Monday, August 30, 2010

Let's head to the 'Hills'!

If I ever have the opportunity to meet Jamie Durie or one of those garden designers who makeover backyards for television renovation programmes I have just one question I want to ask and it's not 'can you redesign my patio!' I want to know why on earth they remove clotheslines from the backyards of families and refer to them as 'eyesores'. That faithful Australasian icon known as the 'Hills Hoist' invented down under, which gave years of service is uplifted and tossed into a skip. A sad end for the rotary clothesline which was invaluable for the larger family - it held many loads of washing, it swiveled so you stood in the same spot to peg out the washing, it could be hoisted up so sheets did not trail on the ground and if located in a windy spot it turned and helped dry the washing! Ingenious!

Now I know the television renos do replace the clothesline and give the family an 'out of sight' retractable or fold down line. Great thinking - they hold enough washing for the average family.... of garden gnomes! And sorry children, no more 'helicopter rides' or pretending to be superman - the Hills Hoist was strong enough to handle such treatment but this is just not possible with one of the fold down jobs!

We are living in days when we are being urged not to use dryers and the soaring cost of electricity is making more of us 'head for the Hills' or out to our line with our baskets on hip with our hip pocket in mind! 'Stop using the dryer we are urged - 'well I would but Jamie Durie redesigned my backyard and Scott Cam hoisted the Hills into the skip! And the perfect place for drying clothes in next to no time is where we now sit and sip our lattes or view our garden sculptures.

I will admit the rotary clothesline is known more for its practicality rather than its looks but as they say 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. Many years ago I visited a garden during an 'Open Garden Scheme' in New Zealand. One of the loveliest gardens was a rambling garden on the outskirts of a country town with hedges, pathways and a profusion of flowers, vegetables and shrubs. And there slap bang in the middle of the lawn she stood proudly - no not a statue of some Greek goddess but yes, the Hills Hoist rotary washing line!

This was no ordinary washing line, it stood in its allocated spot on the lush green lawn and was surrounded by lavender bushes which encircled it. All the visitors including myself were 'taken' by this lovely garden feature and the owner explained that she loved to stand and peg out her washing here, the sight and the scent of the lavender ushered in beauty to her day and made this domestic task so much more pleasurable. She even draped her household linen over the lavender - the scent impregnated the fibres of her tea towels and napkins as they dried in the sun.

1992. My husband holding his first son and our first clothesline on our 1/4 acre patch.
Fruit trees, a veggie patch at the bottom of the garden. A shed for dad and a rotary clothesline for mum!
The typical Australasian backyard - except we looked out over farmland being the last street in town.

I was a young wife and I was impressed! I did not enjoy pegging out washing and often resorted to using the dryer because I was tired of racing out to grab the sheets whenever the rainclouds came over - we did live in a region that had very high rainfall. Our next door neighbour was building a boat, it dominated his backyard and he had been building it for years. We called him Mr Noah and when one summer it did actually rain for over 40 days in succession I wondered whether we should be looking out for the neighbourhood cats and dogs heading to his house - in pairs!

Beautifying the Hills Hoist at this house did not seem to be worth the effort so I mentally filed away the idea for a future home. And at our next property which was in a dry region where watching the clouds was not part of my everyday domestic life I discovered there was no clothesline. So we purchased a rotary clothesline and around it my husband designed a patio with flowerbeds and a potager close by. Forget the garden furniture - this patio was for practical purposes - growing food and drying washing!

The year 2000 - picking strawberries in the potager/clothesline patio area

We decided the lavender could be a hazard and attract too many bees so encircling my new clothesline was a garland of yellow carpet roses which during summer made me want to burst into song 'Tie a yellow ribbon round the old Hills Hoist' - no I didn't sing this but have to say pegging out the washing became a much more pleasant task - I actually started to enjoy my time at the clothesline because there was something lovely to look at and I could even pick a few strawberries or harvest a bunch of herbs at the same time.

Today at Eight Acres of Eden I still have a rotary clothes line. When we moved here the only washing line of sorts was a piece of string tied between two gum trees. We didn't hesitate and went out and purchased a new clothesline. It was the first outdoor renovation work we undertook and it was considered a priority. My husband built a raised platform for it and edged it with rocks which act as steps and make the clothesline 'child accessible and user friendly', that is, the shorter members of the family can no longer use the excuse that they cannot reach the line! All of my children are on the laundry roster except for the twins - more on that in my next post but I can say that my husband's idea of building the raised platform was sheer brilliance! Or maybe just kiwi ingenuity! Clothes that are dropped do not fall onto muddy ground or dirt and pegs do not get run over by the lawn mower!

Looking towards my kitchen window.
The clothesline is tucked away to the left just hidden from view.

There is also a garden bed right here. A magnolia is the backdrop, a rose for summertime underplanted with a native groundcover - 'indigofera australis' with its delicate pretty pink flowers and a native guava which shields the clothesline from the kitchen window and a banksia overhanging the path. During winter camellias and azaleas are in flower. Birds are often found visiting close to the clothesline and I often stand in awe and look up at the towering gums above my head and think to myself 'just look where I get to peg out the washing - I am so blessed! And how many people can stand at their clothesline and sometimes spot koalas - it also serves as the wildlife viewing platform!

And as I pegged out 'little boy clothes' the other day I realized that I needed to count this task as a blessing in my life for a day will come when I will no longer have such little garments to peg out for he will have grown up and left home and I will long again for a basket of singlets, socks, sweatshirts and tiny blue jeans.

I choose not to resent this task today and simply enjoy this moment and take delight as I fold each little item of clothing and place it into the basket. I am carrying out an act of service for my family. It is my way of 'inviting the glorious into the mundane' by thanking God that I had so many lovely little outfits that needed to be dried in the sun that day that belonged to my baby boy, my gift from God.

That statement 'inviting the glorious into the mundane' is now part of my vocabulary thanks to a post at Joy's blog - the stay at home missionary (see my blog roll on the sidebar) She posted a link to a video message from the singer songwriter Christy Nockels sharing on being a mom. This is where I first heard the admonition to 'invite the glorious into the mundane' and I can testify if you start to do this it will affect your everyday life. I will put up the link to this in a separate post for those of you who are intrigued by this - it contains beautiful words of wisdom from a young mother and I am so glad I found it - thank you Joy!

I've realized I need to do this daily 'Invite the glorious into the mundane' for the linen baskets will soon refill. I am not just heading to the hills each day - my terrain is mountains - mountains of laundry. Just how do I cope? Well let's say you do not venture out alone to Everest (my mountains are big!) you go as part of a team and that is how we manage this ongoing household task. I will share some more practical tips and how I have found a laundry roster that works for us in another post. Right now the sun is shining and its time to head to the 'Hills'!

With Love and Joy,

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tenderly Thirteen

She's thirteen! How do you surprise a young lady on her birthday? How do you let her know that at this tender age she is special, cherished by her family and acknowledge that she is entering into a new stage of her life? This is how we chose to celebrate our daughter's thirteenth birthday recently. I booked a table for two at a very nice riverside restaurant. A mother and daughter lunch on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I told her we were going to buy fish and chips for lunch - they do offer a takeaway service - oh and to dress nicely! It was meant to be a surprise but she knew something was up - actually she knew mum had booked a table for two somewhere because her younger brother had overheard me on the phone and informed his sister. 'You just wait till his mother gets home' I informed her!

We had to take along her baby brother. He was the perfect gentleman. He amused himself for quite some time in trying to put the keys in the cup holder on the high chair tray and he succeeded! He also shared smiles with the waitress and charmed other patrons sitting at the next table.

Our table was right next to the water. The fish were at our feet. You can hire paddle boats at the restaurant if you want to go and explore the river. Occasionally you will see dolphins! There is also a gift shop to browse on your way out or in between courses. And the food is fabulous! I could not resist the pasta dish which featured two of my favourite foods - mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes in a creamy white wine sauce. Just heavenly!
The waitress brought over the kids menu but my daughter politely declined and said she would like to order off the main menu. How grown up she felt. She chose the Chinese style 5 spice pancakes - why am I not surprised that she chose Asian food! She declared her meal just delicious. I also pointed out to her the children's menu was for 12 years and under. So it's goodbye to pizza, cheeseburger and fries with everything. She did not mind at all! Maybe restaurants should start offering mini versions of their main menu options - I know Jamie Oliver would agree!

We resisted the dessert menu which features amazing cheesecakes and gateaux. For at home another surprise was waiting.

The Birthday Cake! And the rest of the family who were eagerly awaiting their sister's return so they could enjoy a slice of this amazing cake. Another Donna Hay inspired creation from the daughter who loves to bake and decorate cakes.

Thirteen candles to be extinguished

And thirteen minutes to demolish and devour a delectable banana cake - moist and delicious, the way banana cakes are supposed to be. Those musk sticks though, they are not our favourite confectionery but they look amazing embellishing the sides of a cake! The marshmallow fondant style icing and the fruit jellies are from Aldi's colour free range and they were the perfect sweet addition. The chocolate dipped strawberries disappeared too in less than thirteen minutes!

A beautiful day and such a lovely way to celebrate a delightful daughter turning thirteen.

Thirteen is such a tender age, she is blossoming but as a tender plant in the garden needs protection I believe it is at this tender age that a daughter also needs protection and loving care. Tender plants can so easily shrivel if left unwatered on a hot day or placed in a part of the garden too soon without shelter from the cold. They can also be damaged by pests and fruit will not be forthcoming. There will be some exposure to the prevailing elements but we still have within our means as parents the opportunity to establish boundaries and say 'No, that is not appropriate' and discuss why we do not allow her to read certain books or watch certain movies.

As we are careful about what we feed our plants (the best seaweed solution we can afford!) so we are careful about the food we provide for her growing body. And we are just as careful about what feeds her mind. And to remind her that how she presents herself to others is so important - that she is aware that clothing for example, sends a message to others. Our daughter is realizing this and she loves to wear modest, feminine dresses and tops that are oriental in style that say 'I'm a girl and I love Asia!' How annoyed she is that her favourite kimono style dress that she is wearing in the photo on the sidebar is now too small. It is by Mini Minors and to find another like this in a bigger size will be quite a challenge. As it is for all mothers who do not want their young daughters to dress like 'The Veronicas' - wake up Target!

Of course she is changing. Growing with all the signs that womanly hormones have kicked into action. It is a time when greater patience on my part is needed and gentle guidance. Childhood is still hanging around and I don't mind that - she still loves to play and construct shelters in the bush with her brother and younger sisters. But she also likes to be given greater responsibilities - to be trusted with cooking dinner for the family sometimes. And time by herself to read and dream big dreams.

Dreams which involve a country that have been inspired by books and her heroes and heroines such as Gladys Aylward. How delighted she was when I handed her a DVD I had just found at a garage sale shortly before her birthday. 'The Inn of Sixth Happiness' is a 1950's movie featuring Ingrid Bergman which tells some of the adventures of the missionary Gladys Aylward - we all sat down as a family and watched her movie. And our daughter filled us in on the aspects of the story that the film had missed or glamourized.

It's time to close this post (I have to take her to her Mandarin lesson soon) and conclude my thoughts on raising a daughter who is 'tenderly thirteen'. A daughter with a different spirit who cares little for the pop culture that is besieging her generation. Who is as frustrated as her mother sometimes that stores such as Target offer her little or no choice when it is time to shop for a new outfit. Who wishes her mother would start trying Kylie Kwong's recipes! And redecorate the house with screens, silk drapes, cherry blossom and lotus flowers!

May God bless you as you tend to your garden/family this week.

With Love and Joy,

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Tea and Honey Sandwiches A Hospitality Story

'Is it okay to wash hands?' The young woman with a European accent and oil stained hands had come to the back door of the church building where the Sunday creche was in full swing. She had come to the right place for help that morning. A sink with hot water, a towel and meeting a young mother who just happened to be married to a mechanic. She explained their predicament. They had broken down right outside the church on their way north. They were in New Zealand as agricultural exchange students and today was their day off and they were traveling to the hot pools. They were too far from their farm to expect their hosts to come and rescue them. It was also a Sunday and many garages were closed.

I told her to wait for a moment and went back into church to find my husband. He was sitting in the middle of a row near the front and the Pastor had just commenced his sermon. Never mind, I was now on a mission to help these stranded Danes!

Husband found three Danish girls and one young American guy (another exchange student from the same farm) with their second hand car - an old Austin, funnily enough the guy's name was Austin and we are fairly certain that he bought it for the name rather than its mechanical dependability! The car needed some work to get it back on the road and then the realization of what I had set in motion that day dawned. 'I've offered to tow them home after church and fix their car and suggested they come for lunch.' You have? But....' Before I could respond, my husband had disappeared back into church with Austin who taken up the invitation of joining him for the rest of the service! I still try to imagine what it what have looked like had he taken the three Danish girls into the service instead!

On the trip home with our two year old son strapped in his car seat sharing the back seat with two friendly Danish girls my mind was fixed on what I was going to offer these people for lunch. It was not that I had forgotten to do the grocery shopping that week. We had not shopped for food because we had no money and the pantry was literally bare.

You see, I had taken a step of faith and given up my career to follow the desire that God had placed on my heart to be a full time stay at home mum. My second baby was due in just a few months. We had to leave the desirable seaside city we were living in as we could no longer afford the rents and my husband could not find work. We still owned a home in the North Island and had rented it out prior to my 'career move'. At least we would have a roof over our heads and hopefully my husband would find work again in the small town we had left. The last of our savings were spent on the move home.

It was good to be home but we were now in a predicament. No job was forthcoming and we had found out that because I chose to leave my post there was no entitlement to any benefits for six weeks from the time of application. We had no income at all. I had already been in touch with the bank, the power and telephone companies as deadlines for payments approached. And now we had run out of food and my husband had invited home for lunch a bunch of overseas students!

I invited the students into our home and my husband and Austin began working on the broken down Austin! The girls seemed very happy to be in our home. They told us all about their time in New Zealand and about their lives in Denmark. To be truthful I was not taking it all in, I was so focused on what I could feed them with and no boy had strolled past recently with loaves and fishes! But God had brought these people to my doorstep and it was lunch time!

But the cupboard was not entirely bare. There was a loaf of sandwich bread and a jar of honey - a welcome home gift from a beekeeper friend. I knew it was there but I had thought I could not possibly just serve up bread and honey sandwiches to our guests. But this is what God laid on my heart to do. To use all that I had left to bless these strangers. We had tea and some milk left so I brewed a pot of tea to serve with the sandwiches. I made an apology for not having coffee or sugar but there was sweet honey available.

And do you know what happened? They absolutely loved the sandwiches and declared how wonderful it was to taste real New Zealand honey! They kept on thanking us for our kindness. My husband managed to get their car running again and when they offered to pay for the work and forward the money to us he turned it down. We were in desperate need of money but we knew that this was the right thing to do. They insisted on giving my little boy the lollies they had brought with them for their trip and showered him with sweets and lollipops. They were able to resume their journey and as they left 'Thank you' and 'We will never forget you' was ringing in our ears.

Sixteen years have passed and I have never forgotten the Danish students (and Austin the American) that we brought home that day. It was an important lesson in hospitality and humility. I learned that even when it seems we have nothing to offer that God still expects us to reach out and help others. That you do not need to cook a fancy meal or offer five different choices of special teas. That sometimes just a humble plate of honey sandwiches and a pot of hot tea served with love can minister to the people God places in your path. To give unconditionally and not expect any kind of reward.

My new enamel kettle sits on the woodfired stove.
I swear tea tastes better when the water has been heated in this!

The following week amazing things did start to happen. People at church began blessing us - bringing us groceries and I learned how to swallow my pride and just say thank you and allow God to work through His people to help us out in our time of need. We never went hungry and that jar of honey seemed to last an extraordinarily long amount of time. There was still honey in the jar when after a few weeks my husband found employment. I was feeling just a little bit like a certain widow in the Bible who fed Elijah with the last of her flour and oil. Do you remember that story. As a result of her willingness to use what she had, her son was raised back to life!

Our Canadian visitors and our daughters' new found friends!

Since that time God has sent us many more people over the years. Friends, strangers and just last week Canadians! Some just came for tea or to spot koalas! Others shared in more substantial meals as God enabled and my kitchen abilities improved and for some we were able to offer significant help in their time of need and distress. I need to save those stories for other posts but our tea and honey hospitality experience is still one of my sweetest memories. I pray that it has encouraged you, especially if you are feeling that you do not have much to offer. A willing heart, an open home, sharing the talents that God has blessed you with and reaching out to those God places across your path. This is what hospitality is all about!

With Love and Joy,

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sharing Our Sanctuary

Our Monday was going to be an uneventful day until the phone rang and a young lady from church asked if it would be possible to bring out 'the Canadians' to our place and could they possibly come today, in about an hour's time? 'The Canadians' were a team of young people from Saskatchewan who are staying in our region at present and I had offered an invitation to visit but with their busy schedule (they are helping out people in our community during their stay) it seemed unlikely that this would eventuate but the opportunity to visit a property that has the possibility of being able to see koalas in the wild was too good to miss.

Once upon a time that sort of request would have sent me into a sheer panic but today I welcome any opportunity to open up our home to others and have become accustomed to 'last minute' hospitality. We dashed around the house checking bathrooms and picking up toys; homeschool books and papers were removed and a table was discovered! I whipped up a batch of banana choc chip muffins as the twins ran around proclaiming 'the Canadians are coming!' They just love it when people visit our home and are the most enthusiastic members of our welcoming committee!

I hope to be able to share some photos from our afternoon at some stage but let's just say it was the best geography lesson we have experienced for some time! And I can now pronounce Saskatchewan without hesitation! The children all acted as tour guides and they disappeared into the bush with their new Canadian friends, eyes straining upwards in the hope that one koala had stopped by to take a nap in one of our trees. That wasn't to be - if only this was September/October and springtime, the chances would have been far greater. They did get to meet some of our not so nice critters though - leeches which brought forth a few shrieks but the salt was ready and handed around. I needed it too!

Our not so perfect patio (those pavers await replacement!) but a beautiful spot for afternoon tea
Don't wait until all your renovations are done before you start inviting people home!

Afternoon tea on this Monday was a memorable affair and the muffins disappeared quickly as did the macadamia shortbread - store bought, not something I usually buy but on my last shopping trip to Aldi had popped a packet into the trolley thinking they would be nice to enjoy with our favourite macadamia coffee sometime. How grateful I was to have something 'Australian' to offer. That purchase was insightful!

You see, I think it's perfectly fine to offer guests store bought biscuits (preferably without artificial ingredients!) but in the past that was all I could offer the people who came to our home and I seriously envied those women who could 'whip up a batch of muffins' in next to no time and wondered how they managed to do this when we had given them such short notice of our intended visit. But I really had a heart for hospitality and just wanted to do it and give of my best.

Plain biscuits and a cup of tea were a starting place but as we kept on inviting people home my confidence grew as did my baking abilities. As I began to cultivate my homemaking skills and studied God's Word to gain an understanding of the true nature of Christian hospitality as opposed to 'entertaining' more and more opportunities to put it all into practice came our way. People were literally being sent to our doorstep! People from different countries, cultures and occasionally people who I would never have imagined inviting myself but I had said to the Lord 'Send us the people you want us to reach not just those I think are potential 'friend material'. If you pray this kind of prayer be prepared. That's all I'm going to say for the moment!

I have given some thought to how I might share from my heart about hospitality and encourage others who want to open up their homes to others. You've probably read books on the subject and you already know the Scriptures on hospitality, the Bible stories about entertaining strangers and understand that hospitality is not an optional extra or a calling just for the talented cooks in the church!

You've read the blog posts on gracious hospitality and how to set a table. You are not serving a fish course so the information on correct order of cutlery is actually not that useful! You don't need any more muffin recipes - your folder is already bulging (my advice - use the same basic recipe and add different flavours) but you are still intimidated by the prospect of cooking for others even when you have a week to prepare. It's worse when you know the wife visiting is a talented cook! Friends are fine but strangers - that's daunting. Just one family for lunch you can cope with but catering for a crowd is an entirely different matter but you would love to try sometime.

So many different situations - all calling for us to be hospitable and we are all affected by different circumstances and may be in different seasons. I would have dearly loved to have some of the young Canadian people stay with us but we are a bit short on spare rooms at present - unless they were prepared to sleep in a hammock outside! Before our family grew we had a designated guest room and billeted people but we can all offer hospitality in unique and different ways. Your home can also be a base of operations - you take the hospitality out of the home when you deliver a meal to a new mother or visit the neighbour and take her some cuttings from your garden. It's not all about gourmet cooking or even whipping up batches of muffins - that was just my means of saying welcome and feeding our guests when I had little time to prepare.

I'm going to share some stories about hospitality from a very personal perspective. Of giving and receiving hospitality. Each experience was a lesson in how to love and serve others. Watch out for my first hospitality story which I'm entitling 'Tea and Honey Sandwiches' which taught me that sometimes God expects us to give when we think we have nothing to give.

Until next time,

With Love and Joy,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Announcing the Winner!

It was meant to be the other twin' s turn to draw out a name but as the 'Smiler' at 7 months old has really good fine motor skills, I gave him the opportunity to put his little hand into a box filled with slips of paper with names written on to see if he could extract just one slip and sure enough he did! You know what this means - I now need to keep my floors super clean and swept - he's not crawling yet but can do amazing 360 degree rotations on his tummy and he is intrigued by the tiniest bits of debris on the floor. All Lego blocks are now in lock up and banned from the dining room floor!

Before he had the chance to eat the slip of paper I managed to prise it from his hand. And the winner is Renata! Congratulations Renata - I hope you enjoy all the gifts in the package. I had so much fun putting it together. I also really enjoyed reading all the comments about why you all cherish your families. Loved Chris's comment about her family being a 'gift she needs to just keep on reopening.' What a beautiful thought! That really touched and blessed me! I will be in touch with our winner Renata over the weekend - I need your address and I will post it out to you next week on my 'town day'. Email me if you read this first!

With Love and Joy,


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