Friday, May 27, 2022

The plant nursery...


About three years ago I bought an old church bench for $5 at a garage sale. The back had been removed and it was a bit wobbly so my husband wasn't all that enthusiastic about my purchase. But I had a plan to hammer in a few nails, thus making it a little more stable, and placing it inside the front door entrance, where it would be a home for some indoor plants.

We have around fifty indoor plants now, scattered throughout every room, but this simple bench became something more than a way to display some became a plant recovery nursery.

You see, it's hot in the tropics most of the year, and plants can be finicky at times due to the heat, the air conditioning, or even because I've chosen to display them in an area which is too shadowed, too bright , too warm or too cool. For whatever reason, at one time or another, most of my plants have needed to visit The Plant Nursery, aka the bench in the front door entranceway. 

Some stay for a few weeks, some stay for months...but they always recover. Even plants on the opposite wall, beside the front door, thrive in this almost enclosed area.

What's the secret?
The front door entrance receives no direct sunlight, no air conditioning, and is not in shadow - it's a fairly constant balance of all a plant needs with regards to position, temperature and light.
Quite simply, they thrive here, and those which are close to dying off completely, are restored over weeks and months to become healthy, happy and lovely plants. 

Whilst moving a few plants back into the main areas of our home, and bringing some of the not so thriving ones into the plant nursery for convalescing, I realised that this is something I've been going through lately myself.

Stepping away and being alone - but rather than sunshine, light and temperature, my refreshment is coming from the Lord.

Jesus often went off alone to a deserted place to pray, to spend time with the Father, to be refreshed and strengthened. And I thought to myself, Jesus IS God, and if He needed to do that (being both human and Divine) how much more do I?
How much more do you?

The Bible speaks a lot about setting ourselves apart from the world, not bowing before idols (in this day and age idols are many things, especially our children, homes, social media, devices, movies, clothes, hobbies, to name just a few), not being unequally yoked with unbelievers nor conforming to the ways of the world, and so much being a true Christian today is no different to being a true Christian in the first century AD. And thousands upon thousands died for living that way, for refusing to deny Christ as Lord and Saviour.

This is not an easy way to live today, as we have distractions drawing us away from the Gospel coming from almost every angle, and it's easy to fall in with those who do not share our faith, and believe within our own heart that they won't be a snare to our Christian walk (remember, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick - Jeremiah 17:9)...but what if they are? What if it's already happened? What if the Holy Spirit is calling you out of those relationships? How can you, or me, find the strength and confidence to listen to Him and obey?

Pray and remove yourself for a time, be alone in Heaven's Nursery, where the mighty hand of God can minister Light, Truth, healing and refreshment to the grief and loneliness you may be feeling. For our God hears every prayer and answers every prayer. 
Yesterday I was reading from My Utmost for His Highest, and realised something I have never thought about before. The statement of truth is highlighted below...

"Jesus NEVER mentioned unanswered prayer. He had the unlimited certainty of knowing that prayer is always answered." Oswald Chambers

I don't know about you but this was a big epiphany for me, and also for Blossom when I read it to her, because there have been some prayers that I have not seen an answer to, prayers which for months I may stop praying due to losing hope...but now I see, I am reminded, that God's answer isn't very often the one I want, but it IS the answer which is needed most to fulfil HIS purpose, not necessarily mine. Now I must not lose hope, nor stop praying, but be mindful that HIS will shall be done.

So, back to the plant nursery and where I am at the moment, in Heaven's Nursery, choosing to be apart from the world, hungering to see Jesus, praying for the courage to lay down those things which can be, or are already, a snare for me - things which draw me into the world and not away from it. 

We're told in 1 Corinthians 10:13..."No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

That escape is to walk away from any action, relationship or behaviour which has become, or will become, a snare to draw us away from abiding in the complete truth of God's Word.

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee; draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:7

Not sure how long I need to be in Heaven's Nursery while the Father tends to a recent grief and teaches me how to truly, completely, every day, be in the world but not of the world (John 17:11-17) but however long it takes I have no doubt that He is answering my prayer to become set apart for His service, walking the path HE alone has set before me.

During this quieter time I've been studying Exodus, reading a biography of Oswald Chambers, continuing to crochet the rug I began last year, walking through the garden and tending the plants, singing hymns, and of course, praying.

I'm also reading through a reprint from a 1959 copy of the QCWA (Queensland Country Women's Association) cookbook which I bought at a local market stall.

There's some wonderful recipes in it for using just what you have on hand, but I really loved this prayer which was printed inside the front cover...

May God bless each and everyone of you today and in the days ahead. Economically things are getting tough everywhere, but God is our true Provider, so lift your hearts, hands and prayers to Him. Pray for ideas on how to balance your budget and tighten your belts (I do this every day now), ideas on economical ways to feed the family, use less power, and most of all - help in being content with what you already have and curbing envious eyes for wanting what the Jones's have. I used to enjoy Pinterest but rarely think to go there now as a deep dis-content took root in my heart during 2020 when I saw the homes of others and began to complain about my home. I noticed how bad it had become a few months back and knew I had to repent of those longings and choose to be content in my own lovely home.

Today I give thanks to God for my home, for this precious gift of sanctuary He provided for us to purchase in our autumn years, and can honestly say I am happily content and deeply satisfied. Amen! 

It was Blossom's birthday yesterday, she turned 28. Some of you have been reading my blog since the start, when she was just 14, and have watched her grow up before your eyes. I am so very proud to be her mum, and spending her birthday together with the grandchildren was pure delight. We've both had some losses recently, but the joy of having each other, not just as mother and daughter, but sisters in Christ together, eases our burden as we both hand things over to Jesus and give Him praise. 

Here's a recent photo of my girl and her precious little ones. LOVE.

Until next time,


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Laundry room tidy up...

Earlier this month I wrote about May being laundry month in the book The Simple Home by Rhonda Hetzel, and how it inspired me to get into my own laundry and give it a tiny makeover in order to create a more efficient space. 

Our laundry is very small, with three doorways (into the kitchen, hubby's study, and the backyard) and two windows. There are no cupboards, or worktops, for things like storage, sorting or folding laundry. When we first bought this home late in 2018 I had no idea how I would manage with such a small space and no storage or work areas, but bless his heart, my husband installed a set of wire baskets in the only available space, under the small louvre window.

During his three weeks holiday break he worked like a trojan in the yard and house, removing old internal doors, painting new doors and installing them, clearing garden trimmings, chipping pruned tree limbs, installing a third permanent pump and well trough which also needed extensive pipe work (especially after the recent heavy rains)...and on it went. Meanwhile, I made my way through various rooms in the house to deep clean, and when he saw me pulling apart the laundry to clean and refresh everything we decided to add another wire basket to the three already installed, and that one small thing made such a difference to the space. I'll show you a few before and after pics of the space and how much nicer it has become to work in.

The wire baskets BEFORE...a cramped corner wedged between the study door and the back door.

AFTER...a prettier corner with better organisation.

Have to admit that plants make a huge difference to any space. We have over 40 indoor plants throughout the house and by the end of this week there will be three more.
Even adding a plant to sit on top of the indoor vegetable scraps bucket (below) lifts that sad laundry corner into a more welcoming space.

On the other side of the laundry, which is lodged between the back door and the wide kitchen entrance, live the washing machine, dryer, and the laundry sink. The only way I could make more space here was to add a rolling craft caddy and park it in front of the sink, which genuinely made a big difference to storing things I use every day.
Here's the BEFORE...

...and AFTER. 

Not a lot of changes, but more of a reshuffle of a few things due to the extra wire basket in the other corner, and also a declutter of excess cleaning products which I no longer use. The cordless vacuum has now been removed to the rubbish bin as it completely died last month (perfect timing as hubby bought me a wonderful new Miele vacuum for my birthday in February), and I no longer needed two baskets on top of the machine, or to store my extra washing powder there. Adding another plant in that space once again lifts the overall space.

Years ago, I was watching a video by Aunt Ruthie (Sugar Pie Farmhouse) and she was in the laundry, prettying up the space. She showed how she used a pretty china teacup as a scoop for washing powder and ever since then, that's what I have been using. 

Whilst refreshing the laundry I realised there were more ways to 'pretty things up' other than my usual go-to of plants and a tea cup. We use Colour Catchers in our wash because as there's only two of us at home we don't have a lot of washing, so I usually wait until I can fill the machine (all colours and whites) and throw a small square of the colour catcher sheet in with everything. 

I had this beautiful trinket box gifted to me by Wendy many years ago, and thought how pretty it would be to store my little squares of colour catchers! 

I used to just tear off a bit from the Colour Catcher sheet for each load of washing, but last week I cut one Colour Catcher sheet into 24 little squares, and popped them into their new pretty container.

It's so economical too! On the box you are instructed to use one whole sheet for a load of washing, but I assure you just a tiny square is all you need to do the job. 

I still don't have a nice bench to fold washing, and I never will, but that's okay as I can use the dining table or our bed for that task. 

I enjoy all aspects of washing - the sorting, soaking, washing, hanging on the line, taking off the line, and folding everything on our bed or at the dining table. I even enjoy ironing! Do you? 

If you'd like to read a Laundry excerpt from Rhonda's book The Simple Home, she shared it on her blog a few years back and you can find it HERE

What is your laundry like? Have you thought about ways you can freshen the space or make it more efficient to work in?

Increasingly as the year flows on, I am becoming more and more contented with life, with my home and even my limitations. There's really no way to hold back age, and it's only natural that some things become a little more difficult to manage the way we used to. At first I felt frustrated by the 'new' limitations of my body, but as the months go by I am delighting in the slowing of days, and the renewed interests I have in reading, crochet, writing, gardening, HOME - more so than I had when running Elefantz Designs full time. 

I also love to clean and declutter, so one day a week is especially put aside for that purpose. Though the home itself is cleaned and maintained daily, I choose one room or area per week to give extra attention to. Last week was the laundry. 
The week before was all the kitchen appliances - coffee machine, dishwasher filter, microwave, cooktop, removing the oven door glass for a good scrub, and pulling out the fridge to clean behind and under. 
I have four new wire baskets to add to our second pantry later this week (which sits against one wall of my husband's study) and shall be able to store all the canned goods in a more efficient manner, by date and size and content. 
Next week I hope to (finally) make curtains for the kitchen window, plus the small laundry window, and perhaps the small window in the dining area. It all depends on whether I find the right fabric - but I'm not going to buy just any fabric in order to achieve my goal. I must genuinely like the fabric and be sure that I'll be content having it on display in my home for many years to come. Otherwise, I'd be throwing money away if I rush and end up not liking what I get.

Today it is time to tidy up the sewing room, and complete a housewarming cushion for my daughter Kezzie who recently moved to Tasmania with her family and has just found a nice house to rent by the sea. I've used sections of a block from Anni Down's quilt pattern, Gossip in the Garden, and added my own layout and borders in the bright colours my daughter likes. I just know Kezzie will love it, as she does anything I make her. 
The hand quilting is finished now so all I need do is add the backing and fill with a cushion insert.

But first, tidying of the sewing room. 
Soon I plan to make a number of fabric, vintage lace and vintage button packs for sale in my Etsy Shop, plus a few kits for some smaller projects as I am so often asked to supply these items.


The winner of our Oven Mitt Kit Giveaway has been drawn. Congratulations Mary-Louise!
I have emailed you and Xanthe (who sponsored this giveaway prize) so all you need do is reply to that email with your address and she will post you a beautiful oven mitt kit!

In the garden I spent yesterday morning pruning rose bushes and citrus trees as we're only a couple of weeks away from winter. The roses above are my last for a while, but how glorious they are, and their sweet fragrance fills the room. 
Even though it is almost winter, our days are still hot and humid. I am praying hard for a real cooling to arrive soon, the kind of cooling that we all need after a nine-month summer...the kind of cooling that slows you, makes you want to brew hot chocolate, wrap yourself in a pretty cardigan, pull on warm socks, and sup on hearty bowls of minestrone soup with thick slices of freshly baked bread covered in real butter. Yes, that's the winter I long for. 

Final thing for today is what I'm reading. This time it's actually a devotional journal. 
"My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers is a real favourite of mine - oh, how he can speak right into your heart and draw you closer and closer to the Lord! Now I have it in a yearly journal format, with the devotional on one side of the page and room for journaling and reflection in the margin.

It's simply beautiful, the book itself and the words within. 
I purchased it through Amazon Australia here but you can probably get it at most online bookstores or your local Christian book shop. 

What are you reading at the moment?

Okay, best be off and get into that sewing room. It was sorely neglected during my husband's three weeks at home, but I do enjoy tidying up in there and reorganising as a new season approaches, so I am not complaining. 

God bless you and keep you safe in His loving care,

Have you seen the June designs for my "Let's Stitch Again" pattern club? 
Pop over HERE for a look!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

UFO finishes, May homemaking and a storm...

 Well, we thought it had been another failed wet season here in the tropics of North Queensland, but there was a little relief a couple of weeks ago when we got some good rain for a few days, but last night it came down so hard and fast that the yards flooded quickly and all around town streets were going under water. 

One of our pumps wasn't working properly, and hubby went out in the windy torrential storm to dig trenches, empty the pool (which was a sparkling clear blue before the storm, but had now overflowed and was full of yard refuse and mud), pull up the broken pump from the pump well and got it going again (wonderful having a trained mechanical mind as a husband!), then spent hours working on the long pipes which carry the water from the yards to the storm drain in the street. 

The photo below was taken a couple of hours into the storm, looking from our back door towards the pool area, then it just got worse. 

Two trees came down, but they were only about eight feet tall. 

This morning the rain had really settled so with barely any sleep hubby went back out to fix everything and do more maintenance as we're told to expect more storms in the coming days/weeks. He's been back to Bunnings twice already today, and as I write this it is 2.30pm and he's not eaten...he can't eat when there's so much to do. He also went up into the roof because our laundry ceiling (which collapsed during the 2019 floods) is wet again, so that's another thing he's trying to work on. 

I'm cleaning, cooking, washing and drying, and generally having to stay out of his way, and I'm praying hard for him. The upside of all this is that the town dam is full again. It's good to have an upside.

So, let's chat about the good stuff, yeh?

Last time I showed you a UFO project I was just about to begin the hand quilting on. It's completed now and on our bed. Seriously love how it turned out and am really pleased I added cross-hatching around the stitchery. 

It's pretty dark here at the moment so photos aren't the best, but I do love it displayed on the bed. You know when you go in of a night to turn down the covers and you read a Scripture that means so much, and you sense that beautiful peace from God? That's how it is for us each night now. I should have made a Scripture cushion for the bed years ago...but hey, I have lots of Scripture stitcheries completed so I can probably make a cushion for every season. Nice idea. :-)

I was asked in a comment about the thread I use for hand quilting and also the needle. Whenever I hand quilt it is with DMC Perle #12 thread, or if I can get it, Perle #16, which is the Finca Presencia brand. The needle I use is my ordinary size 9 embroidery needle. The lady also asked if I used the 'rocking' method to hand quilt? Not really. Hand quilting to me is just running stitch and I sew one stitch at a time the same as if I were doing running stitch on one of my hand embroideries. 

 On my May reading list is a title I am working through this year, The Simple Home, plus a newbie, A Year Without the Grocery Store.

The Simple Home, by Rhonda Hetzel of the blog Down to Earth, is written for the homemaker as a month-by-month discussion and encouragement. Each month has a theme, and the theme for May is Laundry Love.

I like the quotes she adds to the pages because they make me stop and ponder...

...but mostly I like her content. Rhonda writes as though we're having a conversation and shares much of the simple practicalities of each monthly theme and homemaking in general.

So this month, once things settle, I'm going to get working on my laundry room. It's barely even a room to be honest. With three doorways and two windows, this little space next to the kitchen can be rather challenging to work in...but Rhonda wrote some suggestions which made me rethink my oft-used space and has inspired me to do some planning and re-organising (if possible).

The other book I have not begun yet, but it's on the coffee table where I can pick it up each afternoon tea-break as I enjoy a cuppa and a small sweet treat. I'm sure there will be a lot of useful information to glean.

Another finish already for May is the design I re-stitched last month to make a cover for my new Bible. I shared the pattern as a free gift and you'll find the download link HERE

It was pretty warm here last winter and too hot to spend much time with a rug on my lap, or a quilt top to hand-quilt, so these are two projects I have on the go for coming months and intend to complete. 

This is one of Lucy of Attic 24's free patterns, the Hydrangea blanket. I finished about 1/4 of it last year during our supposedly cooler months, and hope to have it finished by the end of winter (end of August). All the balls of yarn are Stylecraft DK from the UK Wool Warehouse, some which are leftover balls from previous crochet projects, and the rest are balls I purchased during the pandemic in colours I liked. 

I should fess up and tell you I have 'another' crochet blanket pattern by Attic 24 partially made as well, but I decided the colours were too washed out so I folded it up and put it aside. But you never know, I may complete that one day as well.

The other project to complete this winter is my Simple Days quilt! I began last September on the hand quilting but after one block the weather got so hot when spring arrived that I put it aside for this year's cooler days. 

Poor thing, all that stitching and piecing, and then I neglect it. However, you can't lay a quilt across your lap in the tropics unless it's a real winter (which is actually like spring, but much cooler than the rest of the year), and I'm thinking with all this rain and soaked wet earth across most of our state, it may be a cool winter after all. Praying! :-)

Lastly to show you are the new curtains I got for one of the windows in our living/dining room. They are sheer with a lovely botanical design in a muted green. We previously had thick cream cotton curtains but they made the room quite dark in the afternoon and I like more light inside, so these were a great find on the bargain table at Spotlight and have definitely made a difference. 

I will sign off now and leave you with two things. 

Firstly, a recent photo of Cully May, Rafaella and Charlie David, because I've actually had emails asking about them. They are real characters with very individual personalities, but they adore each other and do the craziest things, as you can tell by this photo. It's the best job being their Nana!

And the second thing is a video which may inspire if you're low on cleaning motivation in the kitchen. I have watched this five times in the past 16 months for that every reason, and every time I get this burst of energy that lasts for days and my home gets a great refresh. Plus you will love Niamh's gentle Irish voice...

I hope you all are doing well? Let me know, okay? 

I'm sure we all have days, or even seasons, where our homemaker hearts are weary, fatigued or uninspired. 

I love to hear about your lives and the everyday things you do as you go about your business, so tell me, on days when you're not motivated to clean or tidy or do things around home, what inspires you to get up and moving? For me it is videos like Niamh's, or reading an old Country Living UK magazine (I have a collection from 2009-21) where many pages inspire my homemaking creativity with ideas.

Okay, better sign off and start a pot of nourishing soup because I think that's exactly what my soaking wet and exhausted husband will need for dinner. 

Bless you all so very much,