Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Family Memory Box

I just love the scene in a book or movie where the leading character climbs into the attic and discovers an rusty biscuit tin or spies a wooden chest tucked into a corner. Her curiosity is aroused and she lifts the lid to discover a pile of old letters, photographs and cards. She starts to read them and finds they were love letters and correspondence from her grandfather to her grandmother during the war. She had intended to spend her time in the attic cleaning but this discovery changes all that - she spends the next hour or two reading the letters, captivated by all the memories of the lives of people who were special to her.

One day I would like one of my children or future grandchildren to find such a box. I do not have an attic but I do have a box - it is my family memory box and I have created it for my children and I hope they hold onto it to share with their children one day! It is likely that most of their memories will be digital, they will operate a mouse or touch a screen to bring up images from the past. This box is for the handwritten memories - the birthday cards, the valentines and anniversary cards and the messages of congratulations on the birth of children which were once attached to bouquets of flowers.

I would love to share with you my family memory box - to show you what I have chosen to keep. It is more than just a box of sentimental stuff - it is the story of my life!

Each bundle of cards represents an occasion in my life. There is a precious bundle for each member of my family.

Our wedding cards are tied in white sheer ribbon, the doves on the ring once decorated one of the tiers of my wedding cake. The cake of course is not preserved but my marriage is and the memories of the people who witnessed us declare our vows before God are contained in this bundle of cards.

The bundle of cards tied in red ribbon are cards sent to me from friends on special occasions. I have tied on a tag for the person - on my children's tags I have written out their name and its meaning. There are also cards from my children for Mother's Day and valentines and anniversary wishes from my husband.

And an article on a restaurant where we enjoyed a romantic dinner together during a weekend trip to Armidale in New England - the New England in New South Wales, Australia that is! I only keep menus or leaflets from places that really make an impression on me and the 'Bishops Court' certainly did - we enjoyed lamb served with a mint pea puree - so delectable I can still taste the memory! Everything was just perfect - the meal, the service, the setting and of course just being with my husband - we rarely receive the opportunity to go out, just the two of us, so when we do it is very special and it is nice to go somewhere lovely.

Another lovely place I have fond memories of is Oak Tree Cottage near Blenheim in the South Island of New Zealand. It is quite a number of years ago that I had the pleasure of visiting this homely gift shop in the setting of an early colonial cottage. Everything was for sale from the pottery on the kitchen dresser in the dining room to embroidered towels and linens in the bedrooms and one room was even turned into a Christmas room. I was in heaven and it took some persuasion on the part of my husband to get me to leave so we could continue our trip - especially to drag me out of that Christmas room! I'd love to know if Oak Tree Cottage is still there should we ever go back for a trip to the South Island! I'd love to pay a return visit.

Another reminder of a home is this roll of a wallpaper border. Remember when borders were all the rage in the early 1990's! This border is the one I chose for the living room of our first home. It is by Laura Ashley and it not only brings back memories of my first home but also my favourite clothing and homewares shop. As a teenager I would wander around the Laura Ashley store sighing at all the floaty, feminine dresses that I could not afford and dreaming of one day having a 'Laura Ashley' home! I still have my Laura Ashley white lace napkins - a wedding gift and another touch of England that graced my table when we first began to open up our home and offer hospitality as a married couple! So if you are thinking of putting together a memory box remember to keep swatches of fabrics, wallpapers, even the paint colour you chose when you decorated your home. In years to come they will bring back sweet memories of home!

These Oriental inspired cards are from my daughter's bundle - they will always remind me of her passion for Asia. I now have some paintings to add to her bundle - ones she has completed at her Mandarin class where her teacher who is an artist is also teaching her Chinese brushwork!

The ticket is from the first sports game she attended, a rugby union match in Christchurch. I will not mention the result on the day for the All Blacks lost - she will not remember it, she was just a baby but I do, for I have breastfed babies in some amazing places - on the top of a mountain in New Zealand for instance, but the embankment in a sports stadium packed with rugby supporters was the most unusual! No one noticed but the fans around us who had consumed a beer or two were rather taken with my daughter's bright blue eyes and started singing 'Baby's got blue eyes' at the tops of their voices! It was just hilarious! I have told my daughter this story - remember to do this too - tell your children stories from their childhood.

Do you keep every single drawing your children doodle, paint or crayon? I don't but I have preserved some special artworks in family newsletters sent out at Christmas. This drawing is from 2001. It is actually the classical singer from New Zealand, Hayley Westenra, drawn by my daughter after we attended one of her concerts in Timaru. She wore a blue dress that sparkled so much and bedazzled my little girl that she insisted on adding glitter to her original painting that this drawing is copied from! Reading the family newsletters from years gone by is lots of fun. In this one I was letting friends know about our decision to move to Australia and apparently, my favorite TV show back then was 'Monarch of the Glen'!

There are only a few items in my box from my childhood and they are the only possessions I have to remind me of my grandparents. The book 'Mary's Bible' was given to me on my eighth birthday by my grandfather. He died when I was ten . I loved this true story and have read it to my older children. I'm going to read it to all of my children and hope they read it to their children one day!

The postcards are from 1908 and were written to my grandmother or possibly her sister, they begin 'My Dear Miss Fawcett'. So formal, so polite, so beautiful! I am looking forward to finding out more about the life of my grandmother as we research our family history but these cards give just a little glimpse into her life. From the content I have realized that she was a regular correspondent. One card is a real photograph of people that she obviously knew, as the writer lets her know who is sitting where in the shot which shows a group of people enjoying a picnic in Edwardian England. The picture is fading but the dresses and the detail of the magnificent hats is still evident and in the days before paper cups and our throwaway society, they drank from china cups on the grounds where they 'lunched'.

Oh how I wish I had more letters and postcards to read from days gone by!
It is why I am keeping my box of memories and written correspondence is something to treasure in an age when hand written letters are becoming a fading memory replaced by electronic communications and social networking sites. I will admit Facebook is a useful tool for finding old friends. I had lost touch with my penfriend in Germany when she moved cities but she found me on Facebook. But when we were young people, this is how we kept in touch!

She may be surprised to know that I kept the letters and photographs she sent to me. We have met on three occasions, my first overseas trip was to visit her in the beautiful city of Heidelberg.

I only open up my Family Memory Box once in a while but I always enjoy reliving each moment in time. I will be tying up another little bundle of cards soon but for now they still decorate my window in the family room. By the way, my little man is still smiling! In fact he just loves to smile, laugh and communicate with me - that will be a memory that I will always want to hold onto; the cards and the hospital bracelets will go into the box but the smiles go straight to the heart!

The bon bon is the one I created for his first Christmas. I do not have the time to stitch elaborate cross stitch samplers these days but the bon bon is an expression of me and how I love to craft at Christmas time and make lovely things for my family. I'm hoping this one stays intact as a special memory of our family Christmas in 2009.

If you don't have a Family Memory Box and if you do not have the time or the inclination to scrapbook, I hope this post inspires you to consider creating a memory box. Just remember to choose a big strong box to hold all those precious memories. I found my box at Aldi for just $10! The lid is going back on for now but one day in the future perhaps a son or daughter will lift the lid and discover not just bundles of cards and letters tied up with ribbon but rather relationships, love, memories, treasured times of family life and know how much they were loved and cherished - for the real treasure is the person, not the possession.

With Love and Joy,


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Loving The Library!

We are just loving the library at the moment, for our local library has new books and what a great selection - were they thinking of me when they ordered these books? I had to borrow all these titles as soon as I set eyes upon them. Perhaps there is one here you might want to check out!

For all you Aussie homeschool mums or if your children attend school and have to do a project on Australian pioneer life this is a fabulous resource.

Lost is published by the National Library of Australia. Based on a true story, it features the amazing tale of the survival of three children lost in the Australian bush in the 1860's. Beautiful illustrations by the original artist accompany this account by Stephanie Owen Reader. At the close of each chapter is an informative account of different aspects of life in the 1860's from a child's perspective.

We read this book aloud, a chapter each day and discussed the topic presented such as 'Kookaburras and Cooees' Entertainment in the 1860's' and 'Ants in the Pants and Packhorses' Toys in the 1860's'. This book would be a great resource to use for a project. After we had read the chapter on housing, I had my son commence a lapbook. This is the front cover which features a collage of a bush hut constructed from twigs and bark.

For rainy days and if you are searching for simple craft projects for the younger members of the family 'What Shall We Do Today?' by Catherine Woram is worth a browse. Projects for each season of the year are presented with colour photographs and clear instructions. My favourites were the hessian garden tote bag and the felt stars which feature on the front cover.

For all the sewers and Jane Austen fans here is a beautiful book by Jennifer Forest that will have you sighing and reaching for your sewing basket. It features some simply gorgeous crafts from the Regency era that can be replicated today. There are pin cushions and purses, a muff and even a bonnet. Some of the projects are definitely for the more accomplished sewer (not me!) but the linen pillowcases trimmed with ribbon and lace are tempting me to dust off my sewing machine. Even if you do not sew but love Jane Austen, this book will be worth just having on the coffee table to browse through - there are quotes from her novels relating to each craft, stunning photographs and illustrations and of course clear instructions and patterns for the various projects (18 in total).

And finally, for the gardeners who are looking to grow something a little different. My new special interest is water gardens and we have recently started to grow both ornamental and edible water plants which are just flourishing in our climate - taros, water parsley and water chestnuts. We have been searching for a good book on what to plant in our pond but most books on water gardens have a very limited selection on what to and what not to plant. Then I found this book at the library 'Edible Water Gardens' Growing Water Plants for food and profit' by Nick Romanowski. It is the most comprehensive, most informative book on water plants - so many are edible and stacked with nutrients. We will be looking out for some of the plants he suggests and expect to refer to this book often, as we educate ourselves on this topic but alas it has to be returned to the library next week. Looks like we will be buying this book for our own library.

When it comes to being informed, entertained and educated e books, kindles, dare I say it, blogs and websites are all very well but real books whether purchased from the bookstore or borrowed from the library are something I love to have around my home, lining the shelves, filling the baskets and decorating my coffee table. I for one cannot imagine a world without books and a trip to the library is still more exciting (and better for your health) than sitting at a computer waiting for a download! Especially when they have new books!

With Love and Joy

Thursday, February 4, 2010


'When you smile, it lights up your face and the lives of others'

Today's encouragement comes to you courtesy of a 6 week old baby boy who thought you deserved a smile - so, go ahead, pass it on, smile at the next person you see today!

With Love and Joy,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Battle Boy Series 'Brilliant Books for Boys!

At last, I have found books for emerging readers that do not feature ponies, fairies or princesses! It seems that most of the books designed for younger readers are written with girls in mind and boys who often face more challenges with literacy have been neglected. I do not understand why authors have to use ridiculous or rude titles to entice boys to read and this is reflected in the range of books lining the junior fiction section of shelves at the bookstore - there are not too many titles that appeal to me or to my son and the only 'reading' books he tends to check out at the local library are Tin Tin, (so politically incorrect, I know!) Asterix and Star Wars.

And then, we discovered Battle Boy! Brilliant books for a 'battle boy' like mine who loves to play with plastic soldiers, build lego castles and make his own bow and arrows from elastic cord, twigs and poly pipe! The author of the Battle Boy Series is Charlie Carter and I suspect he has a passion for military history, as each book takes 11 year old Napoleon Augustus Smythe back in time, landing him in the thick of the action of famous battles and military exploits. He is recruited by Miss Perdu at the local library who offers him intriguing missions - to spy on the past, as a Human Data Collecting Device (a HD-CD) with the opportunity to meet heroes of history and solve mysteries such as ' Who shot down the Red Baron?' There is not a Snoopy in sight! Napoleon is issued with special futuristic equipment such as his 'Simulskin' and a 'Battle Watch' which allow him to travel back in time, protecting him and enabling him to complete his operation.

Battle Boy is a combination of science fiction, an action packed adventure and a history lesson - the details are not missing, Charlie Carter weaves in the people, the places, the dates. 'Red Devil Down' features illustrations of planes and labeled diagrams of weapons. There are also illustrations of the special survival gear issued to Napoleon, breaking up the text. This feature of the books held my son's interest, ensuring that these books were not tossed aside after a few pages.

The books are short, just eight to twelve chapters and certainly aimed at younger and emerging readers - they also make a great read aloud book, the adventure begins on the very first page and words which need special emphasis are presented in bold bringing the sounds of the battlefield to life! They will certainly appeal to boys but my twelve year old daughter joined us when I read 'Red Devil Down' and enjoyed the story - I also wanted her to benefit from the history lesson and educate myself too. The further along our homeschool journey we travel, the more I am convinced that history is a subject that must not be neglected, in fact I believe it needs to be given more attention. I am very grateful to authors such as Charlie Carter who are reinventing the history lesson in exciting and relevant ways for a new generation who need good books to entice them away from the computer screen.

This Battle Boy is hoping for more books in the series to be published soon - I gather they are in the pipeline from the hints in the first book 'Open Fire' (about Sir Francis Drake) as Napoleon is asked if he would like to meet Gengis Khan or Julius Caesar and informed that the list is very long. I'm hoping that Napoleon's namesake is also featured in a future book as we will be delving into the English/French wars to find out more about the man who this plaque from a country church is dedicated to. Click on the image to read.

I have recently discovered this man is on my family tree, thanks to my teenage daughter's desire to trace her family history. We have found famous writers, military heroes, early settlers and colonists of New England - famous families and connections to countries I never knew about.
I will share more about how we are studying history at home and learning so much about the past by delving into our own family heritage. If you homeschool and have not thought of studying history by researching your own family tree - give it a go, encourage your children to start a project. You may be amazed at just what they find out and how much they learn about the past in the process.

It is time to think beyond the text book for history lessons and I will share with you in my next post a wonderful resource I am using this term to teach my children about life in the Australian bush in the 1860's.

With Love and Joy,


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