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!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Girl in the Corner


photo credit: lilongd via photopin cc

She stood in the corner of the room watching, waiting for the ballet class to finish. Nearby, a group of mothers who were all well acquainted chatted amicably among themselves. They didn't seem to notice the girl in the corner and seemed oblivious to her presence but I did. I was in the same position. I traveled from the country into the town to bring my little girls to their classical ballet class. I didn't know the other mothers and I didn't know the girl who stood in the corner. She fascinated me. She dressed conservatively and wore no make up. I wondered whether she was a member of the local group that re-enacted the Victorian heritage of the town - quite a number dressed in Victorian costume as a matter of rule. I knew I should really go over and introduce myself but with an older boy in tow and a wriggly baby on my hip who would soon need a feed, as soon as the girls had curtsied to their teacher I raced over grabbed their hands and quickly ushered them out of the hall to strap them into their car seats for the 40 minute journey home.

I regretted only smiling at and not speaking to the girl in the corner. The time was drawing near when we would be leaving our farm and moving across the Tasman. Then one week somehow she overcame her shyness and spoke to me. I knew it had been a courageous step for her as she asked quietly and politely whether my daughter would like to come over and visit. Her daughter needed a friend but I sensed that she was also asking on her own behalf and reaching out to me. I took up the invitation. She lived just around the corner and I let out a gasp when I saw her home. A stately Victorian town house with a walled garden. 'Wow, you live here?' She smiled. I had walked past it often and wondered who was fortunate enough to live in such a historic property. Now I was being given a tour of its interior. As our girls played together we chatted over a cup of tea. I told her about my life as a farmer's wife and she told me what it was like to be the custodian of such a grand old home. Caring for it took a lot of her time. I noticed the books on her shelves. Classics and the works of great men of the Christian faith such as Spurgeon and Tozer. A fellow believer, a quiet, and unassuming lady. A gentle soul. She was lovely company and how I wished I had made the effort to get to know her sooner. I saw the sadness in her eyes when I told her we were soon leaving to start a new life in Australia.

Perhaps you also know a girl in the corner. Maybe she attends your church, your playgroup or your ladies ministry meeting. She stays in the background. She sits alone or alongside the older ladies who have invited her to join them but are now engaged in conversation with their neighbour. You may even be that girl in the corner. You are ignored. You look around the room and you feel you don't fit in. I tend to think of myself as fairly outgoing but I know what it is like to be the girl in the corner. Even at church. The one place where the welcome should not be confined to a greeting at the door. On the occasions when I became the girl in the corner I can't really explain why. It's happened at gatherings both large and small. I once attended a swimming carnival run by a homeschool support group that I had not attended before. I barely knew anyone  but I had so much in common with everyone there. I never expected to be ignored, to sit in the stands and occasionally have other women look up from their conversations and stare across at me but no one came and introduced themselves. Needless to say, I never returned to that group.

On other occasions I know many of the people in the room but it seems they are all caught up in conversations with the group they are with so I sit quietly at my table and sip on my tea and wait for the meeting to begin. There is lots of talk about sisterhood but barely a mention of motherhood yet most of the women in the room are mothers or hope to be mothers one day. Why don't they teach about being a wife and a mother? What about homemaking? I once had the opportunity to speak at a large gathering for women. Just a five minute slot in a packed programme. I chose to speak on the table and why it was the most important piece of furniture in my home. I shared about family and hospitality. That was over 10 years ago but recently a woman came up to me and told me that she had never forgotten what I shared on the table.

Maybe that is why the girl in the corner has come along. She's hoping to be able to glean some wisdom from an older woman. She wants to be a better mother. She dearly wants to hear others share their experiences of everyday life in the home - the place where she knows God has called her to be. And perhaps there might be someone, who like herself is also looking for a friend, someone she can confide in. Not a small group or a Bible study held at an impractical time that she has to travel to. Just one caring person who will call in to see her from time to time. Who will have time to stay for a coffee and some conversation. The next time she ventures out to a larger gathering her new friend will look out for her, she will introduce her to others. She is no longer the girl in the corner. You see she knew all along her value and worth to God. She didn't need to hear another message on that. What she really needed to know and experience was that others valued her as her Saviour did - that they noticed her, spoke to her more than a greeting or a passing 'how are you?' as they dash past to see the friend they really want to catch up with.

Dear friends, can I encourage you to look out for the girl in the corner. Especially, when you attend church or gatherings of women or even your homeschool support meeting. Scan the room. There will be a girl in the corner. She might be a young mother or an older lady. You might say but our church has small groups. She should join one, that is where connections are made and friendships are formed and yes that is true but not every person can get along to a small group. Distance to travel could be an issue or finances. Maybe she can't afford the petrol or doesn't enjoy driving at night. I experienced a road rage incidence once on the way to a woman's ministry night. I feared for my life as the car which had been speeding came up behind me flashing his lights, sounding his horn and sitting on my bumper as I drove at the speed limit. For a long time I avoided attending meetings held at night. Perhaps the small groups are held at an inconvenient time during the day. Or maybe the groups are overly age segregated which is one of the issues I face as a woman in her 40's. Too old for most of the small groups for women and families and too young for others, leaving me with very few options. I have young adults, teenagers, young children and a pre-schooler. I have much to offer younger mothers but few opportunities to minister to them.

Be open to the prompting of the Lord. He will place people across your path or maybe across your street who need to know that someone is genuinely interested in them. Who will smile, make them feel truly welcome and take the time to talk to them and invite them to come and sit with them. It may lead to a sweet friendship, an opportunity to minister or it may be the only time you meet them but they won't forget you because they no longer felt alone or awkward in the situation they found themselves in. I will continue to look out for the girl in the corner and I hope you will too.

P.S She might be visiting your blog.





Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whole Family Ministry

Today I am sharing the story of how we became involved in a ministry that has a special place in my heart. I have longed for a ministry that every member of my family could be involved with from the youngest to the oldest, where hospitality and the opening up of our home would play a pivotal role. A ministry that would not separate parents from children or take individual members out of the home for long periods. The Lord heard my prayers and after saying to Him ' Lord, we are available, please use us to reach out to people beyond the walls of our home and church' He answered in the most incredible way, fulfilling the desire of one daughter to be a missionary to China by bringing China to our doorstep.

It has been an exciting first year since the initial conversation with the wife of the Pastor of a church we had attended for a number of years before moving to a smaller church closer to home. How her eyes lighted up when I explained that my daughter had a passion for China and was learning Mandarin and she told me of a wonderful couple she had met the evening before who had established a ministry to Chinese students in our city.

Before long we had attended our first Chinese festival and were introduced to some of the students and the partners in the ministry. It became apparent that to be truly involved we needed to move back to our first church and give up the benefits of being involved in a smaller fellowship of believers.
Although we are now in a much bigger  church we feel closely connected because of our involvement in this ministry. We have been able to befriend many of the students and welcome them into our home. My husband is a mechanic by trade and he has been able to assist a number of the students by repairing their cars and helping those who needed to purchase new ones. We became aware of the number of young people from Taiwan and South Korea who were here on working holidays and by helping out just one girl we were able to befriend many others in the same group. Some we have befriended on a more permanent basis and have been able to keep in touch with and others we met only once or twice.  But it became apparent that they all loved being befriended by a family and being invited into a home. One day I received a text from one of the backpackers we had met just once. He wanted to know if he and his brother could come out and visit us again on the weekend. Of course we said yes and they turned up smiling and were delighted to see our children again. They played soccer in our backyard and jumped on the trampoline... for hours! We drove them to a lovely part of our valley for a short bush walk and invited them to stay for dinner as I could see they really did not want to leave! It was the last time we would see them as they would be traveling to Tasmania and New Zealand but I know they were impacted by the time they spent with our family.

 
 
There is so much more I could share about this incredible ministry and the harvest it is reaping but time does not allow. It is such an honour to play a part in it and our life as a family has been blessed in so many unexpected ways. The day one of our sweet friends told me that I reminded her of her mother who she was missing very much and after we had visited her on her birthday and made her a cake and presented her with flowers she told us it was one of the best birthdays in her life! I was astounded. Really.. a chocolate cake made by my children and a bunch of supermarket flowers could bring someone so much joy? Sometimes the simple things say so much. I am so grateful that the Lord prompted me to go and visit her in her temporary abode taking with us most of our younger children. We met a lot more young people from Asia that day as we sat with them and my husband manned the barbecue so they could chat. 

These are just some of the stories from our whole family ministry and there will be more to come. The academic year has just begun and the students are arriving to commence their studies. Already this year we have helped out one young man with car troubles. He was a committed Christian and I sensed very grateful for the help and the opportunity to spend time with our family getting to know us. It is true that God does set the solitary in families and He needs more families who are willing to open up their homes to others, especially those who are on their own or in an unfamiliar country and missing their families.  I am grateful that we have the time and have not over committed ourselves or our children to segregated activities away from the home. The freedom to say 'When can you come out? We are home most evenings' is a wonderful thing.
Are you involved in any whole family ministry? I'd love to hear about the opportunities that exist for families to come together to share their homes and their lives with others!

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