Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Slowing the mind and thoughts...


These quieter days have given me a physical refreshment and mental soothing which I cannot describe adequately in mortal words. 

Letting go of the weights which previously held me down, many weights which I'd lain upon myself, and others which I'd not realised until recently could be let go, has allowed me to breathe slowly again, and opened the eyes of my understanding to pursue many wonderful and overlooked activities right here at home. 

There's a new rhythm to my weeks, a renewed sense of purpose, accomplishment and satisfaction - and all to do with home. Whether it be ironing garments straight off the clothesline, polishing the wooden bed frame, tending to my sour dough starter, cleaning away dust from under the bed, or slowly stirring delicious lemon curd until it thickens and coats the wooden spoon - everything brings a deepening sense of gratitude to my soul and I feel great delight giving attention to each task.

And then there are the moments of quiet reflection, gentle music playing softly in the background; brewing cups of delicious French Earl Grey tea and slicing pieces of date loaf for an afternoon repast whilst reading old magazines I've saved; slowly enjoying a book about womanhood, femininity and poise; or being delighted in a childhood novel which I always meant to read but never did. 

Just as the process of making sour dough requires patience, so these days of late have taken on that quality too. I feed the starter each morning and watch the fermentation process as bubbles grow and expand throughout the day and on through the night. Good things need not be rushed, but given time...

Making use of what I have on hand is how meals are being prepared now, even the treats. Instead of desiring what's not available, or heading off in the car to buy one or two ingredients, I just use what I have and be creative with it. This keeps me home, and allows me to use the abundance of creativity usually reserved for stitchery design in a fresh way. Though I mostly cook without recipes anyhow, now its about forgoing the purchase of what I do not have in the kitchen or pantry, but substituting with what is right before me. 

A little of the sour dough starter became the basis for blueberry and lemon muffins the other day, and as I made eighteen I was able to freeze a dozen for the future.

This slower, grateful and deeply calming way of living is not the way of the crowd, and that's what I like about the quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder (in the first photo), for she encourages us to step away from the crowd, to walk to the beat of our own drum, to seek out quiet times and think, ponder.

And pray.  Not quick prayers, though there are times for that, but slow, thoughtful, gracious, thankful, honest prayers to Our Father.

Become acquainted with your thoughts; turn off the television, turn off your phone and take a break from social media. Sit alone in your comfy chair with a cup of tea or your absolute favourite beverage (make it special), light a candle, play gentle music in the background, watch nature coming alive outside your window...be quiet and let your thoughts arrange themselves without the interruption of others or media.

If you're a believer, let the still small voice of God reach you in that quietness. Set yourself apart from the distractions, the rush, the to-do list...be fully at peace in your own skin, in your own home, in your own thoughts. 

May the God of all glory be right beside you today, dear friends, and show you how to create your own moments of peace and beauty and thoughtfulness in the weeks ahead.

Bless you,

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A tribute pattern plus the final postcard...


What a promise, yes?! Sealed as His very own. You know all through the Bible God tells us how He will shelter His own, protect His own, deliver His own, provide for His own, sanctify His own...save His own.

"(He) set His seal of ownership on us, and put His spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:22)

What a wonderful promise to hold dear to, my friends. 

I decided to display this postcard as something other than a small bound quilt which could be posted. Instead, it has been finished as a pretty pincushion because I think it is a lovely alternate display for our own use, as well as for gifting.

Just out of interest, how are you displaying the postcards? Use the link below to download the pattern.

DOWNLOAD Postcards From Heaven week 6 pattern

It's been a lovely week so far, and today the sting of the sun is not so severe which makes my new seedlings very happy. Perhaps autumn is not so far away? Come May we just might be able to turn the air conditioner off at last - and oh how I love the months without it, when we can leave the windows open and the doors flung wide. That to me is bliss to the soul after a very long hot summer.

I find myself more often in the kitchen (is that possible?) preparing ahead for our meals, whilst also making and baking as surprise gifts for Blossom and the children. Her girls love my quiche so I tend to make one every week for them, the bonus being it uses up some of our egg abundance. And speaking of egg, our Penny-Pen continues to lay enormous eggs which make me think "ouch" when I take them from the nesting box.
She's always laying eggs that weigh between 80-90g, but just the other day she laid a whopper 100g beauty!  The brown eggs from Bernadette and Amy were dwarfed by this monster.

Blossom's hubby, Ross, loves eggs, especially the way Blossom poaches them, so I sent it home to him along with a few more of Penny-Pen's larger than average contributions. 

I was also able to use up more eggs yesterday by baking a loaf of gluten free bread for Bloss, along with gluten free honey cakes and a gluten free apple cinnamon tea cake. I find gluten free cake/bread recipes use a lot more eggs than those made with regular wheat flour, so when my fridge is overflowing with a bounty of goodness from our hens I have some good GF recipes to work with. 

Also in the kitchen the past few days I've made chicken bone broth from the carcass of the roast chicken we had at the family dinner earlier in the week. It was simmered for 24 hours in the crockpot and produced three litres.

I was able to use some of the broth in a lentil, spinach and chicken curry, which was delicious served with brown rice yesterday.

I also roasted pumpkin with garlic, which I later blitzed in the blender with some more of the bone broth, a can of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of curry paste and the juice of half a lemon. It becomes the most delicious soup and will be my lunch for the rest of the week with sour dough toast and a sprinkling of fresh coriander leaves.

Hubby loves my salmon patties so I also made up a big batch of them, served with fresh avocado slices, fresh coleslaw and pickled beetroot slices. A big squeeze of whole egg mayo and lemon juice and my man had a smile a mile wide. There was enough for two meals so we have leftovers for another meal.

Lunches lately (for me) have been thin toasted slices of sour dough with lashing of avocado mixed with lemon juice and seasonings. This is my favourite avocado season of the year! 

Most of the year we only get the Hass avos, but in the autumn through to late winter it's Shepherd season and they are simply delicious. Harder to peel away the skin (when ripe) than a Hass, but the flavour and texture is supreme. Our fruit bowl always abounds with avocadoes (and passionfruit too at the moment) and I even make hubby a delicious chocolate mousse with them.

I meant to mention this the other day, but forgot. As I've written previously, we were vegan for a while and then introduced meat back in to our diet around August last year. I felt the difference and my migraines were becoming extreme again so I assumed it was the meat. Turned out I have quite a few food triggers and over these past few months have been eliminating them one by one (sadly, they were all favourite foods) to the point that now I rarely get a migraine - usually only if I inadvertently eat a trigger food, or if there's low cloud cover and an unavoidable barometric migraine erupts. 

For my husband, during this same period of time, he was suffering through additional digestive issues (he already had a digestive health issue) which we had attributed to the re-introduction of meat. But we were wrong. 
For my beloved, it was all the beans and legumes which triggered his horrendous digestive problems  (because I still included lots of them in our every day diet - even more than when we were vegan). 
Once we eliminated all of them, his digestive health improved again. He eats a little meat now, but mostly loves bread, an assortment of vegetables, bananas, salads and rice - it's made a world of difference. His body simply cannot tolerate beans, peas or legumes and we're so relieved to have found this out.

So we won't return to a vegan diet, but enjoy small amounts of meat with lots of fresh veggies, fruit, eggs, sour dough breads and rice as our main sustenance. We don't eat dairy so that won't change, in fact we've switched from almond milk to oat milk and even that has been beneficial. 

The world was saddened last week at the passing of Prince Phillip. He's been beside the Queen all my life, and I have admired them both always. 
However, as much as I have studied the life of Her Majesty and grown to love her with immense respect, praying the Lord keeps her on the throne for many more years, I never thought to study the life of her beloved husband in the same way. 
Blossom and I wept for Queen Elizabeth when the news broke last week, and have prayed more intentionally for her than ever before. 

My own roots lie in England and Scotland, my husband's in Ireland (and Italy). Blossom's husband is Greek/Cypriot (Prince Phillip was Greek) - so the grandchildren are a wonderful mix of us all. In 2012 darling Blossom, aged just 18, travelled to England alone to spend time with a homeschool friend, who's family welcomed her with open arms and took her to some of the most beautiful places around the English countryside, leaving memories that will stay with her forever. So we do love old England and the fact that Australia is still part of the British Commonwealth.

Just a small thing, but after Prince Phillip died, I was reminded of the cushion I made a number of years ago, "Not Quite the Union Jack". I gave it that name because I used pastel colours instead of the traditional red, white and blue. It was an expression of my English convict roots, as my ggggg-grandfather arrived here as a convict in 1788.

Perhaps you'd like to make it?
I think I'll make it again in traditional colours.

Enjoy this free pattern and even if you don't make it for yourself, do you have an English friend?

Use the link below to access the pattern..

Well dear friends, that's it from me today. I'll leave you with a photo of the new Zinnia seedlings I have been planting out and around the garden. Last year they captured my gardener heart so this year I'm planting them again in a wider variety of colours. Flowers are a true joy to gardeners, don't you agree?

God bless your lovely kind hearts, and I pray the days ahead bring good news, happy gatherings, and simple joys in abundance.

PS: If you missed the news, I opened a homemaking page on Instagram. Want to know why? It's in THIS blog post.
You'll find me HERE or look for @homelifewithjennifer

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Why are you mopping so fast?


I love this quote; it resonates deep within my heart, becoming yet another confirmation that my desire and delight for homemaking, matters far more than I will ever realise this side of heaven. 

With each passing week since drawing back from full time designing, home's light has shone that touch brighter; my steps no longer rush to and fro in order to achieve a never ending list of chores and deadlines.

I've not shared this before, though my dear Blossom knows because soon after it happened I rang to tell her, so profound a moment was it! - but a few months back when I was madly trying to mop the tiled floors through our home, pushing the mop back and forth at a rate of knots and audibly groaning with annoyance the entire time (I used to hate mopping), the Lord broke through my aggrieved mood and asked very softly, "Why are you mopping so fast?"

Truly, it was like a bolt of lightning, so immediate did He catch my attention and cause me to stop right where I was, unable to answer. Because I did not have an answer to give. 

Why was I mopping so fast? 

A natural tendency, all my life, has been to fill every moment with something to do. I'm not sure if I ever just sat and watched television or a movie, unless at a theatre. In my memory there was always something in my lap, something for my hands to do; knitting, stitching, folding, ironing...even preparing vegetables balancing a chopping board on my knees while I rocked the baby in the bouncer with my foot (which I would not do now because I am renowned for cutting myself and the family watch me like a hawk if I pick up a knife so I tend to chop when they're not around, though Rafaella is quick to notice the Band-Aids on  my fingers and lectures me with "Nana, you got to be careful").

Many of you have asked over the years, "How do you get so much done?" and that's probably the answer. I'm just always doing something. 

I was doing Family Day Care in my home back in the 80's and here's one funny story for you to show how this tendency to stay busy has always been in me. I was pregnant with baby number four (two oldest children were in school, and I had a 2 yo at home with me) and I cared for three day care children Monday-Friday. They ranged in age from 12 months to 3 years old. 

One Friday evening in April 1985, after all the parents had picked up their kids, and my own children had been bathed and fed and were settling down with stories before bedtime, I had a little niggle in my tummy. The baby wasn't due for three more weeks so I ignored it, and after the children fell asleep I got to work folding washing, doing the ironing, and getting a head start on breakfast prep for the next day. Just before 11pm my waters broke and after an anxious drive to the hospital, my little girl was born at 12.20am - my shortest labour and the only one where my water broke. 

Sunday morning I arrived home with the baby, and Monday morning I greeted all my day care parents at the door with a newborn in my arms. And you know, even though they were shocked, it all seemed so normal to me and I got on with life that same way for the next 35 years.

As an empty nester I worked on Elefantz Designs and the busy life rolled on. When we decided we were getting on enough in years that we had to buy a house fairly quickly I just worked harder to save for the deposit. And after that goal was realised late in 2018, my mind was fixed on getting the mortgage paid off fast because I was already 59 and the bank would only give us a short mortgage.

My Nana was always busy and I grew up with her as my homemaker example so I suppose it's no surprise that I was never lazy in keeping house, but she'd more than likely have chided me about adding a self-run business on top of everything else. For Nana, running a home was her employment, and whilst busy at it, she never rushed. Things were done methodically, calmly, always in tune with the rhythm of her day to day life. It was a joy to watch her go about her tasks, just as it was a joy to her to have those tasks in her very modest little flat. She appreciated home and made it her delight to fill it with love, cleanliness, good simple food, and the best hugs anyone ever gave.

So that's a little background. Now to that afternoon of brisk mopping.

When I stopped to consider what God had asked me, and told Blossom, and prayed for understanding, I got a very clear picture of what needed to change. Or should I say, how "I" needed to change. 

Being settled in your mind, calm in your spirit, relaxed in your manner, unhurried in your tasks, gentle in your attitude and happy in your home - that's an ideal for those of us who love being homemakers. But to achieve an ideal you need to act on that desire, and correct your course, in order to bring those wonderful results to pass. 

That is what God was really saying to me. "Jennifer, you hurry everything so you can get to the next task, so you can cross things off your to-do list and feel accomplished. But then tomorrow you will repeat the same pattern and over time you have come to realise that you're not very content, calm or happy - you just get a lot done and don't reap much joy."

So what did I do with this epiphany, or "loving correction"?

I have never mopped fast since that day. I even bought a steam mop to make the task more enjoyable, which it is. But that's just a small thing, really. In the big picture I have turned my life around and given my love for home a fresh dose of JOY - joy that bubbles over from within each and every day. 

Elefantz Designs is now the sideline, homemaking is the headliner. And my, oh, my, how I do LOVE the ever widening realm it brings to life! I actually get dismayed at having to attend to the business because I'd rather be wiping down the inside of the fridge, cleaning the bathroom or mopping the floors. And even as I write this it sounds quite bizarre, yet it is the truth! I feel pure delight within our home, tending it with unabashed love, and each day offering gratitude to our Father in heaven for his gentle question, a question which turned my life over until it was right-side up, the way it always should be.

I wish I could let you into my head and heart right now so you could genuinely feel what I am sharing today. I call it a miracle, because I have always loved homemaking and thought I was living that out with integrity and care...but now I see much of that was simply 'doing' to achieve satisfaction for a job well done, even to receive admiration from my loved ones. 

In such a short time, I have become more content than I can remember. As though I've found my place at last and it's not about who will see what I have done (hardly anyone) but Who sees my heart attitude and Who helped to expand my view of the high calling this wonderful role of homemaker truly is. 

Tell me, are you mopping too fast?

The photos above were taken yesterday when I decided to make an Apple and Passionfruit Crumble. Our passionfruit vine was literally dripping with fruit so I needed to use a lot of them up. This is the best crumble ever, but it's the first time I made it with fresh passionfruit instead of the usual canned. So that we can continue to enjoy this after the harvest is over I have been freezing passionfruit pulp in ice cube trays.

It's almost sundown on Sunday, and as we had roast lamb, vegetables and gravy for lunch (we've started having a Sunday roast each weekend like when I was a child with Nana) I'm just about to brew a cuppa and butter some currant scones for our supper. There's still some of the homemade plum & cinnamon jam left and it tastes delicious on scones so I'll sign off now and go bless my hubby.

No matter what your life holds, or how many responsibilities you have, try to mop slowly...whether that be with a real mop or with tasks in general. Stop to smell the roses, my friend. You'll never regret it...


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A special treat plus another postcard...


How lovely it was to have my husband home from work for four days during the Passover/Resurrection holiday. He caught up on many things around the garden and also pulled down the smaller shed out back, something he'd planned to do when we moved here more than two years ago. 

We spent time with Blossom, Ross and the girls; ate simply; went for drives along the beach with decaf oat-milk iced-lattes as a treat; watched some documentaries and wonderful sermons; discovered more calming music to play in the background as we went about the daily tasks inside; transported a huge load of garden waste and the old shed pieces to the local tip; pruned many of our larger trees and put the branches through the wood chipper; and generally pottered around doing what needed to be done. 

Hubby relocated my beautiful potted rose from in front of the bedroom window to out back where it now sits under the flourishing Poinciana tree. We could admire it through the bedroom window the first year, but then the Syzygium bushes which we'd planted in front of the window as a privacy screen grew so large over the past twelve months that they completely covered the window. 

As this is almost mid-autumn (not that you'd know it by the ghastly heat right now) I decided to prune it right back for its winter rest and add fertiliser to the soil, but left two last buds to open first. That night it rained and by next morning one of the buds had begun to open. Don't you just love raindrops on roses?

I think this beautiful, almost blue-pink colour is becoming a favourite in the garden as I can see it in the hibiscus tree by the front door, the newly invigorated geraniums which did not like the summer, and the abundant cosmos blooms which have come alive with much vigour after summer as well.

Our garden has many little sections now, and as time goes by more will be created. I showed you the newly fenced raised beds under the pepper tree a couple of weeks ago, they are just to the left of our back door. I planted them out a few days later with many assorted herbs, kale and flowers - and next week I'll add more greens once my seeds arrive. Things are beginning to thrive now.

(see the small shed at the back left of the photo? That's the one hubby pulled down this weekend)

Today I thought I'd show you another little section of the garden, which is on the other side of the back door, next to the olive tree.

The two small raised planters were made by my beloved last autumn from recycled wooden pallets. In last winter's growing season they gave us an abundant supply of capsicums and dwarf beans for many months, but this season I've changed things up as we're not growing capsicums anymore (discovered they were one of my migraine triggers), and we'll grow pole beans in the garden instead.

Here's what grows in this small little space now - quite a lot! I've never grown elderflower before but really wanted to try for its medicinal properties and also to make cordial one day. I have spring onions (scallions) growing in three areas of the garden now because we use them every day, and chives are scattered around in other places too. The cosmos brings the bees, as do the seaside daisies, and the lemongrass leaves help keep mosquitoes at bay when you break a few leaves each morning as well as smelling lovely floating in the oil burner. The olive tree may not produce any fruit in our climate, but did you know you can make a very healthy tea from the leaves? More about that another day.

Little by little we are creating a series of smaller garden areas throughout the front and back yards. This makes them easier for me to manage as my dear man is rarely home in daylight hours much of the week; he does all the big stuff for me on Sundays, bless him!

I decided to do some baking on Monday and freeze quite a bit of it for unexpected guests, or days when we're busy with other things but still want to enjoy a sweet treat. Banana Parkinson was made twice actually - some for Blossom (she and the girls love it) and some for us; then currant scones because we all love them so much and you know, scones taste like 'home' to me as Nana would make them every Sunday afternoon for our tea. Perhaps that's why I bake them so often. 

I don't usually egg wash the tops of scones but as I had a little egg and milk mixture left over, I did this time, and they came out lovely and golden - of course our hen's eggs have brilliant orange yolks so I should not have been surprised. 

Now about that special treat mentioned in my post title. Quite a few years ago I did a week long series of posts about TEA. It was a huge hit with everyone and as I simply love my afternoon cuppa time, and the tea parties with Blossom and the girls when they visit, plus relaxing morning teas with my friend Rosie, I decided to do another TEA series later this month when the Postcards are finished. 

I'm enjoying doing more research and gathering fresh ideas at the moment, with a cuppa of course.

As well as the few lovely books you can see I have a large basket of articles, recipes and quotes to sift through as well because there's a number of tea related things within.

Actually this basket holds an abundance of various homemaking resources I've torn from lots of very old home-hearted magazines which were collected over a dozen or more years, and shall be helpful in writing and compiling future issues of the The Homemakers Heart ezines. 

I'm also working on a new pattern for the Week of Tea. Here's a tiny peek...

I hope you're excited about Tea Week too! It's such a universal beverage and enjoyed in many different ways - black tea, green tea, herbals - with so many different flavours, varieties and health benefits, depending on your choice.

This week's postcard actually became a mini quilt. One of the very first verses which resonated within my heart when I became a practicing Christian in July 1991 was Jeremiah 29:11...and I think it's a favourite for many of you as well. 

I said 'practicing' Christian, so let me explain. Nana believed in God and was raised Baptist. She had a large floral painted tin just inside the bedroom door filled with hundreds of Bible promises, each one rolled like a little scroll, and before I went off to school each day she'd have me pull one out and read it. I was to take this in to my heart and believe God means everything He says and all His promises are true.

So I never stopped believing in God and as a young mother of 18 began taking my baby boy to church playgroups so I could feel closer to Him. My life once I'd left home held minimal Christian values and as the years passed by and more babies arrived I drifted further away. I did not stop believing, but I wasn't living what I knew to be true. In fact there was great darkness, violence and fear in my life and the only thing that kept me going day after day was pulling the covers close each night and praying the Lord's prayer in quiet desperation. 

As a divorced single mother, I met Mr E in 1991. He asked me out and that first date was a Sunday night service at the church he attended with his brother and that first night I discovered Jesus, not the baby in a crib I'd always known of, but the Saviour who would turn my life over and change me from the inside out. 

Over the following weeks I would see visions of Scripture verses, they looked like a telegram print-out, appear often before my eyes, and I'd run to the Bible to see what the verse said. Every time it was a promise and the very first one was Jeremiah 29:11. 

Five months later Mr E and I were married in that church (sadly, many of the congregation did not approve because I am seven years older than him) and by May 1994 another two babies had arrived to fill my arms. 

Life was not a bed of roses as three of my older children had been taken away by their father and I was not to see them again for many, many years...but through it ALL, God stood with me, held me up, caught my tears, gave me hope, and filled my heart anew each day with joy. 

I haven't shared this part of my story before and I may never again. Why? Because every one of us has a story of loss, grief, trial and tribulation. There is a lot more to my story of sorrow and rejection, and losses which still impact me today because they have never been restored, but there is a bigger story of HOPE which triumphs over it all.

Those hard experiences are not easy to talk about, and to be honest, the rest is very private...but I think most of you have deep griefs in your heart, sorrows which are hard to bear day after day. The only way I have managed to stay the course of this life, this plan the Father has always had for me, is by clinging to His Word, falling daily into the arms of Jesus, and taking my eyes off myself to see how I can encourage others. For when we take our eyes off our own circumstances, it's far easier to accept that there is much in this world which hurts individuals and families, but looking out from within, we just might be able to impart a little love and kindness to others - as Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 

I had no intention of sharing this much with you today, but the Holy Spirit had other ideas and I've learned to let Him have His way. Perhaps you needed to hear it?

Use the link below to download this week's postcard and let the Father speak into your heart as you stitch.

DOWNLOAD the week 5 "Postcards From Heaven" pattern.

Bless your dear, dear, hearts my friends!

May you walk upright in life, eyes ahead, shoulders back, and with hope in your heart always.



Other links in this post -
The Homemakers Heart free digital magazine (two issues available currently) HERE
Scone Recipe HERE