Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another Giveaway!

I recently celebrated my 100th post with a giveaway for my friends in the US and Canada. My friends in Australia (where I live) and New Zealand (where I used to live!) this giveaway is for you to enter. I have put together a little package of gifts that reflect me and my blog. I hope you like what I have chosen! They do not come to you via company sponsorship - they are items that I purchased. To my dear friends overseas, sorry - I'm only opening this to my Aussie and Kiwi readers as they were not eligible to enter the previous giveaway. Please do browse the post - it might give you ideas for putting together gift packages for your friends for birthdays and special occasions!

Here is what the prize package contains:

The latest Donna Hay Kids Annual
As you know, if you read my blog, I love to spend time in the kitchen with my children and teach them to cook. You will not find me queuing up at the toy sales to purchase a plastic play kitchen and I've always resisted the temptation to buy them at garage sales. I don't even bother with making play dough - we much prefer to 'play' and learn in a real kitchen with real ingredients! For this reason, I love Donna Hay's kids annual! I'm taking a chance here, it is so popular and was sold out at many newsagents I visited but I managed to find an issue but if you already have purchased it and you win a second copy - pay it forward and bless one of your friends or if do not have young children maybe there is a mum in your neighbourhood or church you can give it to. It is packed with recipes and as usual, amazing and creative ideas for birthday parties and cakes. Just take a peek inside...

Look at this gorgeous 'pretty in pink' party for little girls!

But would you dare serve jellies in your fine china tea cups to five year olds?!!!

I can imagine myself sipping a cup of fragrant tea in those cups - and speaking of tea the second item is.....

A packet of 'Rainforest Magic' premium loose leaf tea. I purchased this at the Farmer's Markets. It is Daintree tea made and packaged in Australia. I chose this blend to reflect my home in the bush, we actually have pockets of rainforest on our property! The tea is chemical free (love that!) and infused with sweet orange and blended with lemongrass, hibiscus flowers and blackberry.

A candle with a botanical design of butterflies and birds!
After visiting the Farmer's markets I gave myself a little treat and spent some time in a gorgeous gift shop looking for suitable prizes for this giveaway. Okay, I spent a lot of time - this store is packed with French style home wares - lots of cream wrought iron furniture, linens, silk flowers, scented soaps and candles - I love candles and could not resist this one with its botanical print which is on the candle itself and not the protective wrapper. Will you actually want to light it?

A tiny decorative ceramic tile which expresses what matters most!

And then I spied this - the theme of my blog is all about family and 'Raising Beautiful Children in a Beautiful Place' and I thought this would be perfect for a giveaway from my blog. It comes on a little wire stand - I would choose to set it out near a display of family photographs. There were other designs too - expressing sentiments such as love, faith and friends. I admit it looked so lovely on my hand painted butler's tray I was tempted to keep it, the tile that is (the butler's tray is not part of the prize, that is one of my best ever garage sale finds and for display purposes only - sorry!) but there was only one 'family' tile left - no, this tile is for you if you are the winner and hopefully, the shop will be getting some more in stock soon - any excuse to visit!

And finally a sweet treat - a bar of Green and Black's organic milk chocolate. Their butterscotch flavour is my favourite, indeed this is my favourite chocolate and as the packaging states, it is 'extremely moreish', so only share it with your partner and hide it from the children!

So all you have to do to enter is..

1. Leave me a comment and let me know why you cherish your family.

2. Remind me that you are already following or sign up to follow my blog and you receive a second entry.

3. Post a link at your own blog to my giveaway and receive a third chance to win!

I will keep the giveaway open for one week - enter by next Thursday 5th July 1pm AEST time to be entered in the draw. The other twin eagerly awaits her chance to draw a name out of the hat which we will do following the close of the draw. I will do my best to announce the winner before the weekend but it may have to wait until the following week if I get busy or the internet drops out (both of these things are likely here!)

Looking forward to reading your comments and blessing someone soon! If the winner is from NZ I will not be able to include the tea due to quarantine restrictions. I know you will understand!

With Love and Joy,

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Monday, July 26, 2010

His Life was Meant to Shine - Celebrating a Son's 18th Birthday

For eighteen years I have held onto a promise from God given to me when he was a baby in the womb, that my first born son would be a 'light in his world.' His life was meant to shine! I knew I was expecting a boy before I ever saw an image on a scan and I had already chosen a name - the meaning of his name was 'light' - powerful confirmation for me that God can be taken at his word! As I was in the midst of preparations for a party to celebrate his 18Th birthday on the weekend, my son was compiling his play list, a song by Mercy Me stopped me in my tracks. 'This life was meant to shine'. God was reminding me that He is faithful and keeps His promises.
I have so many memories - these are just a few.

Of my little blond boy being mobbed at the airport in Japan by grandmothers who just wanted to stroke his hair! It was quite an experience! This photo was taken in Japan - we were on our way to England to attend my sister's wedding. His first overseas trip. He was two years old. He loved the plane trip and traveling on trains and buses and going on the 'ferry cross the Mersey' in Liverpool - my hometown. He did not enjoy visiting Harrods, his disdain for department stores and shopping in general was evident from an early age! This runs in the male side of his family unfortunately but he was appreciative that his mother visited ten different stores to find the leather jacket he wanted for his 18th birthday. And he loved it! And he read aloud each message in the cards given to him by his siblings and thanked them individually for their gifts.

He was always mechanically minded and loved to pick up spanners and try to take things apart - lawnmowers, radios - anything with nuts and bolts. We had to hide screw drivers from him. He wanted to know how things worked - we used to give him old radios and computers to open up to satisfy this curiosity.

He loved to be around me and was always a 'hands on' boy. You could not use videos to babysit this boy - he could not stand the Wiggles! Why sing about food when you can actually help make it! For a few years he was my main kitchen assistant but then two sisters came along - as much as he enjoyed baking he was more than happy to let them take over the kitchen and eat what they produced! He hasn't changed.

When he was five we moved to the South Island of New Zealand to take up dairy farming. When he was seven he preached his first sermon. He stood on a fence post and boldly proclaimed the gospel to the congregation which consisted of his grandfather, the farm worker and 360 dairy cows! I wish I could have witnessed this - I only know about this because his grandfather ( who is not a Christian) came and told me that my son was 'going to be an evangelist.' Apparently he used the story of the good Samaritan as his text. His grandfather started firing back questions ... 'so, if I pray to God will I win Lotto? 'No, no, no granddad, that's not how it works' he protested. His granddad replied 'Well, that's no good to me' to which my boy responded 'But Granddad, God did make Solomon rich!'

He has been homeschooled since the age of six and had pleaded with me to teach him at home. I reluctantly (at first) agreed and wondered how on earth I was going to teach him to read when he would much rather be outside climbing trees. That was 12 years ago - he graduated at 16 and is now about a third of the way through his Bachelor's degree in Computer Studies.

You can read about his homeschool journey by typing 'The homeschool graduate' into my search box on the sidebar. I'm no longer his teacher and in the eyes of the world he is officially an adult but I'm of the opinion that when your child turns 18 it doesn't mean you cast them out into the world and say 'goodbye and good luck'. We have laid down the foundation and trained him in the way he should go and I am privileged to be still sharing my son's educational journey because he is studying online from home. I get to read some of his uni assignments and think 'wow' and offer my opinion and then wait in anticipation for the results to come back. He is doing so well and receiving high marks and we are justifiably proud of all his academic achievements but what really causes me to rejoice is the fact that he loves the Lord and shares his faith. He is not shy about standing up for the truth and declares on his Facebook page that 'hell is for wimps'. I suppose this is his way of saying that it takes strength and conviction to stand up for what is right and walk the narrow path when all around you are taking the easy route.

I had to remind myself that there are not too many young people who would be prepared to celebrate their 18th with their family, invite their friends and their parents too. That this celebration would take place at home and we would not need to worry about out of control teenagers getting boozed out of their brains. So we threw him a party and our home was filled with people of all ages - friends from church, our neighbours, my son's boss - the dairy farmer who has employed him since the age of 12. A great time was had by all. His sister baked him several cakes and was the dessert chef for the party but this was her Donna Hay inspired creation - she used tiny meringues instead of coloured lollies to make it more age appropriate. People kept asking where we bought the cake from!

My daughter is on the left, this is her friend on the right not her twin sister! They both happened to be wearing the same jacket! It was a little chilly but the firepit warmed the outdoor area and was fantastic for toasting marshmallows on. Don't you just love it when what you are looking for comes on special at the store. This firepit is from Jamie Durie's Patio range at Big W. It is going to be a great addition to our backyard - we also 'wood fired' our mini pizzas on it!

I confess I did spend some time in the kitchen but was ably assisted by Sylvie the Ilve and I also must give credit to Jo Seager my favourite kiwi cook. Her onion marmalade from this book was beautiful and so easy to prepare - check out her website for her recipes

But as I was spooning it into pastry cases and trying to stir the Barefoot Contessa's Leek and Potato soup at the same time as people were arriving it did start to feel a bit like a pressure test on Masterchef. But it was worth it - what did I learn - roasting the vegetables first is the key to flavour (that soup is to die for!) and count 'probably' RSVPs as 'Probably not coming just didn't want to say no' for I over catered! We had so much food it was ridiculous but I don't have to cook dinner for the next few nights!

Good food, family, friends - just a few of the ingredients that made our son's 18th birthday a success. And I did get to leave the kitchen but this is where quite a few of us congregated and talked as we made pots of chocolate macadamia coffee to accompany the birthday cake.

Lots of people saw my children in action on Saturday. It reminded me that it was was not just a family celebration or a birthday party but an opportunity to serve others and to use the talents that God has gifted us with to bless others. To shine our lights before men that may see our good works and glorify God in Heaven. Dear friends - Our lives were meant to shine!

And if you are daunted by entertaining and opening up your home to others - don't be. I used to be but along the way I have learned so many lessons about hospitality and I'd love to share with you from my experiences in future posts. Well that is one 18Th party done and dusted - only another 5 to go over the next 17 years! Next birthday is next week - my 'delightful' daughter is turning 13 and I have a surprise planned for her.

Next post will be my giveaway for my Australian friends so do look out for it! I'm looking forward to blessing someone!

With Love and Joy,

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Winner of 100th Post csn giftcard giveaway

We have a winner! Congratulations to Rina the Mama Bear! One of my twin girls held the hat and the other picked out a slip of paper with your name inscribed - they both thought it was wonderful that a 'Mama Bear' won!
Let me know your email so I can forward it to csn and they will contact you directly with the promotional code. I will also be in touch and popping over to your blog.

I really enjoyed doing my first giveaway. Next week it is my friends closer to home in Australia and NZ chance to win a lovely little package of goodies - I've been shopping! Right now I'm in the midst of cleaning, menu planning, cooking and preparing for a party - it is my son's 18th birthday on the weekend. Normal posts will resume once I have left the kitchen - and recovered!

With Love and Joy,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

100th Post Giveaway - A Gift Card from csnstores

It is my 100th post and as promised I am hosting a giveaway to celebrate! I did not think it would be possible to include my friends in the USA and Canada but thanks to csnstores I am able to do so. The csn stores website offers customers the choice of over 200 + online stores. Their product range is vast - You will find furniture for the bedroom including platform beds and other rooms in the house and a huge range of home wares, kitchenware and personal items such as shoes and handbags. The plate above is just one of the products you will find at the csn stores site. I absolutely love this design. It is from Mikasa's Cocoa Blossom range of dinnerware.

The giveaway being offered is a $40 gift voucher which can be used at any of their sites. You can put it towards any of their products. It's your choice! I've spent some time browsing their sites and spotted some familiar names, quality brands and well known designers. Here's a few of the gorgeous home wares that caught my eye. If I was the recipient of the giveaway I would certainly be tempted by this beautiful peony bowl in the Lennox Botanical Boutique range. By the way all the items I have highlighted come in under $40!

I love botanical prints - they are so popular around the world. So many designers look to nature for their inspiration. I think this set of La Rochere espresso cups is just delightful - it's by French Home Gourmet and features the Napoleonic Bee Motif. I would love to serve my guests coffee in these cups! But I am not eligible to enter my giveaway and should also let you know I am not being compensated in any way for extending this offer to you.

I love to use candles in my home. I think these pierced scalloped ceramic holders by Lazy Susan would look lovely gracing any table in the home. Cream or white - which do you prefer?

Or perhaps your taste is more modern - there are candle holders to suit all tastes and all budgets. I thought the iittalia range was very stylish and lots of colour choices too! There are over 1000 choices in candle holders alone! Wow!

If you are the winner of the giveaway you may choose to use your voucher for something more practical, maybe something for your kitchen or if you need a new bag or wallet for yourself you will also find them at the csnstores site. There are lots of great gift ideas - perhaps you have a wedding coming up and are looking for a present. Let me know what you might choose! There is one more item I found which really appeals to me. This would solve the problem of ants finding their way into the dog bowl. I've never seen one before, I think it is a fantastic idea!

My dog would love this - an elevated dog bowl. The cat would not be impressed though - would not be able to steal the dog's biscuits!

So here is what you must do to enter. Remember this is for those of you who read my blog or visit me from the US and Canada. My friends in Australia and New Zealand your giveaway is coming in my next post but please do let your readers in the States know about this giveaway and bless them - I know it is not always possible for us down under to offer a giveaway to friends overseas but this offer is for them, so take advantage of it!

1. Leave me a comment and let me know what you might use the voucher for if you were the winner. This gives you one entry.

2. Remind me that you are following my blog or sign up to follow - this gives you a second entry into the draw.

3. Link to this giveaway from your blog and you will receive a third entry!

This is my first ever giveaway and I'm thankful to for the opportunity to bless you in this way. I think it is wonderful that you get to choose the gift too!

I will be keeping this offer open for one week - you will need to leave me a comment before Wednesday 21st July 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time - check Sydney time on the world clock gadget on your mobile or computer if you need to work it out for your time zone. We will draw the winner after that and I will post the name soon after.

With Love and Joy

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blogging to Bless!

Two years before I started a blog I wrote the following in my journal.
'I have discovered blogs! There are some amazing, creative people who write blogs that are truly inspiring. I am helped and encouraged by these women I do not know - gracious homemakers, homeschoolers, mothers of twins - just like me. A lady perhaps a tad more traditional than me but an awesome writer - she points people to the source of her joy - her God.'

I had started to contemplate writing a blog because I loved to write and inspire others. I was always full of ideas for homemakers and I wanted to share them with others. I was already opening up my home at Christmas to groups of women and running decorating seminars. I had previously been involved in setting up a ministry for homemakers called 'Inspire' - in the days before blogs. There were so many creative women just in my church alone and I would convince them to come and share their talents with others. I roped in friends and even local businesses who would donate time to tell us about taking family photos or choosing a perfume and they would bring giveaways! It was like hosting a live blog - lots of hard work mind you. A blog would be the perfect outlet for me. I cannot believe I found so much to write about but my family are not surprised - they know I find enough to talk about! And there is so much more - my mind is always abuzz with ideas. I have come up with inspiration for blog posts in the middle of the night!

It's time for a picture so let me introduce the newest member of our family. This is Kiera and she is my daughter's dog, a Border Collie/ Kelpie cross - extremely bright and intelligent just like my daughter! In just a short space of time I have revealed a little of my thoughts on blogging - I have not shared my daughter's name and told you something positive about her. This is deliberate - in my journal I also wrote down my concerns about blogging.

They were No 1. Protecting my family - how much do I reveal about our lives? Do I use my children's names? Does it place us at risk? Will critics be hammering the comments box? Will it be too much to bear? This is my concern I wrote 'but I would like to encourage others, make some new friends and create a journal of memories with photos and writing about our beautiful family and the life that we live.'

And share the occasional recipe for food that my family loves.

And give you a few glimpses of the beautiful countryside in my region of Australia.

The other concern I wrote down on that journal page and underlined was 'Time.' Writing takes time, creating and maintaining a blog takes time. Will it consume me? Will I neglect my other duties? Visiting other blogs and leaving comments also uses up my precious time - I will have to use discipline and know when it is time to close the page no matter how lovely and return to base i.e my own home and children. I made a few decisions - I would keep my blog page uncomplicated and not waste time with fancy templates or too many gadgets. It took some time to work out the technicalities such as how to make a custom header bar (it is called tech savvy teenage son!) I also decided not to keep on adding buttons or rewards which would all use up precious time and need updating. It is that KISS principle of life - keeping it simple and I decided to extend that philosophy to my blog.

It would be almost two years before I would introduce myself to the world but I am so glad I did. I have met some wonderful people, some are sharing the same journey in choosing to educate their children at home. Others love the work they do at home - spending time in the garden, baking bread, crafting and making their home a little taste of Heaven - so many of the things that I delight in. Others inspire me in my Christian faith. Others just make me laugh and bring a little mirth and merriment to my soul just when it is needed. Thank you for everything!

The reason I blog is to bless. I really do want to reach out and bless others by sharing with you the life that God has blessed me with. I asked the Lord about blogging and waited upon Him. His words to me were 'Offer hope, encouragement, inspiration and let them know about joyful family living.' So this is what my blog became - a celebration of family life and raising beautiful children in a beautiful place - with its very own koalas!

My next post will be my 100th and having given some thought to the matter I will be celebrating with two giveaways over the next week or so. The first is for my friends in the USA and Canada and is possible thanks to an opportunity from a promotion for an online store. I'm not a girl who is into gimmicks. I rarely enter giveaways myself and don't feel right visiting an unfamiliar blog in order to gain something material for myself. I have only ever done one review on behalf of a company. I don't advertise on my sidebar, I try to keep my blog clutter free and non-commercial but I did want to bless my friends in some way so I checked out the offer and the company, they appear to be reputable and have many lovely items for the home... so dear friends do return for my next post and enter the giveaway!

My friends here in Australia and New Zealand you will have to wait a little longer. I'm shopping locally for you and I have seen so many gorgeous possibilities. I just love choosing gifts for people and because this is from me personally I get to wrap it for you - I love that too! Let's just say the giveaway will fit the theme of my blog and I am excited about blessing someone I have never met in person!

Thank you for all your encouraging comments and emails. For the friendships I have gained I am so appreciative. I'm looking forward to sharing more from my heart soon.

From my home to yours

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Monday, July 5, 2010

A Handmade Bon Bon for a Wedding

Who said crackers were only for Christmas? It was such a joy to create this very special cracker or bon bon as they are also referred to, as a gift for the bride and groom at the wedding we attended on the most glorious winter's day over the weekend.

I searched for inspiration on google images but the only hand made wedding crackers I could find looked 'manufactured', not that different to commercial Christmas crackers. I did find images of my own hand made Christmas crackers - aha there was the type of bon bon I was hoping to make! I wanted to create a vintage style bon bon, so I delved into my baskets of trims, laces, silk ribbons and roses.

The bon bon is trimmed with sheer ribbon, pearl strands, a silk ribbon rose, tiny pearls and just a touch of green and a sliver of silver. All these trims are recycled. The antique white lace that trims the border is vintage lace from my collection. The crepe paper I used to cover the body of the bon bon had faded which was perfect for the look I was hoping to achieve.

And in case you are wondering - yes, it can be pulled! There is a snap inside but if the couple want to keep it intact there is a solution. On the lower end, only the rose is attached to the ribbon tie. This can be pulled off and the ribbon unties. There is no pearl strand on this section and with a gentle shake the contents can be extracted. This bon bon holds wrapped chocolates and a gift of money. The ribbon can be retied and a dab of craft glue is needed to reposition the rose.

I presented the couple with their gift later in the day as the celebrations were drawing to a close. This was a country wedding held in a beautiful riverside location. The weather forecast was for rain but God answered all our prayers and the sun was shining. Praise and worship songs filled the air as we awaited the arrival of the bride - her smile was as radiant as the sun, as she walked the forest aisle strewn with rose petals to meet her beloved!

Awaiting the arrival of the bride.... his first wedding!

Following the ceremony we adjourned to the venue for the reception at a beautiful country property nearby. A picnic on the grounds - white chairs and tables set with linen cloths, stems of creamy white magnolias and country wildflower bouquets, white lanterns, hand cut banners of paper birds strung between trees. Picnic rugs and delicious food prepared by family and friends. Guests talking, friends and church family enjoying sweet fellowship, children laughing and playing. No need to organize entertainment for the children when there is a tyre swing like this!

God's light was shining on this day. A most memorable wedding. Different, unique, creative, beautiful - just like the young couple who were being married. I would love to show you more pictures but I would need to seek permission first - this is something as a blogger I choose to do if I am going to share pictures of people not from my immediate family - hope you understand!

If you would like to know how to make a cracker you may like to visit my Christmas blog where there is a step by step tutorial. I am thinking of possibly starting up a small business from home, creating unique and beautiful bon bons made to order for Christmas and special occasions - I'm still deliberating- what do you think? I have the passion - this is one of the creative things I love to do but do I have the time? Watch this space.

Hope the sun was shining on your weekend, especially my American friends as you celebrated 4Th July.

With Love and Joy,

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