Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Market Day

I thought those that follow my blog might like to see some pictures and hear an update on our most recent market stall. After lots of discussion around the family dinner table we decided not to have any baking for sale this time. This brought down our stall fee but would we sell any of the cake stands that I had made up? I am thrilled to report that we sold quite a few including the lovely cream and blue 3 tiered stand that the delightful daughter is presenting.

Here are some of the prettiest of the soy candle teacups. I only have one of these left. Lots of people commented on how beautiful our stall was. We had lots of fun setting everything out. The lovely floral tray cloth is a tea towel - a gift from a sweet blogging friend in Canada. Camille - you can now see what I will be using your gift for and it is not drying dishes! I had to let some people know that the tray and linens were not for sale!

It was a glorious day and the sunshine brought out the crowds. We talked to lots of people about china, high tea, weddings and family. A man who knew his china came over and picked up a Royal Doulton teacup candle, saucer and matching plate set. He told my daughter that we were not charging enough, that this set was worth twice what we had priced it at. I adjusted the price by a couple of dollars but suspected that the retro design would not appeal to many people. I was right, it didn't sell but the rose patterned ones did.

I had such fun making the soy candles. Why have I not discovered these candles before now I ask myself. They burn for hours and they don't drip wax all over your table cloth or counter. And they are made from all natural ingredients. I decided not to add dyes just pure lavender essential oil. I might try some other fragrances in future batches. What are your favourite scents for candles?

Here are three plates waiting to be drilled. I made these up into a cake stand for a 21st birthday gift at the request of a friend. Half the fun is finding the right combinations of plates. You need lots of plates to do this. I will need to go on more plate hunting expeditions. The day before the markets I took a trip to a large country town I felt sure would have lots of op shops. There were only 3 and only one that had a small selection of china plates and I bought most of the floral ones they had. There were teacup and plate sets but these were expensive. One of the downsides of vintage style being so popular. I had lunch at a little cafe that had 2 tier 'modern' vintage look plate stands for sale. I could not resist checking the price. They were twice what I had been charging!

Thank goodness I love garage sales so much and have the opportunity to go to them every Saturday. I love how this venture fits our family so well.

One more exciting snippet of news to share and that is I received an invitation to exhibit my stands at a National conference that is coming to a resort in our region. There will be over 500 delegates in attendance and they are all women! I think I will take up this invitation!

Thank you so much to all those who put forward suggestions for our stall. There were so many good ideas but lots of them are duplicates of the stalls that are already out there. Nougat, cupcakes, packaged baked items etc are all to be found at our markets. We needed something different and it seems we may have found it. I might persuade my daughter to bake up some of her amazing biscuits and slices and package them up for the markets prior to Christmas but for now she is passing on her site to her mother and younger sister. She is earning money at the dairy farm and is enjoying being a real farm girl for the moment. Her younger sister is thrilled to have the opportunity to work at the stall so it will continue to be a family business.

Hope you enjoyed this update on our tiers for tea and thank you for all the encouragement and positive comments that you left last time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Fabulous Family Bake-Off 2012

Easter heralds the beginning of show season in Australia when families flock to the showgrounds in towns and cities across the nation. In New Zealand we knew them as  'A and P' shows, it was all about the agriculture and the produce and we have attended a few in our time, though having been raised on a farm, I have to say, seeing cows and chickens at the show was really not that exciting for our children. But as our family grew in size, the cost of attending such shows became unaffordable. You have to pay for admission first, then factor in the cost of rides, sideshows and other attractions. Astronomical might be the right adjective to use here. We carefully consider our purchases and have never parted with money for plastic showbags filled with lollies and novelty toys which will soon be lost or discarded. The food stalls also made us reconsider a day at the show - greasy food at inflated prices was not what we wanted to feed our family. But even without the fast food and showbags, the cost of attending was still beyond what we were prepared to pay.

So what do you do when you have decided to not attend the show but still want to give your children the opportunity to participate in a bake-off?  It's simple - you hold your own and at Easter this year that's exactly what we did. We had four official entrants in our family bake-off to be held at a most lovely venue - our own garden. No travel involved, no waiting in traffic or struggles to find a car park space. No restrictive rules on what you could bake or its dimensions. It just had to be edible and ready to be set out on the table for afternoon tea.

I set the table out in front of a garden bed with a profusion of pineapple sage for a backdrop. I used my lace cloths and  favourite china cups. Our newly created cake stands (see my last post) were ready to receive the cakes, biscuits and slices that were being created in the kitchen which was a hive of industry. A few squabbles over oven space and wooden spoons had to be sorted out. Some had elected to make family favourites to woo the judges. Others were checking out pinterest and searching the internet for new recipes.

Which is always a risk. These cookies look awesome but they were not a hit with the judges I'm afraid. I think my daughter chose them for the name 'cowgirl cookies' being a cowgirl herself. But they did not compare with her own chocolate chip cookies that she sells at the markets. Do you like my Royal Albert 'tennis set' as they are known? I found it for $3 at a garage sale during one of my china hunting expeditions!

As it was Easter one of the twins decided to make chocolate nests. They looked good and the judges agreed they tasted good even with shredded wheat as an ingredient. The other twin wanted to use what was in season and passion fruit picked fresh from the vine went into her passion fruit slice, topped with a lemon or orange jelly slice, they looked and tasted delicous. But would it win over the judges? After all the delightful daughter had chosen to make a  favourite family recipe - chocolate cake!

She tried to impress the judges by dressing up for the competition but it won her no favours, after all they did not know who had baked the various items. They had to taste each of the items and mark them out of 5 on presentation and more importantly taste. The points were added up and the winner was declared.

It was the passion fruit slice! The judges know what makes good afternoon tea fare. They have been testing cakes, biscuits and slices for years and are used to giving constructive criticism. This slice had just the right crumb. It wasn't too lemony or overly sweet, even with passionfruit being the star ingredient. It had been perfectly mixed by the winning cook who because of her tender age had been allowed to receive some verbal instructions but was not given any physical help. This had been agreed upon prior to the start of the bake-off. Let's just say the older girls in the family were not allowed to forget that they lost out to their younger twin sisters, for it was the twins who claimed both first and second places. There could only be one winner though and she was presented with a pretty Kath Kidston envelope that held a crisp five dollar note. A lot more prize money was on offer here than at the local show! Needless to say she was beside herself with excitement!

The recipe for passion fruit slice features in our family recipe journal. It is so easy to make. Our passion fruit vine is dripping with fruit so it will be making an appearance at more afternoon teas this autumn and winter. If you have passion fruit do give it a try. Here's the recipe as it appears in our journal.

I think our fabulous family bake-off might become a family tradition and an annual event at this time of the year. I know two girls who are already talking about what they are planning to make for the next competition. And one girl does not intend on giving up her title! With the success of this years bake-off  I'm thinking of maybe having little trophies and certificates for next year.

Have you ever held a family bake -off? Or found an affordable and fun alternative if the show is also not within your family budget? We do attend the free fireworks display on New Year's Eve where the carnival does not have an admission charge and each child is given a budget and can choose to go on one or two rides so they don't grow up being deprived of the thrill of going on the dodgems, whizzing down the bumper slide or riding the ferris wheel. But some of the best times as a family have been in our own backyard that were either free or did not cost a lot of money and these are the times I hope my children will always look back on and remember as the best times of all!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tiers for Teatime

'Tiers for Tea' is just one of the names I am considering for our new venture that I am so excited to tell you all about. It began as an idea for attracting people over to my daughter's cake stall at the markets. She makes the most amazing desserts, cakes, slices and cookies and once received an email from Belgium from two tourists who so loved one of her slices they wanted the recipe because it would always remind them of their time in Australia! But even with such wonderful feedback it is still hard to tempt people to buy what is after all a sweet treat, especially when people are being careful with what they spend in the current economic climate. People tell her 'They look so good but I'm being good today' or ' Sorry love, I'm watching my weight'. That's my other daughter in the photo above helping out at the stall.

We needed something else that would complement the cakes that would make the business viable and worth all the effort put into setting it up. Believe me, there is so much more to it than just baking a few batches of cookies at home and turning up on market day! A food handler's certificate was required, purchasing a market gazebo, cake stands with covers, tongs, paper bags and everything else that was needed for the stall, registering with the food safety authority, finding a kitchen to use (can't use your home kitchen anymore!) and meeting with the officer from the council to show him the set up and that you understood the requirements. Thank goodness for a man who said he supported young entrepreneurs and he was so helpful!

She did everything needed and more, right down to printing off nutritional labels for the desserts. But even with all this effort and regular customers, after a few markets she sat down and worked out all her costings. It was a lot of work for little return. It needed something else and maybe the support of a few other members of the family.

And that's when the idea for the cake stands came in. I had seen these on ebay and on pinterest and knew they would be perfect for the markets. Recycled, repurposed, vintage and I could make them at home! I felt sure it would attract people and that we would possibly sell a few. And we did! We have had two markets thus far and the comments and interest from people was incredible. An inquiry from a bride to be who is having a vintage style wedding. People even took photos of our stall! So many possibilities for where this could take us. But right now we are starting out small, testing the waters and enjoying selling at the markets which takes us right into the heart of our community. You get to meet and talk to so many interesting people!

This one sold. It was one of my favourites created from vintage English china plates.

Our tiers are not just for tea time. They make beautiful stands for holding jewellery. The little dish on top is perfect for holding rings, earrings or brooches. Imagine how pretty this would look on a dressing table. A friend has her eye on this one so it may not make it to the next market but it was the one that attracted the most comments from customers 'Who would have thought it!' was muttered by more than a few people!

I also made a few of these cup and saucer stands. Perfect to drape your pearl necklace from or use the cup to hold a few dried rosebuds and place little sweet treats on the plate below. Or how about bath pearls in the top tier and popping a bar of soap below. It would look so lovely in a country bathroom.

We have the perfect position at the markets. Right next to a stall that sells the most heavenly handmade soap or body bars as they are known, crafted from all pure ingredients, goats milk, essential oils and natural clays. I know the stall holder well. Maybe I can persuade him to loan me a bar to place on one of our plates to give customers ideas for how they could use one of our tiers in their homes. After all, I did send some of our customers his way!

He just happens to be my son! These were one of my favourite products even before he started working for this company! On the day before he sets up there is often a huge stack of boxes of these bars in my living room. It makes my home smell heavenly! Aromas of 'Musk Have' and 'Chai Latte' fill the air.

I have had such fun over the past few months scouring garage sales and op shops for old china. I'm always on the lookout for roses, English china and vintage Noritake. I found one almost complete vintage Noritake set missing just one teacup. I decided not to drill the plates from that set. I checked the price of the teacup online. It cost more than what I paid for the complete set!

All of the china I have sourced is pre-loved. The complete set of vintage Noritake that I found had been a wedding gift. The old lady who sold it to me told me this so it seemed only right to keep that set for any future weddings and special occasions in my own family. The Noritake 'Vineyard' plates in this tier were part of a stack of plates I found at an op shop. I sold one of these at the market for a Mother's Day gift.  Perhaps they had once been part of a set that had been a wedding gift to someone. Were they treasured? Used on a regular basis which might explain why only a few plates were donated? Did the rest meet their demise on a kitchen floor somewhere? I love the fact that these plates have a history. That someone once loved them and now they can be reused and not just sit at the back of a cupboard. Even if they do not sell I will use them and I'm not waiting for a wedding either! At Easter I set up a table in the garden for a baking competition for my girls. I'll share some more photos from that special event in my next post. The chocolate nests on silver spoons above were made with shredded wheat and chocolate. Another idea I found on Pinterest that I actually used!

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of  my 'tiers for teatime' and reading about our new family venture. I have spent a few evenings drilling some more wonderful finds and I have also made some soy candles in teacups for the next market. I'm holding onto some of my vintage teacups and some lustre ware cups and plates in glorious shades of peach, green and lilac that were a recent find have been claimed by my daughters!

Have you ever had a stall at the markets? Do you have a family business? Are you raising entrepreneurs?

Do you use your good china and have you ever dared to drill a plate or a cup? I never thought I would find such a beautiful use for power tools!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Weariness Prevention Programme

It's time to rise up and win the battle over weariness!

I have been giving much thought over the past couple of weeks to what I would share in this follow up post on weariness and how it affects mothers and homemakers. I thought of  writing a generic post with advice that could be applied to a variety of situations but having prayed about it I now feel that the best I can offer is to share from my own experiences and let you know how I am waging war on weariness in my own life.

Some of the strategies have involved a major decision and turning around from a former way of thinking, others involve sacrifice and giving up some of my own unrealistic expectations of what I considered to be the 'excellent mother' and yet others are simple and practical housekeeping solutions including some recent discoveries that I have implemented that have made life easier and are part of what I am calling my 'weariness prevention programme'!

We all know that weariness is inevitable in the life of a mother but it need not defeat us. When I started to think about this subject in more depth I realized that much of the weariness I struggled with in my own life had been self inflicted. Have you ever watched the weight lifters during the Olympic games when they continue to add on the weights? The increased load starts to bring him down, sometimes he buckles and other times he manages to rise up and hold that bar above his head, his arms outstretched but as soon as the bell sounds he drops the weight to the ground immediately! He doesn't hold onto it to it for any longer than he needs to.

So here is my first question. Are you adding to your load? If so, what weights could be taken off? Are you holding onto some weights for longer than you need to when they could be dropped to the ground and bring instant relief? This is such an important question to ask if your bar is already loaded with weights. Are you caring for a sick child and still hoping to honour your commitment to bake for the school fundraiser? Wanting to stick to your regular homeschool schedule and 'soldier' on when the flu has laid everyone low? Planning to host that Bible study on the morning after a household breakdown has left you falling behind on housework and you are considering hiding the laundry you never got to fold in the spare room? I'm sure you can think of lots more examples of how we as mothers add to our loads. The weight of a packed schedule, busyness and unrealistic expectations.


I am so glad I made the decision early on to remove some of those weights, especially those that were especially heavy. It literally did feel like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders the first day I stood in my home and knew I would not be returning to work the following Monday. It was a moment of sheer joy knowing that God had given me the desire of my heart to come home and be a full time mother. There would be days ahead when we would face the consequences of that decision as we took on the challenge of living on a low income when we had a mortgage and interest rates were at 15 per cent (yes!) but through it all God remained faithful and He provided for all our needs, even when I knew little about how to effectively mange a household. He gave grace even when it was not deserved! That's how it works and what grace is all about. The levels of weariness I experienced after coming home from work each week night were high and it's something I never want to add back into my life.

Other weights I have removed over the years have been

Leadership roles and over-involvement in ministry outside of the home.  My involvement in church ministry was extensive and being undertaken at the wrong season in my life. I had young children. Most of my evenings were taken up with leading Bible studies, committee meetings, visiting other women in their homes, planning women's conferences and of course attending them. My days were not much better. I was very skilled at filling up my schedule and I could hardly call myself a 'stay at home mum' because I was hardly ever home!

Today that burden has gone but I'm still involved in ministry to others. It doesn't cause me to become weary and I'm much more prepared and have more energy for my main ministry which is motherhood. I prayerfully consider every request. I'm very wary of commitments that take me outside of the home, away from my husband and children and require continual and ongoing input. I still reach out to people and do say yes to some requests which tend to come along as Christmas approaches ( to run Christmas decorating workshops) but I also look for opportunities that involve the whole family in ministry. Hospitality at home has become a focus and it is less of a burden now that I have older children to help out but I've also been able to be involved in new avenues of ministry such as organizing a screening of the Courageous movie for my region earlier this year - most of the planning was done from home. It was a busy few weeks but it did not weary me. Sometimes short but effective bursts of work can sow more seed and do more good than prolonged seasons of activity.

 Don't be afraid to let something go even if it holds benefits. Not every weight we add to our bar is loathsome or unproductive but it still adds to our load. The sports and extra curricular activities which have us running from one end of town to the other and playing catch up on laundry and housework. If the weight cannot be removed maybe it can be redistributed. Finding a sport that all my children could participate in on the same day at the same time was probably one of the best decisions we ever made. It saved my sanity on weeknights, ensured we could all sit down to dinner together and it even saved us money (we get a group discount) My children can now skate rings around me (literally!)

Having made the big decisions and removed or redistributed the weights of heavy schedules and over commitment outside of the home it was now time to begin looking at other things that burdened me at home and many of these related to perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. I know what wearies me and at home I have put into action my weariness prevention programme. Here are some of the strategies that work for me.

1. I consult my manual for motherhood often. That's my Bible people! It has answers. It brings me comfort. It gives me hope. It guides me in my decisions. It tells me that the Lord '... gently leads those who are with young' (Isaiah 40.11) If only I had taken this on board when I was a young wife and mother! I was the woman who hosted a Christmas in July event at my home for over 40 people one week prior to giving birth to my first child. No wonder I was not rested or prepared for the early exhausting days of motherhood!

2. I rise early before my children. This gives me a head start on the day. A quick shower wakes me up. I have time to dress, put on the coffee, consult the manual, talk with my husband before he heads off to work. No complicated breakfasts in this household. Its muesli and weetbix on most days. Pancakes taste just as good later in the day! My early is 6am during the week and 7am is positively a sleep in on a Sunday. I can manage 5.30 am too but know I must also go 'early to bed' if I want 'early to rise'. As a real night owl I struggle with this. If I stay up late watching television, trying to finish a project or surfing the net it will induce weariness but I accomplish more in the course of a day by rising early rather than staying up late.

3. I try to stay hydrated. Living in a warm, often humid climate has really brought this home to me. When I was pregnant with my twins I really wanted to get past that 37 week mark. I had read that women expecting twins who drank lots of water were more likely to achieve this or carry to term. So I bought myself a pretty steel drink bottle and carried it everywhere and refilled it often. It became an extension of my arm! I had more energy and felt less weary during that pregnancy than previous ones and my twins were born healthy at 38 weeks with no complications. I'm convinced the water made a big difference. When I forget to drink water during the day I'm much more likely to develop a headache, become tired and/or irritable. Just try making an effort to drink more water and see what a difference it makes to your overall feeling of well being.

4. I search for simple solutions to everyday problems. What is it around the home that causes you the most anxiety? Write down the 3 things that bother you the most and have an effect on others and make a decision to find a method that will work for you in making it easier to manage. As I mentioned previously weeds were a major issue for me at this property. We had mulched the orchard and vegetable gardens with straw but had never put down weed matting in other garden beds until recently. The bank where we have planted blueberries now has weed matting. The blueberries will eventually spread out to hide it but right now that black weed matting, is a welcome sight. It's one less area to weed. I feel less weary about the weeds. I sometimes feel I want to go and hug that roll of weed matting! Better hug my husband instead - he suggested it!

Lemon oil applied around my windows has really helped to keep the spiders away and cuts the number of cobwebs down. I went out and bought pantyhose to tie onto my broom for this very purpose and will be forever grateful to Shannon Lush. A simple and natural solution to an every day problem that bothered me that I wish I had known about years ago!

My solution to vanity clutter  and the quickest way to tidy up a bathroom counter. It all gets tossed into my copper urn. Beautiful and practical!

Same goes for slow cookers for meal preparation and baby sleeping bags for winter, the ones in fleecy material with arms you can buy at department stores. Have a boy like mine that wrestles crocodiles in his sleep at night and kicks off all his blankets, then wakes up because he is cold? I didn't discover these wonderful 'sleep aids' until baby number 7! Best $20 I ever spent at Target. They have them for both babies and toddlers in designs for boys and girls. I needed one of these for baby number one - wish someone had told me about them back then!

 Finding a rose in a patch of weeds! Beauty is there, we just have to see it!

I'm hoping these suggestions are not sounding too simplistic but often it is the little things we forget to do that sometimes bring on weariness. Like forgetting to

5. Step outside the house - each and every day, even on the days when the sun is not shining and especially on the days when the sun is shining for that all important dose of vitamin D. Sometimes I just step outside for a few minutes. My therapy is watching birds because the Lord always reminds me of my value to Him and His provision for our family as I watch a bird gathering nectar. If you don't have a garden find room  on your balcony or windowsill for a pot and plant it with with something lovely. Take time to admire the colourful pansies, feel the texture of the leaves of the lemon scented geranium or breathe in the calming scent of a lavender bush. I have a new saying 'Dreary doesn't have to mean weary' because I know that on days when the sun does not shine I need to find something else to boost my spirits which is why I believe it is important to

6. Have a corner of loveliness somewhere in your home to take delight in. Just one mantel, table or counter top where people are not allowed to set down keys or pile up papers. It may be a corner of your bedroom that you can retreat to when you are feeling stressed but my preference is to locate it somewhere that you have to pass by every day. As you walk by with that washing basket piled up high the picture of your smiling girl catches you eye and you are reminded of the blessings of motherhood and that what you are doing right now is not drudgery or a chore but an act of service for special people that the Lord brought into your life.

7. I choose to see the work I do at home in a different light. I've mentioned this before at my blog but I don't use the word chore in relation to household tasks. There are no chore charts on my fridge but each individual has assigned responsibilities and we work together as a family and share the load. I taught my children from an early age to help around the house. It was hard work at first as they sprayed more times than they wiped but it bears fruit in later seasons. I have teenagers who do their own laundry and clean their own rooms. It is possible, it really is possible but you have to start when they are little!

8. I watch and listen to my children and find something that they are doing that brings joy to my heart as a mother. It doesn't have to be a major achievement or an outstanding feat. Something as simple as  my little boy playing intently with his toy cars and a shoebox that he has turned into a garage. Yesterday, it was my 19 year old son teaching his little sisters how to play chess. He's often busy with his own projects and I don't know what prompted him to take the time to do this but I watched in wonder and absolute awe and thanked the Lord for letting me experience that. I was proud to be his mother at that moment in time. A moment that reminded me not to grow weary in doing good for in due season we reap if we do not lose heart.

It's time to draw this post to a close. There is so much more I could share that is part and parcel of my weariness prevention programme. The strategy I learned from Emilie Barnes years ago in taking 15 minutes each day to tidy just one drawer or one shelf that is part of my daily routine. Decluttering my home on a regular basis. Reading uplifting books and blogs. Not taking on board the negative words that people may speak over my life that they view as so hard ('You've got your work cut out!') Not playing the comparison game. Treating myself to the occasional latte at a favourite coffee shop. Finding balance. Talking with the Lord. Giving myself and others grace. Knowing I cannot do it all and if I never master the art of making macarons does it really matter?

I pray that some of what I have shared has been of help to someone and that you have been challenged to stop adding weights onto the bar and even to remove some that you have placed on yourself if need be. It may take you out of gold medal contention in the superwoman round but you were not meant to be entering that division in the first place!

The Lord is there for us. He understands. He carries our burdens. Jesus is the champion weight lifter!
 I also want to say thank you for sharing about your own experiences of weariness. I have prayed for each and everyone of you. A very special thank you to my friend Ellie from the Lavender Tub. Yes, she really does have a lavender bath tub! She has the sweetest blog and the most creative and economic ideas for furnishing a home I have ever come across in blogland! She loves the Lord too and shared her verse which has helped her through times of weariness. When you feel you can no longer hold up that bar with all its weights and you feel your foot slipping remember these words from Psalm 94 18-19

'If I say 'My foot slips'
Your mercy O Lord will hold me up
In the multitude of my anxieties within me
Your comforts delight my soul'

Let me know how you are winning over weariness! Your tip might be the one that helps another claim a victory over something that has stolen their joy. Thank you so much for sharing.


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