Saturday, January 7, 2023

A new week, pets and life...


The first week of January proved to be a full and satisfying few days, interspersed with heavy rain, scorching sun, and barometric migraines (which I am managing better this summer).
As the new year plans I had made for a deep refresh, declutter, and rearrangement of our home are not something to rush through, I had a one-day-on and one-day-off strategy to maintain energy, manage the migraines, and also to visit Blossom and the children one day and shop with them for school supplies another day. 
Those days off between deep cleaning still required the steady rhythm of normal routines to continue, but I enjoyed hourly breaks to read, do some hand embroidery, watch an episode of Father Brown or The Larkins on Britbox, and enjoy cups of tea with a sweet treat.

We don't have much storage space in our small home, but with careful consideration (and discipline) I've been able to clear needed space by donating excess items such as sheets, towels, fabric, plastic containers, kitchen  items, decorations, trinkets, clothing, baby toys and old games which have not been played since the children lived at home, picture frames, books and videos, to the local op-shop (charity store). 

We still have ample sheets and towels, fabric, kitchen items etc, but now we have only what we use, with some to spare of course, and a short list of things we'd like to acquire this year, such as a vacuum sealer for storing dehydrated foods, flour and grains. I lost 15kg (about 32 pounds) of flour this past week as it was all infested with Brown Flour Mites - and this is something we face living in the hot, humid, wet tropics. I freeze all my wheat grains and rice for days after purchase, and thank the Lord they are fine, but the flour was a completely different matter. So after disposing of the infested flours, vacuuming and scrubbing the pantry and the containers, then disposing of the vacuum cleaner bag immediately after, I researched for helps with preserving flour in our climate. 

Next day I bought more flours, and after taping bay leaves inside the lids, refilled the clean containers. Apparently these bugs hate bay leaves and this method of prevention really works, but extra protection is to wipe around your pantry shelving using a cloth which has some essential oils on it (pine, eucalyptus or tea tree are recommended) so I'm doing that as well. Perhaps you can understand why we've decided to save for a good vacuum sealer?

Re-organising the lounge/dining room to suit summer, and also adding the leather chair which used to sit in our bedroom unused. We need a new rug, something to save for, as the dog destroyed the last one.

There's no rhyme nor reasoning to decor anymore, we're simply using what we have...definitely eclectic. 

I sit here each morning with my first cuppa to read the Bible and a chapter of my current book, until hubby wakes and we go for our pre-breakfast swim in the pool.

My computer desk has had a good scrub and refresh as well, and a new calendar also brightens this corner of the living room.

The little runner beneath my keyboard (above) was a free pattern I shared in one of my 2021 Homemakers Heart digital magazines and is still available to you as a free download HERE

The bedroom has had a deep clean, but I still need to wash the curtains. In fact all the curtains in the house will be washed and hung out to dry next week as long as we get a few days break from the tropical wet season.

The kitchen will get a thorough scrubbing next week as well, and I have my three favourite aprons ready on the old white cupboard. 

In November I hosted an Apron Swap here on the blog, and despite being so close to Christmas the response was wonderful. All together there were 32 swappers from across the globe, and my partner was fellow Australian, Bev Ashmore. This is the *gorgeous* apron she made me. Such pretty fabric, and look at those ruffles!

The apron I made for Bev was another of the 1929 style I tend to favour, and it definitely was not as fancy as she made me...

...but I made my own bias binding and hand stitched it around the edges, and bless her heart, Bev loved that handmade detail. She's a very kind lady, sews beautifully, and is a sister-in-Christ as well. I felt incredibly blessed when her parcel arrived, and look forward to hosting more swaps with all of you through 2023.

Many of you have emailed to ask about our lovely old cat, Princess Sophie, and how she's recovering after being attacked by a feral black cat in October. If you've been reading here for years you will know that Sophie and I have had our disagreements, due to her desire to usurp me in Mr E's heart, but beneath it all we love each other. Since the attack, Sophie, whom the vet described as the healthiest 12yo cat she's ever seen, recovered physically in record time, but the shock has obviously taken a toll on her mentally. 

Never one to enjoy being inside, she now seeks me out for company and cuddles (quite unlike her) and takes a long sleep each day in her bed behind Mr E's recliner. Apparently, getting a puppy just before the attack has not helped things as older cats don't take to change or new pets easily, and it can even cause them to withdraw...and this on top of the attack really has changed her. 
Harry the pup, now 5 months old, is a true hound and spends all day and night digging, chasing, jumping, destroying the garden (hear my sob?), catching creatures and generally being a whirlwind of endless energy. He's also obsessed with Sophie and will not leave her alone, which she hates, and that's probably another reason she seeks solitude and safety inside. 

It has been decided that Harry is Mr E's buddy, and Sophie is now mine. She's losing her sense of smell and hearing, though this is only just becoming noticeable, and like our old Bob-the-dog a few years before he passed away at age 15, she is becoming a bit vague at times. The vet tells us this is natural aging but accelerated by the shock of the attack and the arrival of the puppy all within two weeks of each other. 

In the front garden our single pumpkin plant has gone bonkers from all the wet season rain, and pretty soon will cover the entire area. It's already growing up the jasmine and ixora bushes.

There's quite a few Kent pumpkins on the vine (also known as Jap pumpkins), which I have mostly hand-pollinated due to the lack of bees in our front yard. The back yard is overrun with bees due to the elder tree so we may plant an elder out front in March/April for next season. 

In the back yard, our elder tree has already produced loads of berries which I've made into syrup or frozen. Currently it is sporting many more flower heads and berries so I'll be busy with elderberries for many months yet. Last year the tree stopped flowering in May, just before our relatively mild winter arrived. 

The rest of the garden is mostly flowers and a few herbs as the vegetable bugs are incredibly destructive here from mid spring to mid autumn, but no matter the season, zinnias flourish and re-seed everywhere all year round. I love their bright bursts of colour! 

Accepting the seasons for what they are is something I have had to learn since moving into our home just over four years ago. We fought the seasons at first because our dream to be self sufficient was strong and we hoped to subdue and tame this quarter acre to become what we desired...a food forest. 

It's easy to watch others who live in different climates, with normal growing seasons, and become envious of their abundance...but we've finally moved past that, and over the next year will be planning out a different garden layout, building higher raised beds, and planting only that which yields a crop we can eat and enjoy (along side plenty of flowers for bees, and the trees for shade). Sadly my husband does not like pumpkin but it grows well here all year round, and he does like the fact that it adds good ground cover out front through the long scorching summer. Blossom, myself and our neighbours, love pumpkin, so it will be a blessing for us to cook with and share around. 

I'm sure this is as much as you want to read of my rambling today, so I better close off and go bake a fresh loaf of bread to have with dinner tonight. I also need to finish making notes on chapter five of our Emilie Barnes book study so I can share that next week with this year's free tea towel pattern, and I'm still working on the rearranging and sorting of my sewing room/office. 

God bless you dear ones, and may the days ahead offer you times of solitude to pray and ponder the year ahead, so you can clearly see which path to follow, and be strong enough to cast off all the unnecessary burdens which to now have weighed you down. Simplify your life, guard your heart, be gentle with yourself, pursue productive paths which add purpose to each day, and lean on Jesus in all things for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. xxx


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Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
Wow! That elder tree looks great in that photo ! I can hear the bees from here !
Your cat and dog in one photo really captured their feelings for one another :)
My Aunt was a fan of tea tree oil. Thanks for the bay leaf tip !
Eclectic is our style also . An office chair for comfort by the dining /handwork table, a laptop here, old sewing machines that have been collected through out the year, and different chairs for different moods :) and bits and pieces that make it feel like a home not a house :)
15 kg of flour gone in one go ! That must have been a shock !
First week of January has flown by ! Feels really satisfying to clear out things no longer needed and make way for all the new positive creative things 2023 will bring !
hugs, take care,

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer, loved your newsy post and will pray about those migraines. One little tip if I may offer it. When you use your bay leaves to deter pests, give them a good scrunch up to release there oils and make them more affective. I also place them on the shelves as well. Hope this helps.
Blessings Gail.

Ondrea said...

It is so sad that your cat had such a bad experience which continues to create emotional upset . My daughter's cat was stressed years ago by roofers and has constant urinary problems as a result which requires ongoing vet visits , surgeries, and medications. At least your pup is completely unaware of such fears and looks quite mischievious. I love the aprons which have both been stitched with great care and love. I don't know where you find the energy to deep clean your home as I found cleaning more thoroughly prior to Christmas exhausting lol. It is very satisfying though. So many things are different in the tropics but you seem to find solutions. Enjoy some quiet time when you can.

Lin said...

Always good to see pictures of your garden Jennifer especially as ours is just a soggy mess at the moment. Although the bulbs are peeping through so spring can not be far away! Love the pumpkin plant. Pumpkin is fine but I do prefer a butternut squash. The small ones are lovely split and baked with a tasty filling.
Your cleaning and tidying always inspires me although the grey days here mean I am more interested in hunkering down with a book or some sewing. Well clearing cobwebs without sunshine to show you where they are is a waste of time, isn't it!
Lin xx

So Much Glory said...

Ooohhh, that pumpkin plant is wonderful! I do love gardens, and mine are always evolving. That's part of the beauty of it. Gardenig is a form of praise and worship for me, and I am so thankful to God for it.
Harry sure has grown up......physically, that is! I love the blur of his wagging tail in the picture.
Personally, though I love dogs, I'm a cat person first. Our littlest and oldest kitty girl is now 17, but she is as saucy and active as the young 'uns. Sophie has certainly had a change of lifestyle. I like that her new lifestyle is safer for her.
I never get tired of reading your blog posts! Blessings!

kallii said...


I have recently started Dry Canning…I saw it on YouTube. I buy flour right at the mill across the country from our house when visiting our daughter. So when we drive I get lots of flour to bring home.

You fill canning jars, then put in oven for a couple hours, take out wipe rims and put on the lids. I have 12 half gallon jars and 8 quarts filled!

Check YouTube!

dewdrop said...

Hello, Jennifer
I love seeing all your garden pictures, as here in northern Minnesota everything is deep under many inches of snow. Sure can understand when you talk about how your climate dictates what can be reasonably grow in the garden. Here the limitation is mainly the short growing season, summer is too short for quite a number of vegetables. Flowers choices depend on them being hardy enough to survive our very cold winters. Even with this, it is still possible to have a very productive and beautiful garden, with a good quantity to freeze or can, for a well stocked pantry and many colorful flowers. It will sure look different from what you put away, that is for sure!

Thank you for the inspiration of scaling back on what is kept in our homes. This is something that is on my schedule for the next months, a good time since the garden is sound asleep. I never cease to be amazed at all the projects you are able to complete out of what appears to be a very limited supply of craft supplies and fabric. Just shows that a large space is really not needed for a person to create pretty projects.

Thank you for all you share and for the lovely patterns I've gotten over the years.
Best wishes,
Diane (from the north woods of Minnesota)

Kim said...

I sure hope my elder trees look that fantastic when spring finally comes around to northern Michigan, USA. They're just babies yet which I had to transplant (so we'd have enough room to pile snow plowed off the driveway), so I'm not sure how they'll be doing by spring. I, too, have been busily rearranging and organizing including moving my crafting area from a corner in our bedroom to a corner in our newly remodled basement. I'm finding all kinds of treasures that have been buried in untidiness. :) Thanks for the reminder to take some time to relax and read and enjoy life during the busyness.

Susan said...

You can never tell me more than I want to know! LOL My last cat was so loved, I've never been able to replace her. She was gone for three weeks once, and came home finally with a hole in her belly skin, which eventually healed, but whatever happened to her changed her personality, too. She also became a more indoor cat, but she was always cuddly and never knew a stranger. I'm glad she's turned to you in her time of need. Animals sense love and safety, I'm sure.

I loved reading of your garden, seeing your changes in the seasonal decorations, and your calendar! Strangely enough, I can look at my bedroom wall and see that same picture. =) I have the prettiest Amaryllis blooming. My son brings me a flower every week. Most of the plants don't last, but the Amaryllis came back. It's an odd colored peach pink on the top leaves, and a white on the bottom ones. I will try to get a picture to send, because I know you'll love it, too.

Rosie said...

The apron you received in the swap is very pretty and the garden is looking great especially with all the nice rain we've had.
I've used Bay leaves in my flour, bread crumbs and with other things for a long while now after reading it on the net. I usually sift my flour before use (usually in sweet baking) to remove the leaves and it doesn't taint the product and have not had a problem with bugs since.
I have also had a vacuum sealer for years and find it can help preserve foods for a very long time and bugs cannot get in. It's also good for freezing food as it eliminates freezer burn.

Unknown said...

Good evening Jenny - you certainly had lots to share with us this time. I have finally got back into my swimming exercise after the renovations done on my local swimming pool. What with, between COVID and the renovation closures, I can now do my gentle exercise again. I am glad you get to have an early swim daily. This week I have been 4 times to the pool and my legs are like jelly again this evening. My much loved 14 year old granddaughter accompanied me today and she enjoyed herself as much as I did.

Maryanne P

Mary-Lou said...

Hi Jennifer what a lovely cheery blog it's coming up to midnight and I am recovering from yet another chest and Asthma attack! On Steroids now today which are kicking in for days! So your news and photos are wonderful! Thank you! You are so organised. I recognizer 2 IKEA cushions!!. We have! My home is not as clutter fee but still Arty and colourful!! With dogs and a sewing machine onmy table in living room. A digital piano in our kitchen!!. I need to clear more stuff out this year!! My main furniture is books++++. Also material wool etc. Yes we have so much to Thank and Praise Our Saviour for. I love your wall hanging of flowers! XX Mary-Lou

Tammy said...

Dearest Jennifer,
It is so lovely to read your post. I'm sorry to hear that Sophie the cat is ageing and changing so much. I have 5 indoor cats and zero dogs now. After my last dog Daisy died about 2 years ago. We decided no more dogs for us. That cats seem to be much easier for our household to care for. Of course now I have 1 cat that seems to be plagued with UTI problems. So back to the vet I will be taking him yet again. I just love the beautiful aprons that you and swap buddy made. ..Well done to both of you ladies. I did not make an apron yet. I still wan't to but am very busy still on cleaning up and out many areas of my home. And the never ending Doctor and pharmacy trips that everyone seems to have constantly anymore. looking forward to spring weather . As we have been having a much colder winter this year.