Thursday, January 12, 2023

January tea towel post and book study...


I've kept this year's free tea towel design quite simple, because I'd like to think it reflects the gentle simplicity of our domestic lives throughout 2023. 
As the theme on the blog this year is 'a new year of gentle domesticity', it seems prudent that I should be encouraging both myself and all of you, to seek after gentler expressions of homemaking, amidst the regular rhythms and routines of keeping house. 
There's a number of words I could have chosen to embellish this year's tea towel, but memories of sitting at nana's table enjoying the very simple and delicious meals she would bake each day brought joy to my heart, so 'baking' was what I decided on.

Memories of relaxed evenings watching The Waltons, where every scene of Grandma and Olivia working side by side preparing food, or the family gathered around the table laughing and sharing the fruits of their labour, always gave me cause to sigh and smile, because the love of eating a meal together, of simply "being" together, was another reminder of sitting at our own small kitchen table when I was young, and the love and laughter and gratitude which filled the air.

Gingham and redwork compliment each other beautifully, and genuinely do remind me of the old days, so when I found this turquoise checked tea towel tucked away in my linen cupboard, the idea for this year's free pattern came quickly to mind. I hope you make this for yourself, and maybe a few others as gifts throughout the year - they'd be so easy and inexpensive to post. 

Or, imagine wrapping your newly stitched tea towel around a batch of freshly baked scones or muffins, or maybe even a loaf of bread, to gift a neighbour? That would be lovely (and delicious) indeed. I find the simplest gifts quite often mean the most. 

Use the link below to download the pattern

As promised last week, today we shall continue the Emilie Barnes book study with chapter five of Simple Secrets to a Beautiful Home. 

This chapter is titled 'The Secret of the Kitchen' and it seems that Emilie's love for this productive and aromatic room began early in life through the inspiration of her father, a chef who was raised in the kitchen of a Viennese palace. After moving to America he opened many top restaurants, receiving standing ovations from movie stars of the era. 

Unlike Emilie, most of us were not raised by chefs, so our culinary skills are more attuned to the simple home kitchen, and creating day by day family pleasing menus - but fortunately for us, we are the women Emilie is writing to in this book. Let's begin...

Emilie asks, "What makes a memorable meal? The recipe for such a time involves four simple ingredients."

The Setting (ideas):
Fold napkins inside the water glasses or tuck them into napkin rings / garnish the dinner plate with a sprig of parsley / place a lemon wedge in each glass of water / use a floral sheet as your tablecloth / make napkins from an old sheet / add a jar of fresh flowers to the table centre or for seasonal displays use apples, grapes, pine cones, candles, twinkling lights - whatever is on hand.

The Food (ideas):
Use in-season fruits and vegetables / think about the aroma of food cooking as guests gather at the table - curries, garlic, fresh bread, coffee, chili, spices, roasts, fruit pies / make family favourites regularly to create memories.

The Fellowship (ideas):
Turn off the television / put phones away / be prepared to share about your day and be prepared to listen to what others want to share / use this time for family and friendships to grow.

A Peaceful Ambience (ideas):
"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife." Proverbs 17:1 / plan dinner times thoughtfully so that all the components of the meal are ready to serve at the same time / avoid weighty or emotional conversations over meals / invite God to be present at each meal and give thanks.

The Year Round Kitchen

Not just a seasonal cook, Emilie also embraces seasonal decor in her kitchen and surrounds, using windowsills, countertops and the dining area to infuse elements of spring, summer, autumn and winter to her home. 
"...tuning in to the turning of the seasons will help make your kitchen more warming and fulfilling." (page 79)
Flowers in season are displayed growing in window boxes and pretty pots in the warmer months, or cut and placed in a vase or jar all through the year. Bowls are filled with pumpkins, squash and gourds in autumn, and through summer they overflow with fruits and vegetables. 
With regards to meals, Emilie chooses fresh ingredients in their season, delighting (for example) in serving the first spring produce on a white lace tablecloth beside fresh blooms - a celebration of taste and colour. 
"Setting a pretty breakfast table or food bar with placemats sends out good signals." (page 79)
Many summer meals are served outdoors, especially those cooked on the barbecue. Lots of big green salads with assorted vegetables and garlic dressing gave Emilie great delight and a desire to pray for long hot summers. She suggests shopping at a Farmer's Market in spring and summer for home-sourced goods such as jam, breads, honey and nuts if you don't make or have your own.
In the cooler months keep your kitchen warm and smelling wonderful with simmering soups, slow cooker meals and casseroles. 

Hope you enjoyed the overview on chapter five. Next month we will glean from the next chapter, The Secret of Stillness. 

If you're new here, last year we read through the first four chapters (there are nine in all) and I gave some highlights here for those who did not have a copy of the book. You can read through those first four chapter studies HERE

Love to hear your own thoughts and ideas on creating a welcoming kitchen. I'm still slowly working on mine, and find that some of her ideas won't work in such a small space with minimal countertop area, but that doesn't mean I can't take the seeds of what Emilie did in her home and bring to life some beauty of my own with what means I have on hand. Creativity is such a unique thing for every women, and that's fairly obvious when you spend time in someone else's home. 
I wonder how we'd arrange or decorate our kitchen and dining areas if we took some time to really ponder the things we like, the style which best suits our taste and budget, and considered what matters and what doesn't? Lately I'm thinking more and more about what I don't like, which is very helpful with decluttering, because when I know that, it's much easier to imagine a room/s makeover for the future.
For now, it's small inexpensive steps for my home, and I don't mind at all because in most things these days I enjoy taking my time before making decisions (what a change from a few years back). 

Have a lovely end of week, dear ones, and just for fun, why don't we all set the table tonight, light some candles, play some favourite music in the background, and 'welcome' home our loved ones. If you've got some flowers pop them in a jug or vase, or ask your neighbour for a few blooms if she has them. Bring out your napkins, best glasses and dinner plates, and bake a lovely dessert if you have time. Turn off the telly and don't answer texts or scroll social media - in fact put your mobile devices in another room. Give your loved ones some undivided attention...who knows, you may find this becomes a delightful new weekly rhythm to home life. 

I'm going to bake a lemon delicious pudding, but not sure what will be the main course as yet - have to check the fridge first and see what needs using up. Even the simplest of meals become special when served with beauty. Emilie taught me that. 

Oh, and if you're after a very simple way to make cloth napkins from old sheets, visit Jes at her blog Strangers and Pilgrims HERE where she gives some very easy instructions. Jes has so many wonderful homemaking ideas and examples that you might find yourself trying a few different things. 


Don't miss out on any Elefantz news or free patterns. 
Subscribe to my blog posts HERE and receive them direct to your email inbox.  

Or sign up HERE for my free newsletter which often has extra benefits, freebies & tutorials!


Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
Decorating with things that brings one joy without a doubt makes it easier to sort and clear out :)
Open plan kitchen, dining and living area are filled with all those eclectic things collected over the years, hobbies, objects with family history and those modern conveniences that can't be missed.
In the evenings I enjoy a teapot and a beautiful mug next to me as we watch tv, making it easier to enjoy the daily fluid intake.
Thanks for all the describing all those images today :)
hugs, take care,

Lin said...

Thank you Jennifer. I read this last year straight after the last chapter - couldnt resist! A timely reminder to read it again as she has such good ideas. xx

Emma - Barradale Farm said...

Your simple teatowel design is lovely, I love the contrast of the red writing on the blue gingham.

I was born in the 80's so the Waltons was a little before my time and it was never shown on our rural TV channel. However, our family has recently watched it from beginning to end and we loved it, especially the earliest episodes. I think there is something so encouraging about watching a family live simply and acting with love with kindness to eachother and others. There are a lot of good lessons tucked throughout it which I feel is missing from much of modern TV shows.

I hope you had a lovely dinner tonight!


Linda said...

Thank you for the lovely tea towel pattern. All your stitcheries are so pleasant.

My husband bought the entire set of The Waltons DVDs just before Christmas. We have been watching one episode (sometimes two) almost every evening. What I like most about this series is the patience and kindness the parents show to the children, gently instructing, teaching, and training them. I know it is "just a TV show" but there are many lessons we can glean to bring a more peaceful atmosphere to our own home. Although very plain and not at all elegant,I think the show fits very well with the theme of gentle domesticity.

Julie said...

Another wonderful post dear Jennifer. Thank you for the tea towel pattern - how perfect! I love gingham too & it so reminds me of pastimes. I am going to try baking zuchini bread today as I have many courgettes ready in my garden. I think if its a success I should do one for each of my daughter in laws & wrap it in a teatowel just like your one. How special that would be.
I love it when I see you pop up on my blog roll dear Jen ... I always want to make a cuppa & sit down to your delightful posts. Many thanks my friend x0x0

Martha N said...

Thank you for the lovely dishtowel design. I'm wondering if you'd consider making that alphabet available in your etsy shop. It really speaks to me!
Thanks for sharing your beautiful designs with us as well as your home and your heart.
Blessings, Martha

Mary-Lou said...

Thanks Jennifer lovely ideas! Yes it does make such a difference. Love Mary-Lou

Lorrie said...

Lovely ideas from Emilie. The kitchen seems to be a place where people gather in our home. We have space for a small table for two plus a small settee/loveseat, and it's great to be able to chat with guests while I'm finishing up a meal. I love fresh flowers on the table and plants on the windowsills, and candles in the winter time. So much living happens in a kitchen!

Annabel said...

Many kitchens now have no table and chairs. They are elsewhere, if at all. When we moved into this farmhouse I was very thrilled with a big kitchen, big old stove and tons of cupboards. Also a walk in pantry, my dream! Dad always had his own cup and saucer and once we moved in he visited for a cup of tea. I meant to make the tea and move into the dining area and sit down with him. But he went and got a chair and put it in the middle of my kitchen and asked why didnt I have a kitchen table!!? He was not moving either. The happened over a few weeks. I can take a hint so I remembered that amongst really old stuff in the shed up the hill I thought was a table. This shed was full of old carpet and piled up high junk and spiders and probably a snake or two. I was not keen on going into the room where all this stuff was but I crept in and it was a table, upside down, filthy... and the right size for the kitchen to the extend that Im sure it had been in the kitchen originally. Andy helped me. The first day I just sprayed it to kill spiders. Then we hauled it out and clean up began. It was a big job. I decided to leave it rustic (just clean) though and we got it into the kitchen. I found two old chairs as well. I put flowers on top. When Dad arrived he came in the door and was like !!!! it was a ta dah!! moment! He nodded with great approval. That table became our talking and tea drinking table for the next two years of precious time together. I put table cloths on it sometimes. One time Dad said oh you have a new tablecloth... which I had made that week. So this is a long answer to the question how to make a kitchen welcoming... a table and chairs to pull up. xxx

Allie said...

Oh thank you dearest for the tea towel design - love it! Girl, I'm in despair over my kitchen, lol. The table is always covered with mom's stuff - the counters are always full - but you know, we have folks over and they don't seem to mind at all. We just make room. And they always say yes to hot chocolate, lol! At least mom's treadmill is out of there, and there's more room for chairs. I think folks are much more comfortable in a home where you're not overly fussy - I remember going to my sister-in-law's, she whisked my tea cup away before I was half finished, rinsed it and put it in the dishwasher. Um, no. Dishes can wait when there's company to keep! In terribly clean homes, I always feel like an intruder. My aim is comfort - and hospitality. Good post!

Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
In the kitchen every cupboard and counter are being transformed with warmth and beauty :)
hugs, take care,

Gill said...

A lovely post and a delightful embroidery pattern, thank you! That colourway is a favourite of mine.
I would love to have space for a kitchen table and chair, but I make do with a short countertop and a shelf in front of the window as a place to put my tea and coffee tins and a few flowers or herbs. It makes such a difference to me. I hang fairy lights on my crockery shelves over the sink, in the darker months, which are a cheerful addition too.
Have you read Through the Kitchen Window by Susan Hill and Angela Bennett? It is only short and well worth hunting out in a second hand shop or online.

Elaine said...

Dear Jennifer, I've missed visiting with you - not that your newsletter isn't in my email, but the last year has been quite stressful requiring us to move from our long time home in the country to an apartment in quite a different place.
Tonight I read your mail and followed the link here.
I have several of Emilie's book but not the one you are going through - or so I thought!
I was considering purchasing a copy from Amazon and when I read to the bottom of the page, I noted that it was formerly titled The Spirit of Loveliness. I still have my 90's copy!
I'm so excited. It's just what I need to read as I am still working to settle into this new situation.
Thank you for your kind and gentle words of encouragement through the years.
Elaine in Maryland, USA

Susan said...

Thank you for the simple tea towel. To be honest, I've never thought of a kitchen as unwelcoming, but haven't done anything to make one more welcoming, either. The kitchen was Paul's domain, except for making jelly and Christmas cookies, but it always smelled wonderful when he was cooking in it, and I loved being there, or sitting at the counter watching him. Unless he was boiling a turkey carcass. Ugh. Hate that smell, hate that soup. LOL Otherwise, loved his kitchen. Now, it's just a place to fix food and go away somewhere else to eat it. Mine is small and cramped ... but it does have a working dishwasher since Christmas! =) Yours always looks warm and welcoming in your blog posts.