Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jesus at the Centre of my Christmas

I have quite a collection of Christmas ornaments. Some are rather lovely. Gilded angels, sparkly stars, shiny baubles and one of my favourites, a Saint Nicholas figurine dressed in a more traditional coloured robe rather than the familiar red and white suit which alludes to the long, commercial association with a certain soft drink. But there is one humble, handmade ornament in my collection. A wooden heart, painted red, embellished with the name of the One who is at the centre of it all - JESUS my Saviour, my Lord and my friend and the very reason I live. I always place this heart which bears His name high up, near the top of the tree in a prominent place and tell my children that the Jesus heart cannot hang from a lower branch but needs to be seen and placed up high because He is the most high God.

At a local shopping mall santa has been given a throne right in the centre of the forecourt. The queue to meet him is long, so I take my children behind the throne and show them a small glass case which holds a Nativity scene. Due to its location and size many people would not be likely to see it and walk past on their way to the supermarket. It has not been given a place of prominence. Whilst I am thankful that the Nativity scene has not been removed altogether, each time I step behind santa's throne and see that forgotten display I  determine that Jesus will be at the centre of our family's celebration of Christmas. We sing a song at church 'Jesus at the centre'. One of the lines is 'From my heart to the Heavens, Jesus be the centre, It's all about you, yes it's all about you'. If we are a Christian and really mean that, then Jesus needs to be the centre of our Christmas celebrations too.

It's why at home we talk about Jesus and read stories about a baby born in a stable and shepherds, wise men and angels rather than 'The Night before Christmas. It's why I asked for a Willow Tree Nativity set one year as my Christmas gift and set it out each season in a place of prominence. It's why Christmas is mentioned on our family vision poster which states 'Christmas will always be a special time in our household, when we come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a beautifully decorated home, around our table adorned with flowers and candles, giving gifts to one another and blessing others, particularly our neighbours.'

We are right now planning on how we will bless our neighbours. It's sure to involve food baked in our kitchen and children will help make it and deliver it. One year it was gingerbread, another year jars of muesli and cinnamon buns shaped into wreaths. We have just found out we have new neighbours! My daughter and son met them yesterday. They have moved here from America. Christmas will be somewhat different for them here and a lot warmer. We will have to do something very special to welcome them to the community and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to reach out and extend a hand of friendship.

Christmas is always a season of hospitality and we love opening up our home to others. On the weekend our home was full of people as we welcomed a big group of Chinese students into our home. We greeted them with cool drinks on arrival. My daughter had baked a slice and crackers, cheese, grapes and nuts were set out - on cake stands of course! The students arrived with armfuls of food which I was not expecting. Dishes of noodles, salads, rolls and a huge watermelon. I was introduced to some of the students but our children did most of the befriending, the twins determined to learn as many names of the girls as possible and my toddler found himself a new best friend - one of the boys who gave him piggy back rides and lots of high fives. We had hoped they might get to see a koala or a wallaby but none put in an appearance. Thankfully, the snakes didn't cross our paths either when we headed into the bush for a walk which was led by the border collie and kelpie cross who were just as excited as the children to have all these people in our home. It was a day I will never forget and very much a reminder for me that we have been given this very special place not as a sanctuary from the world for ourselves but a sanctuary to be shared with others. I think the students enjoyed their visit. They took so many photos and a request was made for one to be taken in my country kitchen!

We are being sent lots of guests this year from overseas - and my friend's son from Germany is coming to spend Christmas with us. He is already in the country and has been working in Sydney and he's looking forward to his visit here. The last time I saw him he was 2. We are looking forward to returning the hospitality that his family bestowed upon us when we visited Germany. He's keen to learn to surf so those extra boards we have lying around will come in useful.We have also said we will be willing to have any of the Chinese students for Christmas dinner, most have host families - if any do take up our offer it will be a full house for Christmas! And that's the way I like it, surrounded by my family and welcoming friends.... with Jesus at the centre. Not just the unseen guest at the table but the One whose presence is sensed and experienced - not just in the church but in the home and especially at Christmas.

This will most likely be my last post before Christmas. I thought of sharing inspiration for Christmas decorating but if you need that you can go on pinterest or visit one of the 'beautiful' blogs where the owner has time to style, take and upload all the photos - I don't have the time to do that this year but wanted to share from my heart about what Christmas really means to me and as much as I love to decorate my home it's not about having the cutest tree or the best styled table with the latest in trend colour scheme. I didn't add to the collection this year and have no new Christmas creations to show you apart from cake stands which have featured in most of my recent posts. I have worked out I have sold at least 70 cake stands since I started making them! Any new ornaments will have to match in with the ones I already own and even if I were to change my style or scheme - there will always appear on the uppermost branches, a red wooden heart bearing the name of Jesus - the one who is and always will be the centre of my Christmas, my family, my life, my home.

May His Peace, His Joy and His Love be experienced in your home and heart this Christmas. I'll be back to share more from my home and my heart in 2013.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Books and Birthdays!


  November and December are the birthday months in our home when six out of nine members of our family celebrate birthdays! I'll share about the birthday bash first before I show you my gorgeous new books. We now have another official adult in the family as my daughter (the one in the photo below) turned eighteen. She arrived home just in time from a holiday in New Zealand to help with the preparations for her party. After having no rain for several months you can guess what happened on the day. Yes, the rain arrived just in time for the party with 50 people expected... we didn't want to retire inside now we have this huge outdoor entertaining area so we set out the market gazebo and tied a tarpaulin from the roof!

The Birthday Girl in Bangkok, Thailand.
 She has since traveled to Malaysia and New Zealand.
 She is returning to the the orphanage in Thailand for a second missions trip early next year.

We had decided against hiring a spit for a roast and purchased a gas fired pizza oven from Aldi for a great price. A gourmet pizza party where you get people to design their own pizzas is a sure fire hit and a lot less work as I can testify. It was so simple to get ready. We used Aldi's ready-made pizza bases (I usually make my own but not for 50 people on one night!) and had everything set out in order for people to spread and sprinkle on their bases. A choice of tomato, sweet chilli, barbecue or plum sauces. Platters of sliced tomatoes and zucchini, meats including chicken and pepperoni, bowls of roasted peppers, red onions and olives, jugs of fresh herbs and of course lots of mozzarella cheese! The oven cooked the pizzas to crispy perfection and they were enjoyed by all. A special pizza paddle found on ebay arrived just in time for the party and made the process of removing pizzas from the oven a breeze. I highly recommend you invest in a pizza stone if you are partial to pizza.

Dessert was the birthday cake - a chocolate cake shaped into a huge number 18 plus a few extra cheesecakes and sweet biscuits that guests brought along. An air hockey game set up in a corner kept younger children occupied on a rainy night and the families and young people present chatted, cooked and consumed pizza. We had a tea and coffee station set up in the corner of the kitchen. I even pulled out the popcorn machine and roasted up some of our green coffee beans. The aroma of freshly roasted coffee was incredible and the guests who tried our coffee thought it was great!

It truly was a fuss free night - no fancy tables (though I did slip a few cake stands onto the dessert table!) silly slide shows or long speeches, just a great night of fellowship with family and friends. How wonderful it is to have teenagers who want to celebrate their birthdays at home and don't need to 'go out on the town' or have an alcohol fueled event to feel like they are having fun.

It was actually my birthday on the day of my daughter's party. Couldn't really be avoided seeing it fell on the Saturday. I didn't miss out as I went out for dinner the night before with my husband leaving behind toddlers and teenagers. I was also blessed with books  - three in total and they are my kind of books.

Simple Pleasures Annabel Langbein

My daughter brought me home two books from New Zealand. The first was her gift to me and I am so looking forward to trying the recipes from Annabel Langbein's new book 'Simple Pleasures' which accompanies the second series of the Free Range Cook which is yet to arrive on our television screens here in Australia. Once I have tried a few of the recipes I might review it at my blog but give me time... I'm making lots of cake stands in the lead up to Christmas which doesn't leave me much time to make cakes or experiment with new and exciting food and recipes.

 The other book which also hails from New Zealand from the very region where we dairy farmed is Riverstone Kitchen - recipes from a chef's garden by Bevan Smith. Riverstone kitchen was Cuisine magazine's Restaurant of the year in 2010/11 which is a pretty good accolade. Why was it not there when we lived there? It was just 'down the road' from our former farm according to my daughter who spent a week in the South Island, mainly in the Waitaki. My mother in law bought this book for me on her annual salmon fishing trip and the chef must have been there when she popped in because it is a signed copy! The recipes like Annabel Langbein's focus on fresh, seasonal produce. I don't like pretentious cook books so any chef who is prepared to include his 'Mum's Date and Apricot Scones' in one of his cook books wins my vote. It all looks like good, wholesome and honest fare with ingredients I can easily source - apart from the whitebait which we last enjoyed on our holiday to New Zealand two summers ago and almost choked on when we were told how much it was worth!


I was presented with one more book on my birthday. As I unwrapped it, I thought at first there may have not been good sibling communication and I was about to get myself a second copy of Annabel Langbein's new cook book but no, my son had bought me 'Celebrate' by Pippa Middleton. Yes - the Pippa Middleton, the sister of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. No time for a lengthy review here but let me tell you I am loving this book. Beautiful photography and tonnes of ideas for, as what the cover terms 'British festivities for family and friends'. A whole year of them no less, organized into seasons. It is not at all pretentious and not in the least bit 'posh'. No over-styled tables or 'tablescapes' which require hours of work and artful arranging. Pippa keeps it simple and attainable.There are recipes, crafts, useful tips and games this British girl (that's me!) remembers from her childhood.

Barbecues, campfires, birthday parties and Christmas are just some of the occasions featured and the focus is on family and friends being together and having fun and making wonderful memories rather than 'entertaining' to impress. My kind of book - totally! There's even a chapter on Afternoon Tea and tiered cake stands feature in some of the photographs. Pippa suggests gluing glasses between mismatched plates to make cake stands. If only she had given me a call - I would have gladly drilled some pretty plates for her! I'll browse her chapter for a few more high tea pointers as in two weeks time I have a speaking engagement at a high tea. I'm sharing about how I set up my business 'Tiers for Tea' and talking about high tea in general. I'll set up a table with china, cake stands and other tea time accessories which shouldn't be too much of a problem to source! Only problem will be deciding what to take with me.

I never intended for this post to be so long but wanted to catch you all up with my life at the moment. I have markets most weekends up to Christmas. Last month we melted on a 40 degree day as did most of my soy candles in teacups - they softened enough to ruin and hot gusts of wind blew dust into the wax! I'm learning to deal with the disappointments which inevitably come when you are starting a small business. My website for the vintage china hire is coming along nicely and looks very stylish and professional. It fits beautifully on an iphone screen for easy scrolling. This lovely cake stand is part of the 'Coming up Roses' collection. I could have sold this stand ten times over but decided to keep it for the hire collection as I can imagine how beautiful it would look on a dessert table filled with chocolate truffles and strawberries or petits four!  I've written up terms and conditions for hiring the china, making and cancellation of bookings and I'm realizing that I need to be firm and apply them for all occasions, even informal bookings.

It's almost December and I haven't even pulled out the Christmas tree. I hope to have my tree up this week but also want to set out a Christmas table and decorate it using my cake stands and teacups and take some photographs to show people how they could be used as festive centrepieces. Maybe my next post will be full of inspiration for Christmas, so come back for another visit soon!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

More Lessons from Plumfield

' The natural refinement which nothing but home influence can teach gave him sweet and simple manners; his mother had cherished an innocent and loving heart in him, his father had watched over the physical growth of his boy and kept the little body straight and strong on wholesome food and exercise and sleep, while Grandpa March cultivated the little mind with wisdom - not tasking it with long, hard lessons, parrot-learned, but helping it to unfold as naturally and beautifully as sun and dew help roses bloom.'

From 'Little Men' by Louisa May Alcott

This is one of the passages from Little Men that I just had to write down on the 'inspiration' page of my homeschool journal. So much wisdom in one short passage, especially for parents of boys! After many years on this homeschool journey I am in absolute agreement with Miss Alcott on the influence of the home. I have seen this outworked in the lives of all my children. The boy in this picture has an innocent and loving heart. He is gentle, generous and kind to all he comes into contact with and people take notice and tell me that he is the type of boy they want their sons to be friends with. I have found that the approach that Jo and her Professor used with their boys at Plumfield also works well with my boys and this son in particular.

He needs wholesome food - and we do our best to provide this by growing our own fruit and vegetables, making meals at home from scratch and limiting the amount of sweet, refined or takeaway foods.

Exercise -  There was a time when we were involved in too many sports and extra-curricular activities. Realizing the pressure and unwanted stress this was bringing into our lives we pulled out of a number of activities, and found a sport that all of the children could be involved in on the same day at the same time which happens to be ice skating. It is a family and age integrated lesson (anyone of any age is welcome to join the class) and works in well with our schedule. My sporty boy also plays tennis but the rest of their exercise takes part in 'God's gymnasium' - the great outdoors which brings the added benefit of fresh air and no subscription or insurance fees!

He has always been a tree climber.
We nicknamed him 'gecko boy' when he was younger!

A gentle approach to learning. How I wish I had read 'Little Men' earlier on. I was rather inpatient for my first son to 'get it'. I relied on text books and 'busywork' and just wanted him to read fluently. Some lessons ended in tears and frustration. He just wasn't ready and needed more hands on activities and less work which required him to sit still and write out answers. Thankfully, I worked this out, gained the confidence to set aside the regimented, non-flexible curriculum and implemented my own 'delight directed' home learning programme using all kinds of resources. That same boy who did not enjoy putting pen to paper will finish his degree next year without the burden of a student loan to pay back. He writes assignments and exam papers and often receives marks of distinction and high distinction.

I am far more patient and relaxed these days. I understand that children learn at different rates. I allow my home to be a Plumfield of sorts at times. If you have read the book you will know what I mean. We don't have a carriage house to turn into a museum but there are often 'specimens' lying around (usually rocks as we have so much quartz on our property). Sometimes, it feels more like a zoo or rather the reptile enclosure. We know our frogs and we know our snakes.

 When it comes to the latter, we operate with caution and commonsense but have learned to set aside fear which is counter-productive. Can't resist showing you the snake that visited us last week. It came through a window into our master bedroom one warm evening and my husband did not see it on the floor but felt it brush past his feet. First time obedience paid off as the toddler who was following behind, immediately responded to his daddy's command and left the room. The snake was very obliging - it did not rear up or respond with aggression but slithered up and over into the nearby metal rubbish bin! I stood at the door and watched this with fascination. Once upon a time I would have run a mile!

 Much consultation of field guides and googling of images led us to conclude that it was a brown tree snake and it was released back into the bush after lots of debating and close up study -  possible because it was contained in a metal mesh bin with a very heavy book placed on top and could not escape. It sure makes life exciting for a boy when you get to study snakes for real! My children are now familiar with the facts about the brown tree snake. That it is venomous but difficult for it to inject its venom as its fangs are located in the back of its mouth. We were very glad that it wasn't a highly venomous tiger snake but found out that the brown tree snake because of its stripes and nocturnal habits is sometimes referred to as the 'night tiger'.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson from Plumfield. I'm not so sure you enjoyed the lesson from Eden about snakes though but they are a fact of life here and something you must learn to live with. If you move to Australia and the real estate description of a property says 'abundant wildlife' you can be be assured that sooner or later you will encounter a snake. Maybe not inside the house (this is the 3rd snake to come inside in 10 years) but there again we have more than our fair share - over 8 different species observed over the years!

I have at least one more lesson from Plumfield to share but cannot promise an exact date for that post. My daughter (the little girl in this picture who is now 17) is in New Zealand at the moment and we are planning her 18TH birthday party for when she returns. I don't have to make her a cake, she wants to make her own! Her brothers have always appreciated her baking. Her younger sister has stepped into her shoes and has been enjoying having full reign in the kitchen! The photo above was taken when we lived in New Zealand. Notice the family resemblance - my boys were always blonder than my girls! I have lots of markets in the lead up to Christmas for my cake stand business. Right now I have to go and read another chapter of 'The Hobbit' to the boy who features in the photos for this post. We have just finished what he called the 'best book ever' 'Brandon Chase' by an author known as BB first published in 1944 which is about 3 boys who run off and live in the forest for almost a year who survive by hunting and fishing. Even my toddler would ask for this book to be read to him and when asked if he knew what it was about told me that the boys in the story climbed a big tree. Wow, how much they absorb when you read living books to them!

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How we processed our home grown coffee

'It looks like coffee, it smells like coffee' this was the reaction as we examined the freshly roasted beans I held in my hands. 'But is it going to taste like coffee - good coffee or would all the work we had put into processing these beans over the past week end up literally leaving a bitter taste in my mouth? The beans went into the grinder and the grounds were ready to go into the plunger or French Press as some prefer to call it. The plunger was eventually pushed down and the first cup of coffee - our very own coffee was poured. As I had done much of the laborious task of removing the husk I deemed that I should be the first to taste the coffee and I am happy to report that it actually tasted pretty good if I do say so myself. There was no burnt or bitter taste. It had quite a smooth and creamy texture and for the last few days I have had the satisfaction of enjoying a cup of coffee each morning made from our own beans from trees that we had planted and cultivated.

It was a labour of love! I'm not sure if I want to go through the process each time we have a decent crop of beans but I think the reward of drinking our own coffee will see me try it again in the future.

Here's how we did it - step by step.

1.Harvesting the berries
The picture above was taken a few years ago. This spring, the seven Arabica trees, five of which are planted as a hedge along our driveway have much denser foliage and were covered in beans. The children were given instructions to pick every single ripe berry and they brought up over four and a half kilos of red berries.

2. Removing the skin/ pulp
We did this by hand, squeezing open the berry to reveal a pair of creamy coloured beans which are covered in a mucus like material. They feel quite slimy and slippery in your hand. This process needs to be done as soon as possible after harvesting. The beans went into a bucket and water was poured over the top. We removed any remaining skins/pulp and the beans that came to the surface - the 'floaters'. These are not good beans.

3. Soaking/Fermentation
The beans now need to ferment and this is achieved by soaking in water. We placed ours in a plastic bucket (don't use a metal bucket) and left them to soak for about 3 - 4 days. You can test for fermentation by taking out some of the beans and rinsing them. They should no longer feel slimy. The beans I tested felt dry and had a much grittier texture. I rinsed the beans thoroughly using a colander and repeated this several times until the water ran clear.

The article I read suggested that a dehydrator could be used to dry the beans provided it could be set at a constant 40c for the whole drying period. My dehydrator didn't have a variable temperature setting but I decided to chance drying out  most of the beans in it and I lined the trays with baking paper and spread out the beans as evenly as possible. As it was a very hot and sunny day I decided to also sun dry some of the beans . I spread them out on a white sheet on our outdoor table.  Last summer I had reached this stage with a small batch of beans but it was a very humid summer and with so much moisture in the air the beans went mouldy in a short space of time. I didn't want that to happen this time and I ensured that I brought the  beans inside at night and waited for any morning dew to disappear before placing them outside the next day. I also stirred the beans several times a day using my hand to spread them around and bring any underlying beans to the surface.

The verdict - both methods worked but the dehydrator sped up the process. I used the dehydrator over 2 days turning it off at night and by the end of the second day I had noticed that most of the beans were now a blue/grey colour. It's very important to ensure that the beans are dried adequately - more than 12% moisture left in the bean will cause them to go stale/mouldy during storage. The article I was referring to throughout, stated to test for dryness by biting into a bean. It should be hard. If still soft and chewy the beans were not ready. Ours were definitely hard so they went into a container for a week before moving onto the next and most time consuming process of husking.

5. Husking
This is the removal of the papery layer surrounding the green bean. It is not difficult but it takes a long time if you do it by hand. It simply involves scraping away the papery skin and at first it was quite enjoyable and rather addicting but soon the novelty of husking had worn off for my little helpers and I was left to do it by myself. It took hours and hours! I would suggest rather than standing at the kitchen bench, to do it in the evening when you can sit down and watch a good movie. It might need to be an epic though or even a trilogy such as Lord of the Rings. The thought of drinking freshly roasted homegrown coffee kept me motivated and eventually the final green bean was popped into the canister.

The step I was most nervous about. The article I was reading had suggested roasting beans in the oven but a friend who grows and processes his own coffee told us he uses a popcorn maker. We bought a cheap $20 popcorn maker about a year ago with the intention of trying this method for our coffee. I had also watched videos on You Tube of a dude in Hawaii using a popcorn maker to roast beans, so with some intrepidation we put the beans into the machine, turned it on and waited for the crack we had been told to listen out for. The beans changed colour turning gold before darkening to a rich dark brown and we could clearly hear the crack. I was scared of scorching the beans and ruining the coffee and turned the machine off as soon as I thought they were ready and emptied them into a bowl. The aroma in the kitchen was wonderful and that is when we proclaimed 'It looks like coffee, it smells like coffee ...... and yes, it tasted like coffee. Good coffee and I am rather particular about my coffee. I like dark roasted coffee with nutty, chocolate tones. Ours is probably a more of a medium roast but it tastes oh so smooth and not a trace of bitterness.

We are very happy with the result. Our seven trees are not going to keep us in coffee all year round but for the next few weeks we will have the satisfaction of drinking our own coffee. I think I will go through the process again but if we were to have a much bigger harvest, say more than 5 kilos of berries, I think we would consider investing in a dehusking machine. I haven't checked what they cost but I'm guessing it's not cheap so looks like it will be husk removal by hand during movie marathons for the time being!

I hope this has been helpful to anyone considering processing coffee beans from their own bushes. Success is possible. It just takes an investment of your time.

Here's a link to the article that was the most useful for me as it takes you through the whole process. It's from the Queensland government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and although here are no photographs, it is very informative and written for people wanting to try processing on a small scale, their own coffee at home.


If you live in a tropical/subtropical climate and can grow coffee, have you ever tried processing your own beans before? How did your coffee turn out? Would you do it again or did you decide it was too much work for too little coffee?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Camping with Kangaroos

Spring has just been the busiest time for me and my family. I have had little time to update my blog as I have been busy doing other stuff... spring cleaning, planting gardens, harvesting coffee beans and attempting to process them at home, making cake stands, selling cake stands, buying china, attending a dinner, a bush dance and camping with kangaroos!

Let's start with the camping trip. We returned to a campsite which we stayed at a few years ago. It is in a National Park and close to the river. The only facility is a long drop toilet but firewood is provided. We set up our tents, our gazebo and spent several days off- grid. There was no mobile coverage so no texting, no phone calls, no blogging, no facebook. The children went swimming in the rock pools during the day and in the evening when the sun went down and it became rather chilly, we sat around a campfire and toasted marshmallows. Each evening the kangaroos would join us. It was as if they were drawn to our family! A mother brought over her joey and they sat and stared at us. As much as I don't relish all the preparations for camping and attempting to roll up sleeping bags and fit them back into their tiny bags causes me no end of frustration, I have to say I rather enjoyed this trip  - no rain, no mosquitoes either and I had time to read a wonderful book called 'Almost Amish' by Nancy Sleeth which is the story of one woman's quest for a simpler, more sustainable life. Very convicting and the chapter on technology made me feel less and less guilty about not updating this blog!

We did leave the campsite to go and do other activities. We enjoyed our second trip to Australia's best theme park (in the opinion of my younger children) and it is nowhere near the Gold Coast. All the rides are made from metal pipe! It is a 'fair dinkum' adventure playground that still allows adventure unlike most of the 'ultra safe, low to the ground' playgrounds you come across today. Even has an animal park with 'fair dinkum' Australian animals. Forgot the camera on that day so these pictures were taken on our first trip there. This slide is actually quite high but there is a much bigger waterslide and it was open for the first time this year. Even I ventured up the steps and found out at the bottom how cold the water was!

It even has a roller coaster!

This guy was still there to greet us!

As was the friendly dingo!

The next day we introduced our youngest to the more sedate thrill of fossicking for sapphires. We didn't go out into the bush this time. Just went to a local caravan park that has onsite fossicking. He was soon absorbed in this activity which is so much fun for children - a real treasure hunt. They did find some small sapphires but nothing which was worth having cut.

Which was a shame because on Sunday I discovered that the sapphire my son found on our first ever fossicking trip had fallen out of my ring. On Saturday night we had attended a 'fair dinkum' Aussie bushdance. (Always wanted an excuse to use that description 'fair dinkum' in a blog post and now I have 3 times!) It was the best night with an amazing bluegrass band playing and we had so much fun. I'm just guessing that all the exuberant bush dancing, hand clapping and knee slapping caused my gem to become dislodged. This means one thing -we will have to go fossicking for sapphires again soon! And pray one of my children finds one!

I did find some other treasures on our camping trip. We stopped at some little antique shops that were crammed with lots of lovely china at very reasonable prices. I bought some plates to make into cake stands, silver teaspoons and other tea time accessories for the collection we are putting together for a vintage china/high tea hire service.

This little business is keeping me so busy. I have been attending markets and events around my local region. This is my stall at a conference for women that was held at a resort. I did very well on that day and had so many conversations about china and the joys of taking time for tea. So many people are thrilled to see that high tea is back in fashion and my stall brings back so many memories for people! My daughter loves working alongside me. We wear our vintage dresses to really look the part and dressing up the stall is so much fun. We are meeting people from lots of different places - from all over Australia and other countries during the tourist season. Have met a girl who does catering for high teas. We have done one event together and plan to do more - she brings the food, I bring the china. She also has a daughter who loves vintage style and she is the friend that my daughter has longed to meet! They both love the same things. I am so happy for her.

This is the recent addition to my china collection. It is one of nine antique and vintage china tea sets I purchased recently with some of the money the business has earned. We had the pleasure of visiting a home in the country to view and purchase the china. The couple we bought it from were so lovely and so hospitable. We were given a tour of their home. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Wrought iron balconies, antique furniture, four poster beds, dressers and hutches full of beautiful china. I had to rearrange a few cupboards at home to house the china we purchased. And now I have to catalogue it all and turn the plates into cake stands.

Thought you would like to see one more picture of my collection of teacups and bone china trios. I now have close to 100 teacups and hope to double that in order to cater for weddings and larger events. It also means anytime we have a tea party at home every person gets to choose a pretty cup. No more chunky mugs and definitely no paper cups at this house!

So pleased to have finally updated my blog but I'm still not sure when the next post will be up. I'm learning that you should never promise blog posts. If we have any success this year in drying and roasting our coffee beans I might share about that but I have one more weekend before the last term of the school year begins. We have someone coming to stay next month and my daughter is traveling to New Zealand arriving home a couple of days before her eighteenth birthday for which she has planned a celebration - at home of course!

Looks like I'm going to be busier than ever. Please continue to pray for rain - there has been no rain for months apart from an occasional sprinkling. There is smoke in the air from a bushfire caused by lightening strikes further up our valley. The worst bushfire season in 40 years is predicted for this summer.

I pray your spring or fall season is as productive and satisfying as mine. Never feel guilty about not updating your blog. Spending time with the people that matter most in your life is far more important!

Until next time

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lessons from Plumfield

' I want my boys to love Sunday, to find it a peaceful, pleasant day when they can rest from common study and play, yet enjoy quiet pleasures and learn, in simple ways, lessons more important than any other taught in school'

- Jo from 'Little Men' by Louisa May Alcott

Photograph of two of my boys, one at 20 the other 2 taken during a Sunday family picnic at the river last summer. Hoping to picnic more this year, especially on Sundays. Spring has arrived. The days are warm and sunny and it feels more like summer some days. It hasn't rained for weeks and the bushfire season has arrived early. We desperately need rain to fill our tanks and predict we will run out of water later this week. Your prayers would be appreciated. More lessons from Plumfield to follow. If you have never read 'Little Men' and are raising boys or are a homeschool parent you will be inspired by these 'lessons'. Even if you don't have boys you will enjoy these quotes which are all about the sweet influence of home.

Have a most blessed week!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Taking Time Out For HospitaliTEA

Oh wow, I have just had the busiest month and the next few months will be the same as I put time into establishing this little mother/daughter business. On the weekend we attended our first big craft fair. It was a lot of work but setting up our table with the tiered stands I have been making and the teacups, crystal and other high tea accessories I have been collecting was a lot of fun. I wanted to give people an idea of what a special occasion table could look like if they were to buy or hire some of our tiers and other china. The sweet little posies in teacups were a final detail that made our stall look so beautiful. Snipped from a $5 bouquet from Aldi!

On the day over 4,500 people attended these markets and our stall drew lots of admirers. We sold a few stands and all of our soy candles in teacups. At the end of the day and after many a conversation with people who visited our stall and other vendors we came away with a much clearer idea of what direction to take this little business in. Lots of older ladies were attracted to our stall and some dear ladies told us they thought our stall was the best out of all the stalls there. Quite a compliment if you had seen some of the stalls and the beautiful handcrafted wares for sale. But old ladies don't need anymore china (that's what they tell me!) so the bridal market is definitely something we are now aiming for and I now have permission to collect china to set up a little hire business. Joy oh joy!

 It's quite a family affair as we attend the garage sales each weekend with each child given instructions to spy out china first before clothes, books or more nerf guns. Told my son I will sell his nerf guns in a garage sale if I find any more peach foam bullets in the laundry baskets! Any other mothers relate?

In addition to our usual monthly local markets, I will be exhibiting (with permission to sell) at an annual ladies conference next month and I have been asked to attend another three craft markets before Christmas, two being out of my region which would involve travel. After lots of discussion with the family we think the money might be better spent on an ad in the bridal supplements that the local newspaper publishes. This region has lots of resorts which are popular wedding venues and vintage style weddings are very much in vogue. I know of one photographer who told a friend that eight out of ten weddings they photograph have a vintage theme. What do my readers think? I'd love to hear your feedback.

 Waiting to cut her birthday cake!

 I have so much on at the moment and blogging has to drop down my list of priorities. Our family is also going to get involved in a ministry to international students. Even before that takes off, my friend's son from Germany is coming to stay with us and his mother (my penfriend from the age of 15) is also coming over at Christmas so lots of hospitality is on the agenda! We had the opportunity to use some of our china at a dinner party for my daughter's 15TH birthday recently. We had four guests from Saskatchewan, Canada who were staying in our town who we invited to come along on the last minute which added much talk, mirth and merriment to the evening. They sang the Canadian National Anthem for us. It was so loud I'm surprised no koalas fell out of the trees! The world is coming to our doorstep and we have lots of supplies for hospitality! Everything is working in so well together. Hence the name for this blog post!

As to my blog I will post when I am able (I want to simplify it and give it a fresh design sometime too) but right now I need to take time out for the business of tea. I've added in something else to my life so something has to give. I would love to keep sharing what I am learning as we set up this little business which is still very much a hobby. If you would like me to share some insights from my own experience thus far from time to time that could help others who are thinking of establishing a home based business please let me know.

Monday, August 13, 2012

These are a Few of my Favourite Things

What if you had to leave your home and were only allowed to take with you one tea chest. What would you take and what would you leave behind?

 I've given this some thought - not sure if I could squeeze it all into one tea chest but I wanted to share with you some of my favourite things from around my home. Some of these pictures may be familiar images to my long term readers but I'm still without my own camera so having to rely on photos from my archives and thought this would be a fun post to do!

1. Without a doubt, my green wine goblets would be carefully wrapped and be placed into that chest. I just love how they transform my table. We don't just use these glasses at Christmas time. They come out for special family dinners, when we have guests and on other occasions. I don't even need to have flowers or candles - these goblets always make the table look and feel special.

2. I have acquired a lot of china recently (oh you want to see the china trios I found at an estate sale on the weekend!) but if I could take with me only one set it would be this dinner set because it was given to me by my husband as an anniversary gift. He chose it, he knew I would love it and I did. That is why it makes it onto my list of my favourite things!

3. Another of my favourite things is something for the Christmas Table. I have a lot of Christmas decorations but if I could choose only one, this wreath would be it. It has graced our Christmas table or other tabletops around my home for many years. I love handmade as opposed to mass produced items. It is special because it reminds me of Christmas, my favourite time of the year. I created it and designed to complement my favourite green wine goblets. It was the work of my own hands Simply put, it was made with love.

4. I would have to find some room for teacups in my tea chest but which ones? That would be a hard decision but let's stick to my favourite colour which surprise, surprise is green! I just love the delicate design of these vintage Noritake 'Daphne' teacups - they come with a coordinating cake stand so I might just sneak that into the chest too!

5. This is my tea chest, not my children's but if I had to choose just one toy that belonged to my children that I will never give away it would be my son's Paddington Bear. He did travel from darkest Peru to the front window of a vintage store where I found him waiting for me to claim him. My little boy loves Paddington but he loves his red boots more, he steals them and puts them on before heading out into the garden to play. He has his own gumboots but prefers Paddington's wellington boots. They are genuine P.B boots so I have to reclaim them and return them to the bear. I take very seriously that request on his tag 'Please look after this bear'!

6. Faded floral drapes - They might be faded but they are faded and floral and faded and floral just goes together. I sometimes tell myself that they are dated and make my house look like grandma's place but it must be the English heritage - I walk into the living room or hall and these drapes say 'Country' 'Cottage' 'English'. There's no denying it - I love them so you can keep your oatmeal tab tops and your 'new retro inspired' prints. This is my home, my sanctuary and I must decorate it with what I consider beautiful!

7. My collection of favourite family photos in frames. A house does not feel like a home to me unless it has at least one grouping of family photographs in frames. This is my life and the people who are most precious to me on display. No artwork however valuable could take the place of these pictures. If you offered me the Mona Lisa in their place I would turn it down. I could show guests the digital photos I have stored on electronic devices but I'd rather have them stop by the piano and look at the smiling faces in silver, pewter and rose embellished frames!

8. Books. A home must have books! Oh I know I could slide a kindle or other electronic reader into my tea chest but I would need to take some real books, made from paper with pages that I don't tap to turn. But there is only so much room in the tea chest. Which books would I choose to take? I have my favorites lined up together on the bookshelf. A battered Bible, my collection of Elsie Dinsmore and Violet books by Martha Finley that I have yet to read to the twins and the gift books by Emilie Barnes my favourite homemaking author who was my mentor thanks to her writing before the days of websites and blogs.

If  I could take only one picture book from our collection it would be this one! I intend to read this to my future grandchildren one day when they visit me at Christmas.

 And I know I could browse pinterest for inspiration for decorating my home but it is still not the same as your heart rejoicing as you turn pages with a book of beautiful images in your lap when you are curled up on the sofa. If I was allowed just one interiors book this would be it. I love the title of this book 'Home Living life beautifully' and the things that I have chosen for my tea chest are those that help me to do this. China, books, photographs. Notice that no appliances, electronic devices, clothes, toys (apart from Paddington) or gadgets feature on my list of favorite things.

 Each item I have chosen has a memory attached. The green glass goblets that will always be a reminder of our family dinners at home and our love of hospitality. The china cups that will bring back memories of our family's crazy obsession with garage sales and finding beautiful and practical things for our home without having to spend a lot of money! The books that I read to my children that didn't just keep them entertained or amused but encouraged them to have Godly attitudes and inspired them to live a life of their faith (that's why those Elsie Dinsmore books are so special)

So that's it, these are just a few of my favourite things. Oh yes, there are other things around my home which I love but I've realized there is a lot of stuff I could live without. And yes, I know that I cannot take it with me and the Bible tells us not to lay up treasures on earth but to lay up treasure in Heaven. I hold on lightly to even my favourite things but I don't believe as Christians that our homes should be only be spartan and utilitarian, devoid of decoration. They should be a taste of Heaven! I need beauty in my life. I purposely have chosen some items for my home that I consider to be both useful and beautiful. What about you? If you were told you could only take with you one tea chest what would you choose? What are some of your favourite things?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My House turned into a Tea Room and other Memories of Winter 2012

Winter 2012 was the season when my house turned into a tearoom and if you follow my blog you will know why. I haven't had much time to actually sit down and take tea or write interesting posts and regular updates for my blog.  My camera stopped working so I am relying on photos from my archives and borrowing the cameras that belong to other family members. If only I could find batteries for them! So this post is a compilation of pictures and happenings at eight acres of eden. The year my house turned into a tearoom.

 I have been making more cake stands for my market stall which going by the interest it has generated has the potential to turn into a successful little business. I now have my very own drill press. It's huge and heavy but it's made the job of drilling plates so much easier! I just love that I now have an excuse to buy pretty vintage china but letting it go is rather hard. We are now considering offering a hire service for people wanting to host high teas. I like this idea - I get to keep the china I find and loan it out to grace the tables at special occasions. It's my daughter's 15TH birthday next week and we are busy planning a dinner party, Cake stands are going to feature on the table of course!

This was my most recent stall at the markets. I have two markets next month and two the following month. I have had requests from people to attend other markets and craft fairs further afield but I'm staying with my local area ones for now. I don't want this business to take me out of the home too much.

It's citrus season and once again our mandarin tree kept us amply supplied with vitamin C. The last of the mandarins were harvested a few weeks ago. I had been refusing to buy any other fruit until every last mandarin had been consumed. We now have passionfruit in abundance. I did make a few jars of jam but most days the fruit that is picked off the vine is sliced open and scooped out by children. This explains the mystery of the disappearing teaspoons. Had to hide my silver ones!

Every day at least one child picks me a camellia. I'm running out of containers for them - maybe I should use some of those teacups!

This photo was taken last winter but this year our veggie garden decided to turn into a salad garden. I have been picking leaves every day - lettuce, Asian greens and Tuscan Kale have all thrived over winter. Cabbages and spinach are doing well too. Broad beans are about to flower and the garlic planted earlier this year is looking like it might give us a good crop come summer. We also discovered an accidental pumpkin patch growing in the compost . To harvest the dozen pumpkins it produced, required an expedition into the wild which practically required one to abseil as the vines scrambled down the hill. I thought of recruiting Bear Grylls but sent down my son and the twins who thought it was a great adventure searching for pumpkins in the undergrowth. We had pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, roast pumpkin and I made what I thought was an ample supply of pumpkin chutney. The children and my husband loved it and we even used it on homemade pizzas. It didn't last as long as I hoped.

I have been making these almost every day. Some day they are the sweet version - cinnamon buns and other days I leave out the sugar and cinnamon and fill them with roast peppers and feta. The savoury scrolls last about 10 minutes and the cinnamon ones are gone in 60 seconds!

And yes we do leave the house. It's usually to go to garage sales, op shops, the ice rink, church, tennis lessons and one place we frequent is hardware stores seeing we have been renovating this house like forever. But on this occasion we were actually at  a wedding and when the bride and groom went away for photos we took a trip to a shopping centre and who just happened to be in the hardware store there but Brad and Lara from the television renovation programme 'The Block'. They were the nicest couple, very down to earth and when my daughter let go of her balloon and it went up to the ceiling Lara climbed up onto the table and rescued it for her. We were thrilled when they went on to win the competition but all suggestions from the family that mum and dad should apply to go on this show have been met with a resounding 'No Way'! The only thing I intend on drilling is plates!

And to finish off this post one more exciting event this winter was the opportunity to attend an ice skating show called 'Fantastique on Ice'. Seeing most of the children have been skating for quite a number of years we decided to splash out and buy tickets to see this show. I had my daughter 'find a friend' and we qualified for a group booking which brought down the cost considerably. One of the bonuses on this occasion of being a large family. If only other venues would allow big families to be classed as a group. After the show was over, the ice was opened up for a skating session and the twins were on there before anyone else as they knew their boot size. They got to meet the performers some of whom are Australian champions. It was all very exciting for them and this pretty much guarantees that skating will continue to be a passion for my children for years to come. The youngest member of the family gets to give it a go next year when he turns 3 which is how old the twins were when they started.

Hope you have enjoyed visiting the 'tea rooms'. This was meant to be a point by point post but I can't help describing things! And it's great to have all these memories recorded here. I will be able to look back one day and say ' So that was the year my house turned into a tea room!


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