tray...

Fold two corners into the centre...

Fold the opposite two corners into the centre as well, pulling the pastry a little longer as you do that. This helps to stick the four corners together.

Pinch the open corner edges together to seal the pastry closed.

Beat an egg, and lightly brush some egg over each pastry - you only need a little. Sprinkle granulated sugar across the top (I use raw sugar, but any granulated sugar is fine)...

Bake at 200c (400f) for around 12-14 minutes. They will puff up and go golden brown when ready. Truly, these are simple and really yum!

Thursday morning I was due to visit Blossom so I baked a batch of buttermilk scones. On Wednesday night I'd made buttermilk chicken with coleslaw and avocado on the side, and still had half a carton of buttermilk left, so once again I chose to use up what was already at hand and half an hour later these were baked and ready to wrap in a large tea towel for travelling...

I shared a photo of the scones on Instagram, with a lovely quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder, and when my friend Fee saw it she was inspired to bake scones too. 

Later in the afternoon we were chatting on the phone (we live at opposite ends of Australia) discussing our shared ideals about homemaking, baking, getting older, and how we both need to slow down more in our businesses next year in order to immerse ourselves deeper into that beautiful occupation we love so much - gentle domesticity. We also talked about meals, the simpler ones our Nanas made, and why we both want to emulate their culinary resourcefulness now and into the future. 

Well while we were chatting, Fee mentioned that she had a partially used can of crushed pineapple in the fridge and that she could use that to make a pineapple fruit cake. No sooner had she thought of this than I could hear her rattling around in her kitchen gathering ingredients. Funny thing was, I also needed to bake a cake because I had a few glass jars about 1/4 filled with various dried fruits that needed to be used soon. In our humidity even dried fruit goes funny if left too long. 

So, I gathered my own recipe for pineapple fruit cake and soon we were texting photos to each other as we mixed, poured and baked 'together' over the phone. I tell you, this was so much fun!! And at the end we both had a delicious cake. I froze half this morning and the remaining half will serve hubby and I with a cuppa for the next few days. 

If you'd like my recipe for no-fail Pineapple Fruit Cake, it's in this FREE issue of The Homemaker Heart magazine

Today I decided to bake a loaf of Honey & Sultana bread for toasting at the weekend. I overbaked it slightly because I did not hear the timer go off, but it's not too bad and still tasted wonderful when I sliced the end and buttered it. I adore crusty bread, but hubby prefers the soft centre. 

Here's the recipe if you want to try it. I make my dough in the breadmaker, then remove it and fold into a loaf shape for my bread tin. Once it has doubled in size I bake it at 200c (400f) for around 23-25 minutes. Of course I went five minutes longer this time, hence the overbaking. 

The final tasty treat I'll show you is the Spanakopita which I baked on Tuesday night. We had a lot of parsley in the garden which needed to be cut back, and a large bag of spinach leaves in the fridge to be used, so I knew baking Spanakopita would not only bless us, but bless my Cypriot son in law Ross. 

I took the leftovers to him and Blossom yesterday and he messaged last night to say it was delicious and he was so grateful. Normally I bake him Cypriot/Greek meals on his birthday and at Christmas, so this was a surprise which he really appreciated. 

Now, finally, last week I showed you the Savoury Scrolls I had made and received comments and emails asking me for the recipe. 

You only need a basic bread recipe (go HERE to download three I shared a few years back) and make it to the point of it's first rise.

Once the dough has risen for the first time, roll it out into a rectangle shape. Spread with tomato pesto, and grated cheese. You could also add olives, shredded chicken, salami, chopped red onion - anything you like, but don't overfill the dough. 

Roll up the way you would make a swiss roll, then cut into twelve pieces. Lay in a large greased or parchment lined baking dish, and scatter more cheese across the top. Bake for around 20-25 minutes at 200c (400f) until risen and golden brown.

So tell me, what are some recipes you make to use up leftovers from the fridge or pantry? Do you plan your weekly menu with that in mind?

I've had this ideal for a (very) long time, but too often allowed busyness to get in the way and more food than was necessary found it's way into the compost or rubbish bin due to expiring before I made use of it. 

With the increasing scarcity of many grocery items these days, and the higher cost of everyday items and fresh produce, I'm determined to use what I have on hand before buying more...and also to consider Nana's example and think more simply with regards to meals. Another thing which is becoming increasingly clear, is that we are not eating as much as we used to and I need to reduce the servings, cook smaller portions, or freeze half the meal for another night. My friend Rosie and I have discussed this a number of times lately, in fact it was she who mentioned it first and made me start thinking about the size of the meals I prepare. 

We are living in changing times and new challenges seem to be cropping up around every corner, but if we take notice, and adjust our homemaker habits accordingly, we can get through this. 

Next week I have an idea for gift giving which won't cost you a penny. In fact I have a few simple ideas which are inexpensive, but the first one uses what you more than likely have on hand already. 

God bless your dear hearts, and thanks for dropping by, for being an ear to hear and also a source of wisdom for myself and others when you share your own ideas and life lessons.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Ups and downs of life...

Miss Rafaella and our adventure...

 Yesterday was a definite day of ups because I had as my companion 3yo Rafaella, and we had a day of 'adventuring'. Whenever Cully May or Rafaella spend the day with me they declare it to be an adventure, so I try to do fun things with them, the kind of things us adults don't often do ourselves.

Cully May goes to kindy every Monday at the moment, as next year she will attend school Mon-Fri. These few months of spending one day a week at kindy have shown us all that her natural extrovert personality is ready and eager for school when the first term begins at the end of January. For those overseas who may not know, our Australian school year runs from January to December and is broken up into four terms.

So these Mondays of late have given Rafaella some extra time with mummy (Blossom), daddy and baby Charlie, but it's also gave her and I the opportunity to go off and adventure alone, something we've never done without Cully May present.

Our morning began at the library, because she simply loves our library trips. Being surrounded by books, and in the cool quiet space of the children's section, her little introvert self is very happy and content...

I stopped counting after reading nine books because once I'd finished a book she would replace it carefully on the shelf and bring me another. Eventually she decided it was time to leave the library and go down to the beach for ice-cream, but first I suggested we stop off at the shopping centre so I could buy her (and Cully May) a pair of sunglasses. She was thrilled! "I will get pink sunglasses, Nana!" she declared...and so she did. 

I chose children's Cancer Council glasses as the sun here in the tropics is fierce on eyes, young and old alike. She choose a red polka dot pair for her big sister and then we got back in the car and drove to the beach...

We walked along the shore and collected seas shells, as she loves playing with my own collection of shells whenever she visits, and carefully put them in my pocket for her to take home later.

Ice cream was well deserved after our walk along the scorching shore line, though we had to eat fast as it melted quickly. 

After leaving the beach we dropped in to visit Poppy at his work and then picked up a Happy Meal at McDonalds before arriving at my house where we could relax in the air conditioning. 

Once lunch was over we played with jigsaw puzzles (she is VERY good at them), painted, did some colouring, and then I gave Rafaella her first lesson in hand embroidery. She got a little bit frustrated because the yarn kept coming out of the needle (we used a large plastic needle and yarn) but eventually got the knack of holding the needle in such a way that the yarn didn't slip out. Apparently sewing with Nana was her most talked about topic with mummy and Cully May today and she's looking forward to doing more. 

After dropping her home later in the afternoon, this Nana was very tired and needed a nice cup of tea with a bit of quiet time before getting started on dinner. What a wonderful day it was!

Pantry Preparedness and utilising more storage...

Have you noticed a lot of empty shelves in your local supermarket lately? I have. In fact many of the items I regularly purchase have disappeared, and though we have seen the signs of this shortage coming for quite a while, it's still a shock when it happens.

I decided to move things around in the kitchen after Blossom offered us an old bookcase, planning to use the shelves for more pantry preparedness. I shifted the old cookbook shelves across into the hall and spent this morning compiling a fresh list of items to purchase and store in these larger shelves. I am also going to add a bit of prettiness, as you do, right? Wicker baskets too easily become mouldy in the wet season due to the constant heat and high humidity, so I have a few clear plastic baskets which I intend lining with pretty fabric next week. I also intend making shelf liners and/or edging...which will take time, but having a homemaking project on the go always makes me happy. 

Once my large shopping list was written I made the order online and it will be delivered tomorrow morning, though I do wonder how much of it will arrive. Even as I was doing the online order, so many items were marked 'out of stock', and some which were in stock had limits of one or two only.

Making use of the space you have for storing extra food items is wise, even in a small house. My husband has shelving in his study dedicated to cans and jars, and that's great, but as he is at work during the day the air conditioning in the study is not used and that room becomes very hot indeed.

The kitchen however, which has the walk-in-pantry just opposite, has the air conditioning on all day so in the new shelving I will place items that really should be stored in a slightly cooler place than hubby's study.

New aprons...

I recently purchased two new aprons from makers on Etsy. They are lovely floral prints with ruffled edges and pockets - just my style, and they look lovely hanging in the kitchen when not being worn as I cook and do housework. I had plans to make more aprons myself, but just as you support my home-business by purchasing patterns, I also like to support the home businesses of others. 

The seller of the cream apron has no more, but the seller of the blue polka dot apron (which comes fully lined!) has many aprons in her store - perfect for gift giving. If you're interested she is HERE, and believe me even the wrapping is delightful. Her parcel brightened my day, and the apron brightened my kitchen!

A Quiet Life...

Do you remember last year when I shared this pattern? I stitched it in two colourways, one pastel and one more of a 50's palette. Over the weekend I needed something simple and calming to make (I'll explain later) so I chose to turn the retro block into a wrap for our coffee plunger...

The colours work well in our kitchen, and though I've never liked the creamy latte brown of the cupboards and fittings, it does lend itself to allowing bright colours like the ones I scatter around to stand out. Even those aprons lift the gloom of the brown. 

The back is tied with two bows - as I said, a very simple and relaxing project, and also a new UFO finish for November. It's gratifying to make wonderfully functional items from orphan stitcheries!

The downs of life...

I've been quiet here again because of a long run of very nasty migraines. They came in all manner - barometric migraines, migraine with aura, silent migraines which left me unable to walk and my whole body a wobbly mess...and each one came on just as the previous one was ending. 

So many food triggers have been eliminated with great success in the past year or two, but it only occurred to me on Sunday that I had once more introduced chocolate into my diet, as well as a single cup of real coffee each morning (after drinking only decaf for a year). It appears those two changes have been my undoing and a hard and painful lesson learned. 

I was just coming good yesterday morning in time to pick up Rafaella, as I had cancelled on her last Friday and though very understanding, her 3yo heart was sad at not spending a day alone with Nana. That's why yesterday was so important, I just couldn't bear to disappoint her again. Fortunately the pain was gone after breakfast and since then I've been careful to exclude the two nasties - chocolate and real coffee - once again. Sigh. I shall miss them, though not the pain they cause.

In my quiet times...

I am re-reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and gaining much appreciation for the labours of homemaking back in the 1800's. It's been about fifteen years since I read this book to my children, so in many ways it feels 'new' again because this time around I'm reading through my homemaker eyes and not from a desire to teach good life principles to my children. 

I'm also stitching a wedding memento for hubby and I as we approach the celebration of 30 years of marriage, just a few days after Christmas. It will be part of my Faith, Heart & Home pattern club next year because I get many requests for this kind of design. Most people will think of this design as a lovely gift for a new couple, but I'm looking with new eyes once is a continuing remembrance of my own marriage.

Back to that "A Quiet Life" stitchery...

If you missed the original free download of the pattern, it's here again for you now. Use the link below and you can be stitching it today. 

DOWNLOAD "A Quiet Life" pattern

Let me know what things in your life are being viewed through 'new eyes' these days? Are you finding a shortage of grocery supplies in your own area? Have you finished any UFO's this month?

I'd love to hear from you, and as my readers have told me in emails, they love reading your comments and thoughts too. 

So dear hearts, don't hold back but share your own thoughts in the comments for you may inspire others by doing so. I am so blessed to receive every comment, but I do understand why many prefer to email me privately. 

Bless you lovely friends, and may the days ahead overflow with the wisdom of God so that you may make good and sound decisions. May He prepare you for all that is yet to come, and give you a heart which offers genuine kindness and grace towards others.