Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Easter Holiday Adventure at Home

It started when my twin girls brought home yet another colouring in picture of the Easter bunny - this time from Sunday school of all places. It was time for 'counter action' and I started to plan a week of fun filled and Christ centred Easter activities that did not exclude chocolate but made it clear that Easter eggs would not be getting dropped off by a furry creature and that dad would not be donning pink rabbit ears either! For which he was very grateful!

In the week before Easter we made Easter lapbooks. I found a wonderful website called ' which has a wonderful array of resources for teaching the Bible to children. I downloaded and printed off their Easter adventure lap book activities for free. The girls were so excited about making 'Easter books' and we were soon looking up Bible verses and talking about the Easter story and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Simple flip books to colour in and cut out and not a bunny in sight! We found some colourful flowery gift wrap to cover the outside of our lap books and one girl chose red and the other blue.

Here's a peek at what is on the inside. Simple and sweet - all that you need are cardboard folders, scissors, glue and colouring pencils and of course your Bible - it is a Scripture adventure after all. The bright Easter card is a folder within the folder to hold Easter egg memory verses - one of the printout activities from the sheets. Will show you shortly how we presented these. We had short but sweet discussions about Easter - and why eggs and rabbits are associated with this time of the year and how it is easy to forget about Jesus when all the colouring pictures being given out to children are of the Easter bunny. We also talked about the different seasons which can be confusing for a 5 year old when so much of what is available including the cards and the crafts, reinforces that Easter is in springtime, whereas down under it is the opposite season - no tulips or daffodils to pop into vases!

The next activity we enjoyed was making an Easter egg garland. This hung in our window for a few days and then I used it to decorate a basket for a special surprise on Easter day - more on that soon. Can you guess where I found the stripey card for making the eggs?

One trip to my husband's favourite store - he goes there at least once a week and I skipped into the paint aisle to pick up an assortment of paint sample cards (then spent half an hour trying to find my husband again - any other wives have this problem in the hardware store?!) He was relieved I was not planning on painting something in the house 'desert spice' I think!

Found the perfect stencil to trace for an egg shape

Cut out the egg shape then on the back write out an Easter memory verse or use the printout of the verses that come with the lap book sheets. On Easter morning at breakfast time we looked up the verses on each card. I must let you know that I am not taking any credit for these two activities. I found the links to both of these at the blog of a very creative mum called Kristen - the pajama mama. She is always sharing ideas of her own and links to other activities by wonderfully creative people. I am most grateful to those who take the time to do this - it saved me lots of time in planning for our week of Easter activities.

The alternative to an Easter egg hunt is my idea though and was partly inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the search for the golden ticket. It was also a very economical Easter activity. A pack of 5 Cadbury chocolate bars were $5.95. Total cost for our family under $12 which gave us a total of one kilo of chocolate. Compare this to buying separate Easter eggs in packaging which you are paying for and/or packs of eggs for Easter egg hunts which are usually small and not always the best tasting chocolate if you opt for economy brands.

After dinner on Easter Sunday we gathered the family - apart from big brother who was in Toowoomba at Easterfest (a Christian music festival) in knee deep water and rescuing his tent and belongings from one very soggy camp site after a torrential down pour. In the basket were ten chocolate bars wrapped in newspaper (including one for the big brother - consolation for missing seeing Switchfoot on account of having to evacuate!) I explained that in one of the bars was a golden ticket which held some very good news (hence the newspaper!) - an extra prize for the person that found it! As it was raining the bars would be hidden around the house. When it was time to go searching, dad and the children went racing round the house at top speed - looking in cupboards, under pillows, in the folds of towels and in every other conceivable nook and cranny. I actually had to try and remember where I had hidden them all when we had found all but two of the bars. It was so much fun - the laughter and the cries of 'I found one!' filled the house. But who had found the golden ticket?

Here's hoping!

It was found by one of the twins much to her delight. The golden ticket represented royalty - Jesus the King of Kings and the best news of Easter which is.... I asked her. 'Jesus is alive!' they proclaimed in unison! As she had found the Jesus ticket she could choose to share the tenth chocolate bar with her sister or receive a mystery prize. She had no hesitation in opting for the mystery prize which disproved my theory that the younger ones would go for instant gratification!` I announced that on dad's next day off (which is tomorrow) that she and her twin sister would be going out for lunch at MacDonalds - just dad and the twins - no one else. It was their special treat and they would be able to choose anything off the menu. This really is a treat in this house - we don't go out for burgers that often. Her reaction was to scream with excitement and I think it is the fact that the others don't get to go - it is her special prize. She hasn't stopped talking about going out with dad for lunch all week!

There were other treats and special moments. Baking rocky road brownie bars for morning tea and Anzac biscuits for another special day of remembrance on the Monday. I will try and remember to share these recipes as they were both yummy! Jubilant praise and worship at the morning service on Easter day. Returning home and smelling the aroma of lamb infused with garlic that had been slowly roasting in the oven. A special chocolate cake for dessert. Setting the table and using our special green glasses. Gathering leaves and flowers from the garden to make an Easter garden tray centrepiece. Twigs for a cross and a scooped out passion fruit for an empty tomb.

Lots of excitement, family chatter and most of all a celebration of the abundant life that we have in Christ because of His sacrifice. The twins did not stop talking most of that weekend. They kept announcing that 'Jesus died on the cross but rose again on the third day.' Now that's more like it girls! They were even proclaiming this as we walked up the street as stuffed rabbit toys smiled at them from shop windows. A little sense of warm relief flooded my soul and I was so glad that we had chosen to have a family Easter holiday adventure at home.

With Love and Joy,

Monday, April 18, 2011

7 Random Facts about me - with pictures!

Pam at 'Where your Treasure is' recently sent me this award and kindly asked if I would accept it and share 7 random facts about myself. I don't tend to publish any awards on my blog but I have been persuaded on this occasion! I have all sorts of ideas for new posts but will wait until Easter is over. My son has tennis clinic this week so I have three trips to town and three hours on each day to wait. I will spend time at the library and enjoy a latte at my favourite cafe which is also a vintage clothing and home wares store. You get to relax on old sofas and cakes and slices are served on vintage china. The coffee is great too. In one of the old wardrobes they have for sale, is a box of toys for young children. Needless to say, my twins love this cafe and it is a favourite meeting place for locals. In the afternoons we are enjoying Christ-centred Easter activities. I will take photos and share them if I have a chance!

In the meantime, here are 7 random facts about me.

1. I have decorating dilemmas all the time!

I love all styles of country decorating - English, French, classic, modern, vintage. I find it it so hard to settle on one style, so you could say my taste is 'eclectic'. I agonize over patterns for furnishings but cannot resist roses on everything! I think that is the English coming out in me. I love English country decorating magazines (and that programme on Prime 7 'Escape to the Country'!) and gush over farmhouse kitchens, timber tables, Agas, dressers stacked with china, fireplaces, lamps, bookcases.

The must 'control clutter' part of my personality is always challenged in the kitchen. Have it all hidden away in cupboards and 'appliance garages' with just a few carefully selected items? I'm thinking of those French country style white kitchens which have just the Kitchen Aid or Epresso machine out on display and maybe the occasional plate on the wall. Totally functional, clear work spaces I like the idea of but there again I love jugs of herbs and baskets of produce out on display. I did take all the notices and photos off the fridge though, as I noticed how cluttered they made a kitchen look in the real estate brochures. I'm aiming for balance these days - the collection of decorative tins had to go, it was too much to dust. I'm finding corners to display what I love but not covering every wall with pictures or every table top with photo frames. I love the warmth of natural timber but also love white painted furniture. I have regretted painting certain pieces white but loved the transformation Antique White USA brought to the old wardrobe I bought (at that vintage shop/ cafe) that became my craft cupboard. To paint or not to paint? You see that's just another of my decorating dilemmas!

2. If I ever found the funds to have Lasik eye surgery and that is highly unlikely, it would be for one reason only - to be able to go on all the water slides at the theme parks! I have always loved water slides and once went on a looping aqua slide at a holiday park in England which was painted black on the inside! Yes, you ride down these tubes in complete darkness! It was insane and I was scared silly but couldn't resist going on time and time again. Even though I am not fond of heights I am prepared to climb to the top of super high slides just for the exhilaration of the slide to the bottom and being thrown out into the water! My days of water sliding were brought to an end when I was advised not to wear contact lenses again after an allergic reaction to the solutions caused a serious eye infection. I'm not game to go on the really big water slides with my blurred vision and now stand on Terra firma watching my children having all the fun. They have inherited the same passion for water slides!

3. One of my favourite words in the English language is 'nostalgia'. To me that means 'looking back with fondness'. I am very nostalgic about England and like to remember all the good things. Having a real Devonshire tea with scones and clotted cream at a traditional 'tea shoppe' in Devon. Lancashire hot pot on a cold winter's day. Hiking in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales. Sunday school picnics. Spending two hours browsing the racks of dresses at Laura Ashley. Marks and Spencers. The natural and unique humour of people from Liverpool and being called 'love' by everyone - my dad, the neighbour next door, bus conductors - when they used to have bus conductors! Going on the 'Ferry cross the Mersey'. I am just loving the documentary 'Coast' airing on television here - it is bringing back so many memories of all the different English seaside resorts I have visited! I am also sentimental about New Zealand. Going to my first All Blacks rugby game. Learning to sing hymns in Maori at church. Chocolate fish and jaffas. Eating steaming food cooked in the ground at a hangi. So many memories! I am such a nostalgic person - don't even get me started on traveling to Europe!

4. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting these guys at the mall - not what I was expecting on grocery shopping day!

They are the guys from the television series 'Bondi Rescue'. To my readers overseas. Should you ever come down under and visit the famous Bondi beach in Sydney and get into trouble in the surf or caught in one of the dangerous rips (that's the calm spot in the water on a surf beach which can take you out to sea, where unsuspecting tourists often choose to swim) you will be very thankful for these young men. They are the lifeguards who have saved the lives of so many people and as they say in Australia, they are really 'top blokes'. I was only popping into Woolworths to buy coffee when my children spotted them! They signed autographs, even drew pictures for my girls and chatted away to us all. I had to ask my daughter what their names were though! We all thought 'Maxi' - the guy in the photo who lifted one of the twins onto his shoulders was the friendliest!

5. I overcame my fear of spiders when I moved to Australia! I had little choice and can now quite happily sit at the desk and not be bothered in the least by a huge brown huntsman spider walking across the wall. I'm very proud of this fact!

6. My favourite muppet was the Swedish chef!
Loved the way he flung that meat cleaver around. I think he should be a judge on Masterchef or 'My Kitchen Rules' - that would make it really fun and then my husband might watch it too, instead of groaning 'not another cooking show' as he reaches for the remote.

7. My dream is to one day own and live in a converted old building - preferably a church that we renovate ourselves. I have it all planned in my head - the layout, the furnishings, the details and the adjoining Biblical herb garden. I would love to run my Christmas decorating seminars from such a location. I have a scrapbook of pictures of converted churches, chapels, barns and old schoolhouses. I am saddened when old church buildings are closed and de-consecrated but would much rather see them turned into family homes than nightclubs or restaurants or left to fall into disrepair.

You can read about a lady who lives in New Zealand who loves ecclesiastical homes here. Click on the gallery to see more of the sensational gardens that surround her property. It is an inspirational story and I am in awe of what she has accomplished. I remember seeing her story on a television show about homes in New Zealand many years ago. It was her home that birthed this dream of ours - my husband shares the same aspirations!

Thank you Pam for encouraging me to write this post. I hope it has helped people to get to know me a little better. I am supposed to pass on the award to another blogger but as Easter week is upon is and I know everyone is going to be busy preparing or going away on holidays I don't want to tag anyone and make them feel obliged to share 7 random things about themselves. I hope that is okay but if you were trying to think of an idea for a post and would like to share 7 random things about yourself let me know and grab the award button if you wish!

I want to wish you a very blessed Easter week. In the midst of making hot cross buns, enjoying chocolate treats and appreciating the beauty of the season, may we never forget the price that was paid that we might live.... forever!

'I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.'

The words of Jesus John 11 25-26.

With Love and Joy,

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm Guest posting at Meal Ministry Mondays

Today I am guest posting at a wonderful new blog I discovered recently. It is called 'Comfy in the Kitchen' and belongs to a beautiful Godly young woman called Janelle who says that she 'comes from a long line of amazing cooks - not chefs - not professionals, just simple Italian ladies who insist on feeding every soul who walks through the door.' Don't you just love that word 'insist'? Who could refuse food from an Italian kitchen? Italian food is my absolute favourite!

Janelle is a wife and a mother to three young children who has continued on her family tradition of ministering to people through food. I am just in awe of the ministry she has established and the number of people she has inspired to join her as they reach out to people from all walks of life in their church and community. Janelle says she is spreading God's love one meal at a time but I could not fail to notice the picture of the trays and trays of cookies for teachers at her son's school! Janelle goes the extra mile and her ministry is Christian hospitality in action - big time!

At her blog you will find recipes and all sorts of culinary inspiration but best of all you will meet a person who understands what hospitality is all about. Do pop over and visit her blog and meet her for yourself. She has graciously allowed me to share one of the posts from my own hospitality archives - a story you may or may not have read at my blog called 'Tea and Honey Sandwiches.' I pray that it will be a blessing to you today and that you, like me, will be inspired to be comfy in your kitchen and use your home to reach out and bless others.

It is no coincidence that this evening we have a guest for dinner. It is quite unusual to have other people to cook for on a Monday but God knew it was Meal Ministry Monday! He's a friend of my son's and I'm thinking a huge deep dish of beef lasagna might be just the meal to prepare for him as he joins our family tonight! My daughter has already made an apple crumble for dessert - I am so blessed that my family are part of the 'ministry of food' that operates out of our home!

Don't forget to go and meet Janelle. You can visit Janelle's delicious blog here or use the button below to view her Meal Ministry Monday posts.
Janelle - it is no coincidence that we met. You have inspired me to not grow weary in doing good. I pray that your meal ministry continues to bless all the people that God sends your way.

With Love and Joy,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chocolate Pudding Fruit and other Family Favourites

Fruit like Chocolate?

I'm continuing to 'garden with gratitude' today as I share with you the fruits of our labour in a post which follows on from my previous one entitled 'The Retrospective Gardener' in which I look back at all that we have accomplished in the last nine years at our property 'Eight Acres of Eden.' It is helping me appreciate my garden more as I relate in words and pictures what our garden has been producing and what we are looking forward to when the trees we have planted reach full production. I'm up to number five on my list.

5. We planted a huge variety of fruit trees including many tropical fruit trees suitable for our climate. There have been successes and failures but the best is yet to come!

Easter is coming and perhaps you are anticipating chocolate or chocolate desserts but wishing there was a way you could consume this treat without the calories. Or how about sorbets? The mouthwatering desserts which are so refreshing on a hot summer's day but unfortunately with the sorbet comes the sugar - it's not just fair! What if I told you there is a fruit that tastes just like a chocolate pudding and another which reminded me of the lemon gelato I once enjoyed on a trip to Italy?

What if I told you that the fruits I am referring to are tropical fruits and I am growing them in my garden here at Eight Acres of Eden? The anticipation is almost too much - we have only had one dragonfruit thus far. It tasted so good! It was worth the wait for the fruit to mature and I am sure hoping for more than just one fruit in a season! How could a plant so ugly - it looks like a horizontal cactus growing along the fence that surrounds our orchard - produce such a delicious fruit?

The yellow dragon fruit - there is also a pink variety

It's sorbet-like interior - spoon out for a dessert that needs no dish!

I can hear you - you want to know about the one that tastes like chocolate - well it is a black sapote and is also called the 'chocolate pudding fruit' - because once you open it up it actually does have the texture on the inside of a chocolate pudding. I first saw these in a local wholefoods store and bought one just to try. It was good - not quite like a bar of Green and Blacks mind you, but it did remind me of chocolate mousse.

I was so excited about this fruit that I saved half for my husband. 'We have to grow this tree!" I told him with much enthusiasm as he came through the door that evening on his return from work. 'Don't we already have one of those?' he asked. 'Down by the coffee trees?' I flew out of the door and raced down to driveway where our planned hedge of coffee is establishing nicely. Sure enough there on the end was our black sapote and it was putting on a whole lot of new growth!

I noticed that there was still room for one more at the end of the row, so we purchased another. You can use the fruit in cakes, puddings and custards or just eat it straight out of the skin but it has to be really ripe. If you live in a tropical region and are growing this I would love to hear from you - how many fruit did it produce? What do you use the fruit for? I am so looking forward to a chocolate pudding harvest!

Our coffee hedge started from cuttings - we will be harvesting all the beans and intend to have a go at producing our own coffee. Imagining drinking our own coffee with a chocolate dessert made from the fruit of the black sapote!

6. We are growing and harvesting our own bananas at at time when prices in the shops are high.

This is our latest bunch of bananas - harvested just over a week ago, it is already ripening and the bananas are disappearing one by one. It is our best ever bunch of ladies fingers. Actually I'm eating one right now as I type this post! It is so sweet, so much nicer than the bananas I knew in England and New Zealand which were shipped and trucked thousands of miles from South America. What a blessing it is to be able to grow our own bananas. I am so grateful for this fruit from my garden. Last week in Aldi bananas were $10 a kilo and I was smiling - don't need to buy bananas this week or next week or the week after that! If we do have to buy bananas (between bunches of our own!) we buy them from the Farmer's market and not the supermarket.

Sometimes they ripen too quickly, so they are peeled and chopped up into small pieces and frozen in bags for use in banana cakes, breads and muffins. I always have a couple of willing helpers to do this for me!

Paw paws (or papaya) are another tropical fruit we grow with relative ease. We have to beat the bats to them once they start to ripen and sometimes pick them green. I've discovered the versatility of this fruit - slice up green paw paw for an Asian inspired salad or wait for them to fully ripen and use them in cakes just like you would banana.

There have been a few disappointments with tropical and unusual fruits. Wallabies wrecked our first mango trees - both of them and the latest one we have planted isn't looking good. We have planted it closer to the house where we can keep a close eye where no wallabies roam but it is not looking healthy at all. I expect to write its obituary soon! Goji berries we were excited to find at an online nursery - expensive but a worthwhile investment we thought until they died. It seems the super fruits are not so super in our garden. Never mind there are other fruits we are having a go at growing including blueberries and if they fail to thrive at least we have the ever reliable citrus loaded with vitamin C to fall back on!

Lemons, limes, cumquats

And our family's favourite citrus fruit - mandarins!

7. For the second year in succession the mandarin tree is loaded. The fruit is green at the moment but in just a few weeks as the cooler weather arrives and the onset of colds and flu with the change of seasons, the fruit ripens just at the perfect time. I think this is such an amazing gift from our Creator who designed everything to perfection including the time of harvest!

We have planted more citrus trees on the property - including navel and valencia oranges and a lemonade. The trees are starting to bear fruit but the big crops are a year or two away.

Another golden fruit which grows well in both warm and cooler climates is the tamarillo. In colder places the fruit turns a beautiful shade of deep red. I used it to make pear and tamarillo chutney - absolutely delicious, check my archives (In the Kitchen) for the recipe.

8. The cherry guava tree produces fruit year after year.

Already here when we arrived at the property it attracts the birds into the garden who also relish its fruit. If I can beat the catbird to the fruit I will make jelly - if not I'm content to leave the fruit on the tree and pick a few as I go past. Bite into the fruit and suck out the centre for a quick burst of sherbet sweetness! It is a tree to snack from!

Wait - there's more. In our orchard in the chicken run and fenced off from the chickens are more fruit trees. This is where our paw paws are planted alongside apples, plums, a tropical pear, peaches and Davidson plums. The Davidson plums are a native bush food - we have planted at least 4 and they look to be establishing well but still awaiting the arrival of the fruit for making jam and sauces. During summer we tasted our first peacharines - not a huge crop but hoping for more next summer. The apple trees burst into blossom but only a few Pink Ladies followed. Planting apples was taking a chance - would it be cold enough over winter we wondered? The apples that did appear were crisp and crunchy nothing like those pathetic cold stored apples that taste like mush that the supermarkets offer. We will persevere!

9. The $8 investment for a passion fruit vine paid off.

This is our second vine and I love its ability to camouflage the fence of the chicken run with its lush foliage. It also climbs over the roof of the chicken shed creating an arbour. Flowers and fruit follow and it is dripping with fruit again. Another versatile fruit for sauces, icing or just drizzling over other fruits in a fresh fruit salad.

We have also planted kiwi fruit vines (you need a male and a female) along the orchard fence.

There are a few more fruit trees that I have not given credit to that are already giving back to us from their bountiful harvest in their appointed season.

10. So thank you Lord for the weeping black mulberry tree - even if it does stain clothes and fingers, it is a sweet gift to this family!

The birds are thankful too and there is enough fruit to share!

So many reasons to garden with gratitude. I am so thankful that I have a garden in such a beautiful setting. I have not even listed the other gifts from the garden - the trees, the flowers, the scents, the birds, butterflies, bees, animals. A place where one can find solitude but also a place to gather. A garden well tended can feed the body, mind, spirit and soul. It is hard work - the cultivation - but from that comes results and a deep sense of satisfaction - as the author Emilie Barnes reflects in her inspiring book 'Time Began in a Garden.'

' The gardener's experience involves the deep satisfaction of working side by side with the Creator to develop a place of beauty, a safe and life- enhancing environment. The satisfaction of working hard and seeing results. It is also the artist's satisfaction of envisioning something beautiful and rendering that beauty tangible. It is the satisfaction of making the world a better place, of participating in an activity that has been bettering the world for countless centuries.'

I pray that you too will enjoy your gardening experience and see the fruits of your labour.

With Love and Joy,


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