Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Australia Day Lunch

Yesterday we celebrated Australia Day. We had discussed heading off to the beach or river which is a very popular activity for Australians living near to the coast but in the end we decided to stay home and enjoy a special lunch which gave me another opportunity to do what I love to do... set the table.
We live in the perfect setting for an Australia Day celebration. Surrounded by the colour and beauty of the bush. Even when we choose to dine inside we can look out from our dining/family room and all we can see is green and the occasional pops of colour... red flowers on native flowering shrubs and orange and silver... just a few of the colours of the bark of gum trees which change throughout the seasons. At the moment the green is vibrant. We have had a lot of rain recently so I decided to set up our table inside as more rain was forecast for Australia Day.

I prepared a roast leg of lamb and as it was cooking filling the kitchen with a wonderful aroma I set about setting the table. I used a linen coloured cotton tablecloth and white dinner plates which have a pretty scalloped edge. This set has become our everyday dinner set. It's by Schmidt of Brazil and it has everything you would need - dinner,entree and tea plates, soup, cereal and dessert bowls, platters and serving bowls, gravy boat, even egg cups and a matching tea and coffee service! It's very durable and dishwasher safe which makes my children very happy!

I've recently acquired and fallen in love with Laguiole cutlery which is often discounted on the homeware websites so my collection is growing. I made hessian napkin holders for Christmas but chose not to use them on our Christmas table but with a sprig of grevillea tucked in under the vintage lace trim they were perfect for adding a little touch of Australia to the place setting.
For a centrepiece I used gold candle votives found at the Reject shop and we burned citronella tea light candles to keep the mozzies at bay. I set them out on a cream and gold vintage plate and surrounded them with greenery freshly picked from the garden. You don't need elaborate flower arrangements to make a table special. I love the challenge of using what I have at hand to create beauty in my home. With the mozzies being so bad at the moment we are lighting the candles every evening. The glow of candlelight in my home is something which makes my soul sing and it creates a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. I want to do this all year long!

As for lunch. The lamb being slow cooked was delicious and was served with roast vegetables and a spinach salad. The twins were eager to try their hand at making lamingtons.. an iconic Australian treat which if you have never tried before you really do need to experience. They are simply a sponge cake cut into squares, iced with chocolate icing and covered in coconut. Google a recipe for them, they are simple to make and delicious served with tea or coffee.

 The rain arrived later in the day and came in torrents at one stage. My husband settled down to watch the one day cricket but alas it was short lived as the rain interrupted play and the match was later abandoned. Later in the evening we ended up watching a very interesting programme on SBS called 'Worse Place to be a Pilot'. There is not much worth watching on television these days but this series is an exception. We thoroughly enjoyed it and collectively held our breath as young pilots in need of flying hours landed small planes on tiny runways in the mountains of Indonesia.

The holidays are over. The new school year starts this week. I have twins who are becoming eager readers. I'm looking forward to re-reading all the classics I read to my older children. They have fallen in love with Anne Shirley and I can't wait to introduce them to the Little Women and Jo's Boys!

And then there's Heidi and the Swallows and Amazons - a wealth of characters and life lessons in these wonderful old books!

Hope that you enjoyed reading about how we celebrated Australia Day. We are so thankful for this beautiful country and our home among the gum trees. Will be sharing more soon from our Eight Acres of Eden.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Silver Anniversary Celebration at Christmas

As 2014 came to a close we celebrated a very special occasion - our Silver Wedding Anniversary. I had given much thought to how we should mark 25 years of marriage, perhaps a meal at an exclusive restaurant or a night away at a luxury hotel but tugging at my heart was the idea to plan a celebration dinner that would reflect who we are as a couple and what we value most in life. Hospitality has been such an important part of our life together. Right from the start of our marriage we had opened up our home to others and shared meals with family, friends, neighbours and sometimes total strangers. People from every walk of life, from countries all over the world have gathered around our family meal table, so it just seemed fitting that on this special occasion that we should dine at home with family and friends. We invited two other couples and on a fine, warm evening we sat down outside on our patio around a beautifully set table.

I relished the opportunity to set the table and used two special vintage dinner sets. A silver trimmed Noritake set I had purchased at a garage sale for just $15 and another special set, Royal Albert's Lavender Rose. Ornate silver cutlery, white damask napkins and crystal goblets completed the place settings. I bought two bunches of flowers from Aldi - cream roses and white daisies which I popped into silver jugs with sprigs of greenery.

Planning the menu was done in conjunction with my two assistant chefs, our twin girls who were mad keen to try out recipes from their new cookbooks! We decided to have roast meats and as turkeys were drastically reduced at Aldi after Christmas, we once again enjoyed a succulent turkey dinner. The turkey had been placed in a brine overnight and was so tender. One of the twins prepared a leg of lamb using her secret recipe which was slow roasted. Dishes of potato bake and a spinach, quinoa, orange and feta salad accompanied the roast meats.


The decision as to desserts was made simple. We were at the movies on Boxing Day when an ad came on for Magnum ice creams. It just so happened that they were celebrating 25 years and had brought out a special limited edition salted caramel ice cream with a silver coating in silver packaging. I turned to my daughter and said 'Guess what we are having for dessert now!' At the supermarket I could not find the salted caramel ones even though the label on the shelf indicated they stocked them. Undeterred, we pulled out boxes and found the last 3 packages hiding in the back of the cabinet. They were even on special - meant for us!

 I presented our Anniversary Magnums on an ornate silver cake stand


My 17 year old daughter had just finished refurbishing a vintage dresser for her bedroom. My husband had rescued the dresser from a derelict house which was about to be demolished. The mirror was broken so we turned it into a chalkboard. I had thought of writing up the menu but decided to use it to display photographs of our wedding day. It made the perfect dessert station and gift table! In addition to the Magnum ice creams we also served a fresh fruit salad and chocolate dipped cherries - made entirely by the twins.

Enjoying our silver Magnums on our Silver Anniversary! They even have 25 engraved on the stick. It was such a special evening and I have no regrets about giving myself 'extra work' so soon after Christmas.


This was our Christmas place setting. This time I used gold trimmed vintage plates and Royal Albert Old Country Roses cutlery. I trimmed sprigs of cedar to scatter down the table with pine cones. I made the lavender scented soy candles in crystal glasses to sell at the markets but no one bought them which I didn't mind as they looked beautiful on our table and I am still enjoying them each evening. They have such a long burn time.

This is the area of our patio where we set out our tables for our Christmas and Anniversary dinners. The younger children sat at the rustic farm table I bought from a garage sale for $20. One of the boards really does need replacing but I covered the splintered edge with greenery, freshly picked from the Himalayan cedar that frames the front of our home. It is so tall now, as is the Kashmiri cypress on the other side of our front entrance. It was the sight of those trees that made my heart skip a beat the first time we came to view this property. A house with its own Christmas trees! I knew there and then we would buy it! In the background you can see a glimpse of our vintage tricycle drinks cart. This is something my husband made for our vintage hire business. He is just so creative. I showed him a picture of a champagne cart at a wedding I had seen on pinterest and he said ' I could build that' and he did! We found an old ladies vintage bicycle in a junk yard and with months of welding, building and painting we had ourselves a rather unique drinks cooler! A very talented artist friend painted the sign for the front of the cart after I showed him a vintage inspired sign I had found on pinterest but he didn't need a stencil! Our cart has been to three weddings this spring to three different venues - a botanic gardens, a country hall and a historic homestead. It is booked for several weddings so far this summer and it just works a treat keeping drinks cold for hours.

The other 'prop' that has been to weddings but I get to enjoy at home is our vintage chandelier. I have hung it on the veranda over our table. I waited so long to find an authentic vintage one at the right price and could not bring myself to buy a reproduction with acrylic drops, it had to be real glass! It's a 1940's chandelier I found in a vintage store in Melbourne last December when we traveled down for our son's graduation from RMIT University. He moved out of home last year after securing an excellent position with a software development company. It's not too far from home, just over 2 hours away and he was here for Christmas and our Anniversary dinner.

December was a month of non-stop celebrations! The twins celebrated their 9th birthday and our youngest turned 5 .There was another birthday too - our son turned 15 and on that occasion mum and dad took him out for dinner!

To make serving dinner easier for a larger family we serve the food buffet style and everyone helps themselves. No shortage of platters and serving utensils in this house! For Christmas dessert we kept it simple. My daughter convinced me to buy rather than make a pavlova. We found one that was preservative free and decorated it with fresh fruit.

I set up our tree in the corner of our dining room. Sentiment won me over and I used the same traditional red, green and gold decorations I have collected over the years. I didn't decorate any other rooms such as our formal lounge or the hallway. This is the room where we do most of our living and I wanted to just enjoy the sight of our tree, Nativity scene and other decorations every day during the Christmas season.

Our Stanley stove always gets some Christmas touches. The wreath I made a number of years ago was set out again, together with lamps and candles. I placed some apples and a bundle of cinnamon sticks on a cake stand and that was all that was really needed. In the evening when the candles are glowing it is so homely and beautiful. Three years ago I uploaded a photo of our Stanley stove decorated for Christmas and adorned with greenery to my Pinterest board. It's been repinned over 326 times and even appeared in my own feed!

Alas the time came when I had to take the decorations down and pack them away until next Christmas. I took the opportunity to do a big clean up and with help from my girls we spent a full day cleaning, decluttering and organizing.

This year I have two girls celebrating special birthdays - one will turn 18 in August and the other celebrates her 21st in November! My vintage girl cannot make up her mind whether to go for a 1920's theme or 1950's. She loves both eras. She is madly pinning ideas!

With a home to manage, a small business to run, children to teach and people to care for (international students and backpackers) 2015 looks like being another another busy year for our family so I am not sure how I will find time to write this blog but I am going to give it a go. I have found it's much faster to use my phone to upload the photos then hop on the desktop to arrange them and add in the text. I've managed to do this today for a longer post and fit in a trip to the beach so I am hopeful I can repeat the exercise again soon, providing Blogger cooperates this time and saves my text (this is my 2nd attempt for the text after my first draft of the text disappeared!) I've switched over to a simple template with thoughts of doing a re-design. I want to keep it simple, no fussy backgrounds - just an attractive photographic header and category headings making the blog easier to navigate. My techno savvy son has left home and doesn't have the time to assist me so if any of my blog friends can recommend someone who can do this who doesn't charge a lot I will consider it.

I hope that you have enjoyed catching up with me here today. It's been some time since I posted so will be interesting to see if I receive many comments but I'm still here and so very grateful that I discovered blogs and the friends I have made here are still very dear to me. I pray that your times with family over the holidays and Christmas celebrations were as fulfilling as mine were. These are the days we will look back on when we are older and remember - the family gatherings, the times around our tables, the Christmas mornings with excited younger children and grandchildren. The days we will cherish and long for again which makes me more determined to make those times feel extra special and memorable. I am so grateful to God for being a homemaker and hope to share more about what motivates and inspires me to be a better homemaker during 2015.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Country Kitchen

Today I am sharing some pictures of my country kitchen. I have written about my kitchen before but I have spent some time recently rearranging how things are set out to make it more user friendly for my twin girls who love to bake.

I now am the proud owner of 3 dressers or as you may call them, hutches. The one in my kitchen is the largest and most solid. It holds most of my vintage china with its large spacious cupboards where I store dinner and entree plates, dessert bowls, trios and some dinner sets. As you can see from just peeking inside my cupboards, I have a big collection of English china. The little salt/sugar shaker is the latest addition to my collection. I can't resist anything with roses! Does the china get used you may ask? Absolutely! I have a vintage hire and styling business and the china has graced tables at bridal and baby showers, a Jane Austen themed Regency ball for a 21st birthday party and of course weddings!  It has been on trips to country halls, private homes and 4 1/2 star hotels. Setting beautiful tables is a passion of mine and it's lovely to have something which can earn us some additional income from time to time. It also means I have more than ample hospitality supplies. No need to use paper plates or plastic forks. And of course should you ever visit me at home you can choose a teacup (over 200 to choose from!) and we will enjoy tea and fellowship together.

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This dresser has drawers with inbuilt compartments perfect for my cutlery sets. This is the cutlery I use on special occasions and hire out for wedding receptions. I have silver plated place settings and a beautiful Royal Albert setting with gold plated accents that has been used for bridal tables. I recently purchased a set of Laguiole cutlery with pearl coloured handles which teams perfectly with my vintage plates as most of them have cream backgrounds. I just love their floral embellishments and scalloped edges.

I recently moved my larger glass jars of ingredients and baking essentials down from my cooks shelf to the dresser. Previously, my girls were forever asking me to get down the jars for them. Now they can easily access them and it saves me a lot of time! They are only 8 but have mastered a number of our favourite recipes. They are completely independent and I only help with removing larger trays from the oven for reasons of safety. Here's a few recent cakes they baked. They substituted mulberries for plums in this Annabel Langbein recipe. It is one of my favourite cakes. The other is 'Dorothy's Rhubarb cake'.. one of the first recipes I tried from a blog. The blogger shared her neighbour's recipe. I am sure Dorothy never realized her rhubarb cake recipe would become a family favourite in a home in Australia! There's a link to it on my 'slice of heaven' pinterest board if you want to try it. I love my cook books almost as much as I love my china and moved most of them up to my cook's shelf from the dresser. I love having everything accessible for cooking and it saves me so much time not having to rummage around in cupboards or drawers.

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My kitchen is by no means perfect. It has some dream elements such as an Ilve stove but it has limited bench space, a too small, narrow pantry and there is nowhere to house our large side by side fridge freezer which sits in the corner of our dining room for now. I am happy to live and work with the current arrangement. I have never forgotten our first missions trip and our visit to a slum area in Jakarta, Indonesia many years ago where the open sewer ran past the front of the ramshackle house and seeing the tiny stove in the corner of a room with its dirt floor where the wife cooked meals for her family and guests. The size of her kitchen and it's lack of facilities made no difference to the quality of her cooking or the warmth of her hospitality. It was a real lesson about learning to be content and I thought of my own dissatisfaction with the dated but spacious kitchen in our first home with its dark timber laminate cupboards and orange bench tops. What was I really complaining about!

And so I accept and work around my kitchen's limitations and thank the Lord for giving me such a lovely kitchen in my country home and providing what we needed for it at the right time at the right price. It's where I bake bread and make meals for my family, where my children have been taught and still are learning to cook and it's the first room our guests step into. Most of them gravitate to it anyway and it's homely furnishings and the aroma it produces sometimes makes them want to stay longer .. a lunch invitation often extends to dinner in this home and it's something I have learned to expect and prepare for.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing the pictures of my country kitchen. As Jane Austen famously wrote 'There is nothing like staying home for real comfort' and as for me.... my kitchen provides much of that comfort!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A View From a Table

Today I have found a pocket of time on a glorious spring morning to share with you the view from my table. I purposefully chose this seat at the dining table to be mine as it faces the double glass doors and corner window which looks out over the front of our property. We are completely surrounded by trees. We have gum trees of course but there are also palms and the front of our home is framed by a Himalayan cedar and a Kashmiri cypress with its draping fronds creating a waterfall of green. These are evergreens so all year round we are surrounded with green.

From the corner window I can also look out on our side patio. Last year we planted a climbing rose to cover a metal arch and it has run rampant. It is covered in crimson pink blooms at the moment which truly give meaning to the description 'pops of colour'.

Every time I sit down at the table I am reminded of God's provision. I often say to myself 'Look at where we live'. When discontent creeps in after looking at images on pinterest or blogs of neat manicured lawns or a perfectly tended cottage garden I look out at my forest garden and God gives me a wow moment.

At my table surrounded by this beauty I enjoy my morning coffee at breakfast with my husband. Always around 6am or earlier in summer. We have always been earlier risers and we accomplish more as a result of this habit. At this table of course we dine together as a family. I also teach my children at this table. I have never had a separate school room. Who would want to be away from this view during the day when the resident honeyeater hops along the pergola ? Nature study comes naturally when you live here!

Sometimes we snuggle up on the couch to read, especially in winter but I do love sitting at the table to read to my children. We have just finished the Millie Keith Books. These are treasured books in my home. I read them to my older children and I am now reliving her adventures with my twins. The 4 year old boy loves Millie too. She seems more like a friend than a fictional character. Yesterday, we began Anne of Green Gables. She talks more than we do was the comment of the twin who is the family chatterbox!
It's also where I have my quiet time though it is hardly a quiet time when there are children playing outside making as much noise as the lorikeets flying over through the tree tops! I love to make a pot of tea and sit down with my Bible. The verse that jumped out from the page on this occasion was Psalm 61 verse 5... 'For you, O Lord have heard my vows. You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.' A beautiful reminder of the Godly heritage I discovered when we delved into our family history for a project.

I hope you have enjoyed sharing the view from my table. If you do not have a view you can still create something lovely to look at when you sit at your table. Some flowers or greenery in a vase. A pretty cup to sip tea from. A stack of books that inspire you. Right here on my table are some of the things that sustain me and bring beauty into my life. What sustains you and reminds you of God's provision? Surround yourself with these things and see the difference it makes!

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Special Visitor

This has to be a brief post but I thought my friends and visitors to my blog from overseas would enjoy seeing the close up shot of this beautiful young koala who climbed down from a very tall gum tree into a much smaller tree. So low he came that we were able to make eye contact! Isn't he just the most beautiful creature?  He was not at all alarmed by our presence and when I stepped forward to take this shot with my phone he actually leaned forward and tried to grab the leather cord attached to the case. We joked that he wanted to take a selfie! It was all very exciting for the younger children who have seen koalas high up in the boughs of trees before but never this close. I think we spent about an hour in his company.

Enccounters like these help me realize what a beautiful country our family are blessed to live in with its unique wildlife. Not many people get to meet a koala in the wild though so we are extra blessed at Eight Acres of Eden. Of course whenever we have people from other countries come out to our home we never see a koala! It's always the way. A few years ago a group of young Canadians came out for the day. They went right into the bush straining their necks in the hope of seeing a grey bulge in the tree tops. No koalas obliged but would you believe the very next day a koala put in an appearance at the bottom of the drive!

Spring is just weeks again and September is the month when we expect to see and hear the koalas again.
Hope you have enjoyed seeing the picture of our koala visitor. I do have a close up shot from late summer of a red belly black snake but it's not on my phone and I'm mobile blogging. I hear the collective sigh of relief across the blogosphere!
Until next time.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Splendid Book for Girls


I could not resist this up-cycled journal that was created from a vintage book. The title and the cover with its old fashioned values just seemed to be perfect for my homemaker's journal. Inside the journal are some of the original pages from the book including an excerpt from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The creator of the up-cycled journal included a note in the insert in the front cover that he found in the Splendid Book for Girls. It was a Christmas gift to 'Elaine from mummy and daddy' from 1956. The plain note book pages are divided into sections to use for whatever you want to journal.

This is what I used mine for....

1. Life Verses

The Scriptures and passages of the Bible that are so special to me. Some of my favorites are Deuteronomy 8 v 6 -10, Psalm 145, Ephesians 2 8 - 10, Psalm 144 v 12, Isaiah 54 v 13 and the verse which should be in every Christian homemaker's journal Proverbs 14 v 1. A wise woman builds her home... oh how I desire to be a wise woman!

2. Priorities

I like to remind myself often of what my priorities are. It is all too easy when our days are busy to jumble them up. No 1 is my relationship with the Lord but if I am truthful there are many days when my schedule does not reflect this. Number 2 is family - my husband and children. I have written down here a thought of mine 'My husband should have the best of me, not the leftovers at the end of each day.'

Following relationships I have used several more pages to outline some thoughts on homes. It is my homemaker's journal after all.

One of my homemaking goals is
'To create somewhere lovely that will delight the soul of others and refresh them, pointing them to the One who gave us everything.'

I recently came across a quote by Sally Clarkson which had to go into my journal.
She says 'I must bring the reality of God and His life into my home. My home must be a true and vibrant picture of the living God.'
This truly is my heart's desire.

There are more quotes from Godly women who have inspired me that I am still adding to my journal.  I may share my favourite quote from Elisabeth Elliot in a post soon. I call it my homemaker's wake-up call.

3. Recipes

Only the best and most used recipes go into my journal. They include a rhubarb cake which is my husband's favourite dessert. Chocolate mocha pudding and lemon meringue pie which are the most requested desserts in this home are also there as is a peach cobbler recipe which is so splattered with batter in the cook book it is barely legible. Have been making this same cobbler for 20 plus years so it is a keeper! An excellent recipe for a loaf I came across recently that I make in my breadmaker is also referred to often. It's so handy having the journal sitting there on my kitchen dresser. I am still writing out the recipes and I will soon begin creating an address section.

 I am not adverse to technology. I have a smartphone which I am using to create this post and a new Samsung Note 8 that I just love because it fits in my handbag and comes with a stylus pen. I used it on Sunday to write sermon notes and it was just fabulous. You can create recipes and upload photos with the Note but I don't think I will use that function as the handwritten recipes in my journal hold so much more appeal plus there is no risk of deletion and old fashioned journals don't have screens that crack if dropped onto kitchen tiles! I am currently paranoid about dropping my new tablet as I wait for the cover I ordered for it to arrive. Interestingly, I chose a brown leather cover that had the look one reviewer said that ' reminded them of an old fashioned journal'. That was me sold for that particular cover!

I am all for keeping a homemaking journal simple. I don't write out schedules for housework or meal plans. I honestly think it is quite possible to over-complicate homemaking and housework with organizational materials and manuals. I just wanted one place to write down everything I need to reference or be reminded of on a regular basis. I can now dispose of all those separate address and note books that were cluttering up my home office.  It really is my 'splendid' book!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ordinary Days

It's been some time since I posted. Life has been busy... too busy to write blog posts. Today is no exception. I have to drive my daughter to the airport. She is off to New Zealand. She will be meeting up with a Canadian friend. She is going snowboarding in Queenstown and visiting her grandparents in the North Island. She loves to travel.
For two weeks we will have just 5 children at home. Our son moved out of home in March. He has a fantastic position with an IT company in a city about 2 and a half hours from here. I miss hearing his Christian music blasting down our hall! That is probably the most stark reminder that he doesn't live here anymore... my hallway is so quiet! We speak on the phone often. In fact we probably have more conversations than when he lived just down the hallway!

So much more I could share but this home sweet home and my family require my attention. So this post is ordinary... no creative makeover projects, no inspirational pieces, no useful homemaking or homeschooling advice.... isn't there a tonne of that already out there on the net? Just one photo to share of a corner of my home.  My tea tray which sits on my huge kitchen dresser... I might show you more of that one day. I now have three dressers and one buffet which are overflowing with china and tableware. I waited over 20 years to see my dream of having a kitchen dresser and lots of pretty tea cups to sip tea from. Now I have dressers and teacups in abundance! They make my home seem so homely. 

And so to my photo. I have quite a selection of boutique teas. They are certified organic and blended here in Australia by a naturopath. I sell them at the markets together with the cake stands that I make from vintage china plates. English Breakfast is my default tea but I also adore French Earl Grey. For something more delicate I sip white rose and goji. The tea in the sachet envelope is saskatoon berry brought home for me by my daughter when she visited Canada. My other teenage daughter often makes a pot of tea late in the afternoon. We sit together at the dining table in our family room and share pins and discuss vintage decorating and table setting ideas. She is my vintage girl. The one who loves to dress smart and wear dresses and sometimes hats. She gets stopped on the street by strangers.... both men and women who tell her how lovely she looks! 

So time to post not knowing if this will even appear in your reading list. The synopsis of the blogs I read when I do have time have all disappeared from my reading list apart from the top one. So not expecting many comments. .. especially for an 'ordinary' blog post. But needed to let you know I am still here. Still working out what I should share about at this blog. If I just share about our ordinary days would you still read? Okay, I have to go now. Leaving for the airport shortly! Hope you are enjoying your ordinary days!


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