Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Very Vintage Christmas

I'm writing this post and publishing from my smartphone which is a first for me. Perhaps it will allow me to post briefer posts on a more regular basis but no promises as December looks to be even busier with a trip to Melbourne planned the week before Christmas in order to attend our son's graduation ceremony from RMIT university.

I decided to concentrate my Christmas decorating to one room this year. Our open plan family kitchen/ dining room where we do most of our living! I set up our tree in the corner window and thought I would use some of the vintage props we purchased this year for our business.

I have also decorated our Stanley stove and will bring in more greenery for it closer to Christmas day. The picture I took a few years ago of our decorated candlelit stove seems to be getting lots of repins on pinterest at the moment.

This morning I brought in a little vintage step ladder and draped it with the long, slender fronds from the Kashmiri cypress which graces the front of our home.  I adorned the steps with pine cones, tea light candles, doilies, a favourite Christmas book, added a bundle of cinnamon sticks embellished with a silk flower and now I have the perfect place to set out those little gifts that get lost under the tree! 

Our Christmas tradition of making crackers for the table became a real family affair this year with my 8 year old twin daughters taking over! I had cut out some sweet pictures of British birds and nests from Country Living magazine. They made up the crackers from a kit, covered them in crepe paper and glued on silk ivy and white flowers. Apart from needing some help with tying on the ribbon, they made the crackers themselves with only verbal instructions.  I was amazed at how they knew to fold in the edge of the paper to create a neat seam. They are so motivated to make another set which is a good thing as I have invited a number of the Chinese students and backpackers we have befriended this year to come for Christmas dinner.  If they all decide to come we will have a full house! At least I will have enough plates with all this vintage china, cutlery and crystal I have collected and I have every intention of using it for my very vintage Christmas! Hear the collective groan from the children who know that it cannot go in the dishwasher! The very thought of serving guests food that we lovingly cooked and baked on plastic or paper plates is one that makes me shudder!

I have no idea whether this mobile app for blogger will let me upload more than one photo. So let's tap done for the text and see what happens!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Her great Canadian Adventure begins!

I have to say I am a little envious. I have never met any of my blogger friends, not even the ones who live in Australia and it's only a dream to be able to fly to the other side of the world to meet those sweet ladies I have connected with, thanks to this blog, in North America. But my daughter is living my dream. Right now she is in Canada and has just spent the first few days of her trip in the beautiful city of Vancouver staying with my dear friend Camille from Flowers in His Garden. How grateful our family is to Camille and her family for showing such gracious hospitality to our daughter, picking her up from the airport and welcoming her into their home, looking after her and showing her the sights of the city such as Stanley Park. Camille has just put up a blog post about our daughter's visit so in a moment I will send you over to visit her where you can read more about her stay in Vancouver, see more photos and learn about some of the activities they managed to fit in during such a short space of time. I offered up profound apologies for sending over a tube of vegemite as one gift for the family (I'm English, can't stand the stuff and convinced you need to be a natural born Aussie or Kiwi to be able to digest it!) To compensate our daughter made the family her famous lemon meringue pie!

She's now on the prairie and has been reunited with her friend she met over here a few years ago when a team of young Canadians came over for a short term mission. She's also experiencing the coldest temperatures she has ever experienced in her life -12 c but feels like -20 according to the forecast she sent through! I'm sure it feels like -20 after you have come from one of the hottest springs we have experienced for some time. It reached the high 30's (that's close to 100 F for my friends overseas) in the week prior to her departure! During the next 2 weeks she will be taking a road trip with her friend visiting cities such as Calgary and Edmonton and seeing the Rocky Mountains. She's rather excited about the fact that there is a mall in Edmonton that has a roller coaster - really? She will return to Vancouver and spend another night with Camille and her family before flying out.

We are looking forward to seeing more photos of the country that is part of her heritage. My great grandmother came from a wealthy and prestigious family in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She married an English gentleman at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. All places I intend to visit when it is my turn to visit Canada!

My daughter returns home on my birthday and celebrates her 19TH birthday the following day. We are missing her, her cat is even missing her. We look forward to her return, hearing all about her great Canadian adventure and hopefully she will make me her lemon meringue pie on my birthday!

Do pop over and visit Camille's blog to read more about her stay in Vancouver and see those amazing fall leaves!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Arbor

I have been wanting to share with you for some time now a picture of the beautiful arbor (or arbour as we would spell it in Australia!) that my husband built. It came about when I showed him a picture of an ornately carved Balinese style timber wedding canopy that I had pinned on my pinterest page from a wedding blog. 'I could build something like that' he said and that evening the ideas began to flow. He would design it to be transportable - in sections that come apart and are able to be reassembled on site. As our new family business is vintage china and accessory hire, our arbor needed to have more vintage elegance than the Balinese canopy which had originally caught my eye and that's when we thought 'veranda'... let's make it look like the entrance to a traditional Victorian villa home or permanent gazebo in a park or country estate, perhaps we could find some authentic cast iron lacework and work that into the design. I was starting to get excited... and here is where it became one of those 'meant to be' stories.

The very next day we went into town for a latte at our favourite cafe which has all manner of vintage wares for sale, a great place for any bowerbird. As I went for my weekly wander through the shop as we were waiting for our coffee, I just happened to glance down at the floor and saw four corner pieces of cast iron lacework from an old veranda. They were magnolia pink and I immediately knew they were meant to be ours. My husband could hardly believe it either and we promptly paid for what would be the most gorgeous feature of our soon to be built arbor.

We knew it would need more than just four corners of lacework to give it the look of a veranda and just one week later we found what we were looking for. A last minute decision to call in at an antique shop in another city where the china is usually too highly priced for our budget but out the back we discovered a shed stacked with all manner of furniture and vintage wares. Yet, another glance at the floor (it pays to look down!) and stacked under a table were more corners and panels of cast iron lacework. Not just any lacework but the exact match for our previous find and painted the same shade of magnolia pink. Could it be that they were salvaged from the same old house and ended up for sale in different cities? We were scared to ask the price as we had been looking on ebay and knew that people were asking hefty prices for authentic cast iron lacework so when the lady gave a very reasonable figure for all the panels we didn't hesitate.

We did go and look around some more salvage yards in the hope of finding authentic posts but old veranda posts are heavy and expensive so we had to settle for new turned posts from the hardware store. Lots of construction and painting ( Dulux antique white USA of course - my default paint colour) ensued but finally it all came together just in time for its first outing to a wedding expo - we already were showcasing our china and were given permission to take along and set up the arbor! We brought it home and set it up on top of our freestanding concrete water tank which has one of the best views over the neighbouring fields. The white arbor stands out with its verdant background of green and I try to imagine it set up in a field or on the lawn of a country estate. A chandelier sparkling in the sunshine and a couple about to take their marriage vows. We have had one genuine inquiry thus far for a wedding next year and if that eventuates I know from the setting they want it for, that it is going to look spectacular. We are hoping that it will be hired before then as I'm certain there are couples out there that want something different to the usual bamboo poles or flimsy metal garden arches for their wedding ceremony and not every park or country estate has a gazebo. In the meantime, I'm just enjoying having the opportunity to admire it every day and know that at least one of our children will one day God willing be married under the arbor their father built by hand. I can't wait until then for it to be used so I have plans for special tea parties under the arbor.

Hope you have enjoyed seeing our arbor and hearing of the providential story behind its construction. We are still hoping to find two more corner pieces to really finish it off and I know they are out there somewhere!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Finding Time for Tea and a Blog Post!

I'm not sure whether this is an official return to blogging for me but today when the sun is shining and the afternoon feels more like a summer's day than the season of winter I made a decision to find some time to write a blog post and update you all on what has been happening at Eight Acres of Eden. So here goes!

Establishing our family business.

The main reason I needed to give up writing my blog for a season and I'm so glad I did. We have been ever so busy - not so much with actual bookings but in simply getting our name out there, networking with the right people and buying the right kind of products that people might want to hire for their wedding or special occasion. For those of you new to my blog it's a vintage china and accessory hire business and it's something we thought our region might appreciate. It's been costly (vintage china is not that easy to find here and op shops have realized its value so bargain finds are rare and at garage sales we are competing with the secondhand dealers!) and time consuming but it has been a lot of fun, we have met some lovely people and it is all worth it when someone tells you that the pretty china they hired for their event is what made their day so special! We have been to two wedding expos (another big expense!) and received a wonderful response. I was selected to style a table at one of the expos which will feature in a bridal magazine and had the chance to work with a very talented florist. So this year I have hired china for a wedding, a baby shower, a bridal shower and I have a booking for a spring wedding. So much more I could share but thought you would prefer to see the photos - just a few because my computer is just too old and slow.

A glimpse of my display at the bridal expo. Do you like the little silver sugar shaker that I found on ebay?

I turned my vintage picnic basket into a dessert station, stacking it up with pretty plates, bowls, cake forks and other vintage accessories. I thought this would be a great idea to set out alongside a dessert table.

Just one of my favorite teacups! I have over 200 trios and I'm now collecting dinner plates, silver cutlery and vintage glassware. Even when the trend for battered suitcases, fringed lampshades, lace embellished mason jars and old ladders at weddings is over I'm hoping that people will still want their tables set with beautiful classic china like this!

Wedgewood is now my everyday china! We were given this dinner set. It doesn't match in with my other English china which is mainly cream so we are using it for family dinners. It's from the 70's I believe and came with a matching ashtray which of course we don't need but the gravy boat is very useful when we have a roast dinner!

Family Life

Family life and the business have become intertwined. My daughter pictured above who just celebrated her 16TH birthday loves helping me with the business. It has helped her develop confidence when dealing and interacting with people and she has become a prolific pinner, finding so many wonderful ideas on pinterest for high teas and wedding decor. And I love the dresses she pins - so proud of her feminine style and it is obvious she understands that modest can be beautiful and fashionable!

My son celebrated his 21ST birthday recently. He is in his last semester of university study. Just 2 units to finish and he will have completed his degree. He continues to receive high distinctions. His web design business is becoming well established and he has plenty of projects to keep him busy. 

Our 18 year old daughter is still a farm girl. Reliable, skilled and hardworking. She is very valued by her employer and she works just next door so she is still here and living at home which I am very grateful for. She has the travel bug though and is traveling to Canada later this year. She will stay with a friend she met here (her friend was also homeschooled) and I'm insanely jealous that she is also going to meet one of my blogger friends! I offered to accompany her and said I would carry her bags just so I could get to Vancouver where she will stay with my sweet friend Camille from Flowers in His Garden. But I am needed here. One day though....!

The twins are as lively and active as ever. Never a dull moment in this house even when they play chess! No my 3 year old does not know how to play chess but he watches and he is a fast learner - actually he was 2 when this photo was taken. Eight acres of Eden - you think peaceful, serene, quiet. Not a chance. It's LOUD! Double chattering, double laughter, add in a 3 year old with an impressive vocabulary, a cockatiel and budgies that try to compete with the children..... you get the idea! People often say to me' 7 children, how do you manage with them all living at home?' I don't think I could manage without them! It would be just way too quiet.  What would I do if they were not here? I know the answer to that. I would clean my windows but I would much rather read stories to my children! I'm so excited to be reading the Elsie Dinsmore books to my twins now as I did with my older girls. The Life of Faith series I purchased all those years ago is now out of print so I'm very glad I kept it and one day I will read it to my grandchildren. I'm just hoping that this home will always be full of children so don't know when those windows will get cleaned! I will get to them - when I find the time!

And somehow I found the time to write this post. So much more I could share about family life and boy do I have some scary snake stories for you but that will have to wait for another time. I do want to show you something my clever, creative husband built. It's for our business, it's beautiful and I get to admire it every day. I can't wait to show you. It's the result of what happened when I showed my husband something I saw on the internet and subsequently pinned. He said 'I can build that'. Intrigued? You will have to wait for my next post which means just one thing ... 'I'll be back'!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Taking Time Out for Tea

Beautiful china has become very much part of my life at home. It's also the reason why I must take some time away from writing my blog. As many of my regular readers may know our family has set up a small business in our region. This weekend I attended my first wedding expo showcasing the beautiful china, the handcrafted cake stands and other vintage inspired accessories we have been collecting over the past year to hire out for weddings, high teas and special occasions. Our booth proved to be very popular and the potential is there for this little business to take off. It's a lot of hard work and it takes time and time is so precious. The computer time I have during my busy days I must now commit to building the business. I simply cannot upkeep this blog and run a home and business at the same time. I have so many ideas for interesting and encouraging blog posts swirling around in my head but there simply isn't time to upload them.

I feel very blessed to have found a business that I can fit around my family. It's one that different members of our family can be involved with. My first born is my web designer - he finishes his degree in just 12 weeks time! I want to enjoy his company and keep on picking his brain whilst he is still living at home! One of my daughters is my assistant at markets and expos. The other children always come out and see us at the markets. My husband helps out a lot, we go hunting for treasure together. It has been his dream to have a family business and I want to give him my full support. I was very much affected by a prayer that our Pastor's wife prayed for all the wives in our church recently. She simply prayed that they would create beautiful homes for their families. I want to do that too and it all takes time. Even as I type this I am aware of tasks at home I need to catch up on after the weekend. Not much point in creating beautiful tables for others and not do the same for my family.

This is not goodbye. I will still be reading the blogs of sweet friends and leaving comments when I feel led to do so. I may post family news/events/home life snippets from time to time. I need to rethink my approach to the blog but my heart is heavy today. A dear friend of mine I met at the beginning of my blogging journey is taking a break from her blog for a very sad reason. On June 1st her teenage son went home to be with Jesus. He had battled a debilitating heart condition as well as Crohn's disease which Camille kept her blogging friends updated on. Each extra day following the diagnosis of the heart condition was a miracle and the Lord graciously gave Camille and her family another year with the fine young man they have raised and they saw their son become a man as he turned eighteen. I sent Austin and his family a package when he first became ill not knowing whether or not he would get to open it. He did and sent me a most gracious thank you note that I have kept. Many of you will already know Camille from her blog Flowers in His Garden. She is such an encouraging person and her posts always inspire and encourage me to stand firm in my faith, uphold the truth and trust in the promises of God. Please join me as you read this and pray for Camille and her family as they grieve the loss of their beautiful son. Reading her post today has jolted me into making this decision about taking a break from my own blog. I must be there for my family in this busy season of my life for none of us know how long we have left with any of our family members. Life is so fragile, so brief and I don't want to have regrets about how much time I spent writing a blog.

Hope you keep following and that the posts I have written in the past that will stay up here will continue to be useful and a source of encouragement to others. Cherish your families, create beautiful homes and gardens for them and live in them!

Until next time

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Poem for Mother's Day

I had hoped to have a new post up by now but I have been so busy with life - home, hospitality, church and establishing our new business. I have upcoming markets and a bridal expo to prepare for - very excited about that! I didn't want to let Mother's Day pass by without a mention so I dug into my archives to repost a poem I first shared in 2009 and wrote for Mother's Day a number of years ago. I chose my new favourite photo of the smiler - my youngest son who is such a delight! I often tell him that he has a ministry of smiles, he doesn't understand what that is yet but we see the effect he has on people that come into our home - they simply fall in love with him. Every time I take hold of this boy's hand when we walk down the street I feel so special, so honoured to be his mother. A time will come when he will not need to take my hand so I just savour that moment and walk a little more slowly, it's these times I don't want to be over.

But there are days that are trying. Little boys (and girls!) are not always cooperative, they don't always want to hold your hand, they are not always willing to smile for the camera. This poem was written for a mum in her 'Hour of Need'. She's fictional but the situations are based on real life experiences - my real life experiences as a new mother. I pray these words minister to someone somewhere and that we all do our part to support others in their hour of need.


Her Hour of Need

The toddler 's just walked mud on the floor
The Jehovah's Witnesses are at the door
The baby is crying, he wants his feed
This is a mum in her hour of need!

She hoped today, would simply run smooth
Because she's trying so hard to prove
That she's good at this job, her vocation, her life
A wonderful mother and loving wife

But dad just left an hour ago
In a bad mood, I'll have you know
The milk had run out, tea was black, Weetbix was dry
He didn't mean to make her cry
Drying her tears she thought
'I won't stress'
But then looked around and saw all the mess
Beds still to make, dishes to do
Jobs added up as she ran to the loo

But before she got there
'Oh no' she thought ' Who is that?'
'Good morning' they said
'I'm John, this is Fay'
'What do you think of the world's state today'
The mother smiled back at them
Her response could not wait
'Couldn't be better, marvelous, just great!'
Dejected, rejected they put Watchtowers away
And the mother returned to her stressful day

She picked up the baby and gave him his feed
Called over the toddler and started to read
All about Tigger and Winnie the Pooh
Piglet and Eeyore, Rabbit and Roo

The toddler enthralled, shouted
'Please mummy more!'
Then she remembered the mud on the floor!
Winnie the Pooh won this time around
And very soon there wasn't a sound
Two sleeping children were on her knee!

'Yipee!' the mum almost roared
Instead she whispered 'Thank you Lord'
And took some time out from her day
To talk with her God and quietly pray
For these two precious lives
Gifts from above
Hers to nurture, cherish and love
She prayed for strength, courage
These sort of things
To face the demands that motherhood brings
That God would lead her in His way
And fill her home with His peace that day

And God spoke to her spirit these words of life
You are a blessed mother and capable wife
Worth far above rubies which are precious and rare
My daughter I love you and deeply care
I sent you my Son to give you new life
And it is He who bears your pain and your strife
All your anxiety, the woes of each day
I can in this instant take away
Just cast them on Him
For He Cares for you
And right at this moment, start anew

The mother lifted her head, her heart filled with joy
Then she tenderly kissed each little boy
Tucked safe in their beds, she mopped up the floor
Till it was clean and sparkling once more
She finished her housework with time still to spare
So the evening meal she began to prepare

And into the garden, the Lord led her feet
To pick lovely freesias, their fragrance so sweet
Beauty and order had returned to her day
Because she had taken time to pray

So let's honour mothers
They are the hope for our nation
To raise a Godly generation
Encourage, support them, show that you care
Especially if you know, dad isn't there
Practically help a mum, do a kind deed
It may well be her hour of need

Dedicated to all mothers everywhere especially those celebrating today, down under!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homemaking at Easter

'There is no specific kind of house you must live in to be 'spiritual' - only the house the Lord has chosen for you, and the house with you in it. But whether it be a palace or a tree house, beauty is important, and this very simple form of producing beauty is really one of the most universally possible expressions of 'Hidden Art.' - from the ' The Hidden Art of Homemaking' by Edith Schaeffer 1914-2013 RIP

This Easter one of my favourite authors and homemaking mentor Edith Schaeffer went to be with the Lord. Her book 'The Hidden Art of Homemaking' forever changed my outlook on what I used to consider just everyday and even mundane domestic duties like cleaning, cooking and setting the table. She helped me realize that homemaking is indeed a hidden art and that you don't need to be affluent or a professional artist/designer/flower arranger to bring beauty into your home and life. I have entitled this post the Hidden Art of Homemaking at Easter as a tribute to Edith Schaeffer and to show you how I chose to express 'hidden art' by setting a beautiful table for our family's Easter Sunday dinner as we celebrated Jesus - alive, risen from the dead. Hallelujah!

An artist begins with a blank canvas. My canvas was a trestle table (I used 2) - those fold up plastic ones you buy at hardware stores. They are pretty ugly but are transformed with a covering. I used two cream crocheted vintage tablecloths that I purchased from an elderly lady. I appreciate the fact that someone spent hours at home creating these, that they would have been used for family dinners back in the 1950's/60's and are being used again.

The vintage china I used is from a dinner set I purchased recently. I knew it would be perfect for our Easter table. The silver cutlery was another recent find - at a market stall. I paid just $20 for a 12 piece setting that even came with a soup ladle and serving fork and spoon!

The crystal wine glasses were a garage sale find - just $2 each. I'm always buying up bud vases at garage sales. They are usually only a couple of dollars and are perfect for popping flowers into. No flower arranging skills needed. Just snip the stalks and pop into the vessel - you could use small jam jars or bottles if you don't have bud vases. I wanted to use purple flowers on my table after being inspired by some pictures from a post from mammka my newest follower, all the way from Hungary! Purple is the colour of Easter - thank you Mammka for reminding me of this! My younger children loved helping to pick the sprigs of purple salvia from the kitchen garden.

See how lovely they look going down the table!

I used another garage sale vase to hold camellias. It is the wrong season here for daffodils and tulips that are the usual centrepieces on Easter tables. These camellias are scented and grow near to my kitchen door. The shrub is covered in blooms at the moment.

My husband had to remind me not to become distracted by 'prettying the table' and forget about the food! The Easter lamb nearly didn't happen. Our oven has been out of action for weeks after the multi-function switch malfunctioned. Thankfully, we were able to borrow a tabletop turbo oven from a friend and it cooked our lamb to perfection! We used our pizza oven to cook the potato and kumara and our guests brought the colourful platters of salad. I set one platter out on one of my upturned vintage crates. Gotta love pinterest! Old crates that would have been firewood just a few years ago are transforming homes and tables! And I discovered tea towels fit them perfectly. I found my 'Faith' tea towel in a newsagents shop!

I also bought the one monogrammed with something that is dear to my heart and used it as a tray cloth. These tea towels were very inexpensive. I used vintage milk jugs to hold bunches of mint picked fresh from the garden. Lamb and mint are the perfect partners. Every garden/home needs a pot of mint.

And what would a Easter party be without a dessert table and chocolate! We don't make the Easter bunny the focus of our Easter but as rabbits are one of God's creatures and generally regarded a symbol of new life alongside eggs, I'm not concerned about using one here and there to decorate my table. And if someone was to ask my children if the Easter bunny had visited their house I'm sure they would have responded in the same way my daughter did one year with childlike amazement to someone who asked if santa was coming to see her. 'Don't you know? Christmas is all about Jesus! And even in the presence of chocolate, rabbits and eggs, Easter for my children is all about Jesus too!

Another market stall find - vintage scales in mint green hold a plate of gingerbread.

One of my cake stand creations hold sweet teatime treats - all purchased, as without my oven I could not bake in advance. My daughter and her friend managed to cook a chocolate mocha pudding for dessert in the pizza oven. We served it in vintage sundae dishes topped with vanilla ice cream and tiny, pastel chocolate eggs. For dessert we had to retreat inside as the showers became heavier but even the rain did not dampen spirits on this most spiritual of days.


 We attended an Easter production at church on Good Friday, an outreach picnic lunch on Saturday and on Sunday we came together as a family and gathered around the table that you see in these photos. We talked, we laughed, we enjoyed good food and good company at home in the beautiful setting that God has given us where we make our home and live meaningful lives. Was this any less spiritual than attending a church service? It was more than just a family dinner - you see the Lord was present and we had gathered in His name to remember His sacrifice at Calvary and to celebrate His resurrection. It was a celebration I felt deserved a beautiful table and I took delight in decorating it.

 My girls wanted to dress in special dresses and wear flowers in their hair. I'm sure Edith Schaeffer would have approved of our efforts to bring beauty and creativity into our Easter family gathering and it is with her words in regard to family gatherings around meal tables that I close.

'The 'conservation' of family life does not consist of sticking a rose in the middle of a table; it is a deeper thing than that. .... And in this need to get back to 'gracious living', to real communication among people living together, it seems to me one place to start could be the meal-time moments, and the careful preparation of the background for conversations at that time.'
                                                                                                  Edith Schaeffer 1914-2013 RIP.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homemaking - What I don't do.

I was trying to think of a topic for a new blog post and it occurred to me that when it comes to homemaking that we tend to use our blogs to tell others what we do - the food we bake, the rooms we decorate, the gardens we plant. If you have followed my blog you would be aware that I bake my own bread, grow some of our own food, teach my children at home, love to decorate my home at Christmas and have recently set up a family business. I have been asked by others how I do it all and the answer to that question is 'I don't.' There are many things I don't do - oh I would love to do many of these things but I have come to realize that I will never master every homemaking art, that I will fail miserably at some and that there are only 24 hours in a day and I must determine which of the home arts and household activities I choose to pursue and those I will let go.... so here is a list of some of the tasks I don't do. You might be surprised but I have my reasons. That is not to say I will never do them.  There are seasons in a woman's life and who knows, maybe I'll dust that sewing machine off one day in the future. All I ask is that you don't judge me if I never get round to doing some of the following things...


1.Make my own laundry powder/liquid. I know many of you do. I made up a batch once and was disappointed with the results. It was also another activity to add to my ever growing 'to do' list that needed some serious editing and this was one task that I chose to take off and I don't feel guilty about it. I buy an Australian made phosphate free/septic tank safe laundry powder in bulk from the automotive parts shop - actually my husband usually buys it. As he is in the automotive trade he can buy it at a reduced rate.... after all mechanics do have dirty overalls that need washing! It's very reasonably priced and lasts us for ages.

2. Knit my own dishcloths I never learned to knit though I do know how to cast on and can do a few rows of garter stitch but that's the extent of my mastery of this home art. I was inundated with booties/jumpers/hats from the knitters among my family and friends when I had babies so had no need to pick up the needles and knitting never became a skill I needed to master. Am I upset about this? No, it's not something I am very drawn to but I can understand why many find it therapeutic. I'm happy to admire their creations and occasionally even buy a knitted item and in doing so support a local, handmade business and I'm grateful to those who buy the handcrafted cake stands and soy candles in teacups I make.

3. Make my own soap/beauty products I've certainly considered it. I have books with recipes for all manner of homemade beauty products. I know with some time invested I could master it - would have to be in the evenings when my young children are not around as caustic ingredients are involved in the process but it's another activity to add to the list. There are lots of soap makers in my region. I have friends who make soap. So for now I'm purchasing local handmade goats milk soap - the one I buy is long lasting and doesn't turn to a gloopy mess on the vanity. I'm very happy with it.

My twins in matching outfts.
Skirts and bows are handmade but not by me!

4. Sew my children's clothes - very often. I can sew, I own a sewing machine, I can transfer a pattern, I know what tailor's tacks are and what a seam allowance should be. I sigh when I see the beautiful hand sewn dresses that some mothers make for their girls. If I am honest, machine sewing frustrates me -when fabric puckers or a seam is not straight. My back is turned when at the sewing machine and I need to concentrate as I am very much a novice. I cannot give my attention to younger children as I can when I bake. My house falls into disarray if I sit for too long at the machine. I sometimes find hand sewn dresses  for my girls at garage sales for just a few dollars and take delight in that but I buy most of our family's clothing online from a company that sells many designer garments at drastically reduced prices. Most of the time I am paying less than the cost of fabric and patterns. Recently, I needed a liner for a vintage picnic basket. I had found some gorgeous vintage fabric covered in roses. I considered making the liner myself but decided to ask a friend who is a skilled sewer and pay her for her time. She did a beautiful job. I did not feel guilty!

 5. Have an immaculate home. If you were to call over now you would find skateboards/scooters on the patio that could really do with a good sweep - when you live surrounded by trees, leaves on the patio are a constant.. Only needs a breeze. Gumboots piled at the door. All good intentions of organized shoe storage after adding numerous pins on my 'beautiful storage' board on pinterest have not been realized. If you come to my house and see the boots in a neat row please realize I did that frantically 5 minutes before you arrived! There are signs of children everywhere - legos, blanket cubby houses/dens and a trail of peach foam bullets down the hallway. Signs of mum everywhere - stacks of plates and china on the buffet unit and a huge drill press on the dining room table. Signs of dad and ongoing renovations - power tools and piles of Bunnings receipts. Signs of life in this home. People live here and do stuff!

6. Make every meal from scratch. I love to use fresh ingredients and most of our meals are cooked at home but I do make use of some pre-prepared ingredients. I always have jars of Aldi's organic pasta sauce in the pantry to make a speedy spag bol on days when we are running late. You will find snap frozen vegetables in my freezer and a jar of preservative free curry paste in the fridge together with a tub of Greek yoghurt and Aldi's feta cheese. I don't make my own pasta and I don't feel guilty about that but I would feel guilty about using pesto from a jar right now to stir through pasta as I have a huge crop of basil in the garden. It's quick and easy to make so the pesto is homemade but the pasta is not. I'm okay with that.

7.Always shop at farmers markets. I used to have an idealistic picture of the shopper I would be. It featured me in a flowing dress, wicker basket in hand perusing organic produce at the farmer's markets and selecting cheeses to pop into my basket along with a bouquet of flowers at the trendy deli store. The reality is a 30 minute dash around Aldi. I shop there because it saves me money and time, they have a good organic range and Australian olive oil at an affordable price. I don't shop at the deli for cheeses, pickles and oils because I can't afford their prices. There is rarely a bouquet popping out of my basket - it would cut my grocery budget and I can fill up jars with herbal bouquets from my garden for free. I shop less at the farmer's market after the last stall that had all organic produce at reasonable prices (and my main reason for visiting the markets) had to pull out of the market - I was informed by the stallholder, a result of losing funding for the supported employment project that ran the market garden and stall. I'm still bewildered about that.

8 Fret anymore over the things I never achieved or have mastered. I have mentioned this before - I am a failure at making macarons. Two attempts resulted in pastel pancakes. Still tempted to give it one more go because I know how good they look on my cake stands. I don't really care if they are a flop again. I'll be happy to stick to fair dinkum Aussie afternoon tea fare - slices, thick and chunky and rolled in coconut or dusted with icing sugar which will still be served and enjoyed at afternoon tea for years to come! Cake decorating is another skill that has eluded me so no Lightening McQueen cakes for my boy's birthday. I  have no plans to join classes. As long as the cake has candles my children are happy!

These are more things I do not do but don't have time to list them all. I don't have guests every weekend even though hospitality is a passion of mine. I've kept this list to homemaking but there are other activities I don't do. I don't play the piano and we are not a musical family unless you count singing in the shower or worship time at church. I don't go to the gym, cycle, run or power walk. I don't have elaborate skin and make up routines. I don't write ebooks, speak at conferences or attend committee meetings. I don't run a ladies Bible study or lead any ministry programme at church. (We are involved as a family in a ministry to international students.) I don't keep this blog updated as much as I would like to.

What are some of the things around the home that you don't do? What do you not make from scratch? What are your homemaking/cooking shortcuts? What did you try but never master? Do you ever feel the pressure to accomplish all those homemaking projects you see pinned on pinterest or blogged about on blogs? To be good at lots of things and have 'pinworthy' pictures to prove it?


 A cake stand awaits macarons but I'm sure the family will not mind if they never eventuate!

Maybe next time I will share about my third attempt at macarons when my oven gets fixed. Still waiting on the part it needs and for the electrician to come back and fix it so all baking is on hold at the moment. Will it work or will I only have pastel crazy paving spread across my baking tray? Might be a fun post. If enough people dare me to try it I might give it a go, take pictures along the way and post them whatever the outcome.

May your Easter be most blessed as we celebrate life and remember the One who died and rose again that we might live and enjoy His presence forever.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pull-apart Breads and Garden Harvests

Sweet or Savoury? It's up to you with this simple recipe for a sweet or savoury 'pull apart' that uses the pizza dough cycle of a bread machine and is later baked in the oven after a short rising time. You could make it by hand of course but I usually opt for the convenience of the 45 minute pizza/French bread dough cycle of my Panasonic bread machine - purchased for $5 at a garage sale a few years ago. I have since found a friend another Panasonic to replace her old one, had to pay $15 but still worth it she says - they are the best bread machines!

For savoury scrolls all you do is leave out the sugar and rather than sprinkling sugar and cinnamon over the melted butter before rolling up you choose a savoury filling - cheese, herbs and garlic perhaps or my favourite - sun dried tomatoes, spinach (I have a year round supply in my garden!) and feta cheese. I make this bread at least 3 times a week because it is so easy. I favour the savoury version because I often make a sweet sourdough bread by hand with apricots and almonds. I will put the dough on at morning tea time and it is ready to bake to come hot and fresh out of the oven at lunchtime. You will find savoury pull apart breads at Brumby's and Baker's Delight but they cost a lot more than a conventional loaf. Why buy when they are so easy to make at home? And I must add the shop versions seem very stingy as they are rather 'flat'  - we would need two if not three to feed our family at one meal. That's at least a $12 purchase.

Into the bread machine pan add the following
4 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
21/2 tsps dried yeast
1/2 cup sugar (omit if you want savoury)
1/3 cup approx soft butter
1 egg
1 cup of warm milk

Start up your dough cycle and for me just 45 minutes later (as I get on with other things) the dough is ready to be rolled out. I roll mine out on some baking paper into a rectangular shape.
Brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle over your filling of choice. You could use dried fruit with brown sugar or rapadura for a sweet filling. I always try to have green and red in my savoury filling ingredients as they peek through the scrolls when baked and look very appetizing! Roll up lengthwise into a sausage shape and cut into slices. I usually mange to get a dozen out of one roll. Place close together on a baking paper lined round tray or cake tin  in a circle for a circular pull apart. Leave a gap in the centre if you want a ring/wreath. I usually use a spring form rectangular tin. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place. Bake for about 20- 25 minutes until risen and golden in a hot oven. I use the fan bake setting at 180/190 c. The rolls usually rise up and fill the tin as shown in my picture.

For lunch we usually slice our savoury rolls and fill with salad and cheese or tuna. They are also great to serve with soup. I serve mine on a bread board for people to share and pull apart at the table.

Enjoy! Thought you would like to know what our garden is producing at the moment

Bananas! The recent storms brought down some of our banana trees but thankfully the bunches were ready. They ripened quickly and it's been banana bread heaven around here the past few weeks. Secret ingredient aside from very ripe bananas for the best banana bread - sour cream or Greek yoghurt. Result is delicious, moist banana bread!

Lebanese cress. I have sung its praises before. We have a never-ending supply. We grow one batch in a large pot but you want to see how it grows in or near water - prolific. When the lettuces wilt or go to seed we always have this amazing salad micro green/herb to fall back on.

Cherry guavas and passion fruit. Have abundant crops of these fruits this year. I have made one batch of guava jelly but need to make some more. My house smells of passion fruit at the moment! The vine that covers the chicken house is loaded. The children have been eating passion fruit for weeks now - they love them and bring up basket loads each day. I will have to declare today a jam making day. Or do I make lime cordial? The Tahitian lime gave a very good crop this year. We also picked our first kaffir lime yesterday and the rosella plants we only put in a few months ago produced - rosella chutney is amazing. We had just enough to make a couple of jars - already consumed. I also have it on good advice that there are Davidson plums on one of the trees we planted in the orchard. Not quite ready yet which is good - I haven't ventured down there recently because of my aversion (and allergic reactions) to leeches which are just everywhere after all the recent rain. I even have leeches outside the door and have found them in the house - yikes, pass the salt!

Time to plant again soon - autumn has arrived and in some ways it is even better than spring. The soils have been watered with the late summer rains and the raised beds are ready. The sun came out yesterday for the first time in weeks and was a cause for much rejoicing. Children were climbing trees, a son managed to have a tennis lesson and I actually folded some dry towels. Proud to say I never used the dryer once - it really ought to be retired completely as it has not been used for years, not since we put up our ladders inside and added a line under the veranda.

Time to go and make some bread and jam and hope you don't mind me blogging about such humble things!

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Dresser Dream Fulfilled

It's been a long held dream of mine - to be the owner of a kitchen dresser. When we were newlyweds living in a tiny one bedroom flat in London with an even tinier kitchen I would flip through pages of Ideal Home magazine which featured beautiful and expansive farmhouse kitchens in the English countryside. When we were packing up tea chests of wedding gifts to send across the world to New Zealand I had to cull my stack of Ideal Homes so I pulled out the pages to create a scrapbook of the homes that appealed to me the most. Almost every kitchen picture featured a timber dresser stacked with china. I still have some of those original pictures and even though the magazines are from 1989 those farmhouse kitchens have a timeless quality with their AGA stoves, butler's sinks and timber dressers with open shelves.

The dream of a living in the country was realized and for the last 23 years we have been blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world in country towns and rural locations. Our first kitchen had orange bench tops and dark veneer cupboards and my husband built me a new kitchen with cabinets using recycled rimu, a New Zealand native timber - it was beautiful but it didn't have a dresser. We moved onto a 300 acre dairy farm with a stone farmhouse. It had a small kitchen with timber units but no dresser. We crossed the Tasman and the country living dream continued when we found our eight acres of eden. The redeeming feature of the interior of the owner built house constructed with a hodge podge of recycled materials was the fact that it had a new country style kitchen with solid cabinets constructed from brushbox timber. It even had a buffet unit - almost but not quite a kitchen dresser.

The buffet unit which used to live in the kitchen has moved into the dining room.
 It houses a growing collection of vintage glassware!

The dream of a dresser lived on but it was still very much a want and not a need until this year when my husband agreed that we needed a practical storage solution for the the vintage china we have collected over the last year which is going to be hired out for events and hopefully earn us some extra income as we set out to see another long held dream realized and establish a family business.

And so the search for a dresser began. One that would fit into our home which has limited wall space - one of the drawbacks of having so many French doors! I looked in secondhand shops and saw some very nice dressers and units but all were beyond our present budget. The dresser would remain a dream. We spotted a beautiful walnut sideboard in a vintage store. We both liked it. It had once been a dresser. It could be turned back into a dresser with added shelves but its price tag was already more than we wanted to pay. We debated and in the end I made the decision to walk away saying to my husband 'We'll kick ourselves if we walk into a garage sale and find a dresser.' As if that was going to happen.

Of course you know the end of the story. The very next day we walked into a garage sale. The owners were moving house and there it was against the garage wall, a timber dresser at an amazing price. We didn't hesitate, gave the lady a deposit and my husband raced off to the ATM and returned later to pick it up with the ute. When he returned the lady told him that she could have sold it ten times over. He was also treated to coffee and cake and the lady seemed very pleased to know that her dresser would continue to be loved by its new owner. It was quite a day for garage sales that day. I also found china and a beautiful floral quilt which now graces my bed!

Our road to nowhere during the floods of this weekend which kept us at home.
We used a beautiful vintage oil lamp in the evenings when we were without power.
Our home is on a hillside and does not flood, though during the high winds a large gum tree fell onto our  farm shed causing thousands of dollars of damage. I will be calling the insurance company today.

You see the reason I have been away from the blog is nothing to do with having just been flooded in for days without power. No, I have been spending lots of time in my kitchen standing and staring at my dream dresser as I bake at my kitchen island. Yes, it is in the kitchen after the dining room wall where it was supposed to go proved too small thanks to an internal power box. The kitchen buffet unit was moved onto that wall and the dresser fitted perfectly on the kitchen wall. As it was narrower it created more space in the kitchen - much needed when twins and a three year old boy drag over chairs to help mix cakes around the island!

I now know why people love dressers. They hold so much china! The cupboards hold over 70 trios, dinner plates and bowls. The shelves display a Royal Albert dinner service and a total of 10 teapots and a whole row of bone china milk jugs. Favourite books are stacked at the end. A jug of herbs and a set of 12 modern vintage style teacups are set out always at hand for when a friend calls in for a cup of tea. The drawers hold vintage napkins, cake servers and cutlery sets. When I needed to pull out china to photograph for our website there was no reaching into the back of a deep and dark cupboard. I could see at a glance exactly which china I needed. Oh I could sing the praises of my dresser all day long! It was worth waiting 23 years for!

I resisted the temptation to take to it with the antique white paint. When you live in a house with white tiles throughout, a white kitchen would be far too clinical and there is something about the warmth and homeliness of natural timber that tugs at my heart and prompts me to not even entertain thoughts of white or faux painted finishes.

There is one more kitchen dream to be fulfilled. I have a wood stove, a cooks shelf, a dresser and all that is needed now is the walk in pantry. One that is large enough to hide away the big stainless steel fridge freezer and have enough shelves for all the jars of preserves, if our guavas and passion fruit continue to keep producing as they have this year. I made mango chutney over the weekend and thanks to having a gas stove top I was able to keep on cooking when the power was out. Time to go and make some bread now I can bake again. Any excuse to be near to my dresser!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Editing My Life - blogging.

I recently spent some time taking an inventory which involved a pleasant process - counting teacups! I needed to know how many I owned for I have a vintage china hire website under construction. It is an extension of the little cake stand business I began last year. It started as a mother/daughter business but with lots of hard work and determination we can see the potential for it to become a true family business and I have the full support of my husband who encourages me to keep adding to the china collection so we can cater for larger functions! We have been spurred on by the successful outcome of our first wedding hire and can see so many possibilities. It really is the business of bliss seeing a beautiful table being set to celebrate the most special of days in the life of another person.

Once upon a time I didn't think I would need any more teacups. I had a few pretty ones, enough for a tea party with friends but now I need more and I'm having to try and find room in my home for them but my cupboards are full and overflowing with china. A large dresser is needed and somewhere to house it. Another piece of furniture may have to be sacrificed, it is likely I will have to do some rearranging.

I already have a busy life - a family to raise, children to teach, a home and property to look after. Am I crazy adding in another activity - a business? Can I do it? In my own strength I cannot - only with God's help, guidance and direction. As I try to find room in my home for all the china I also need to find room in my life for the business and all its commitments. And one of the ideas that popped into my mind as I counted up those teacups was to take an inventory of my life and then begin to edit. Editing is something I really needed to do and one of the big areas for me was blogging and that is the first area I felt the Lord prompt me to edit which is why you do not hear from me as often as you used to. I am not giving up blogging but only doing it when I am able and only writing posts which will either contribute to the record of the life and adventures of this family or truly benefit another person.

I'm still working out how to fit in the writing of my blog so to make time for that I seriously needed to come up with a new approach to reading blogs. I hope that the method I have chosen may be useful to someone like me who used to be enthralled by blogs and did so much blog hopping it's a wonder I didn't grow webbed feet and start croaking!

So that's where I started - I stopped hopping. It was so tempting to look down a list knowing there would be like-minded people out there or more likely an interesting post would catch my eye. The 5 minutes I intended to spend catching up with a friend could soon become half an hour or more. I decided to stop looking at blogrolls and not open or stay around posts which advertised blog hops.

I have not stopped visiting my friends - those sweet and lovely gals I have met from different places in Australia, the US, Canada, Scotland and New Zealand. I'm just not always on the doorstep. So if a friend is reviewing a novel which does not interest me I don't visit that day but if she is sharing a recipe which sounds like one my family would enjoy I'll pop over and pin it. And if she has some family news to share I'll take the time to say congratulations or let her know I am praying for her. If she has just made something for her home which I think is just gorgeous I'll most definitely leave a compliment or a word of encouragement.

And then the are the blogs that offer so much advice and inspiration for your life - for Christian living, homemaking, homeschooling, gardening, reading cooking. If you are interested in it you can bet your bottom dollar there is a blog or multiple blogs for it. Many are hugely popular with large numbers of followers. Here is where I had to do lots of editing. I decided I would choose one or occasionally two blogs for each of the areas I was interested in. Inspiration for Christian living - that was easy. I stuck with a well known blog I have followed from the start which has always inspired me to be a wise woman and build my home. Can you guess which blog that is? Clue - button is on my sidebar!

Homesteading was a little harder - so many to choose from but there could only be one. That button is also on my sidebar but it's not my intention to send people blog hopping! I read one other Australian blog which focuses on simple living and homemaking for it's local content and gardening advice for my climate. I limited the recipe blogs to just two - I read Annabel Langbein's as I'm such a big fan of her recipes and fresh, simple approach to food and the other is a blog where I once guest posted and the author not only has great recipes but a beautiful heart for hospitality. Good food and hospitality go hand in hand!

And finally there are blogs which I treat more like a magazine. Some refer to them as the beautiful blogs. They usually have more pictures than words and those shots are usually styled. Lots of visual inspiration. I  can think of one which belongs to a most gracious lady and grandmother. I don't know her and have never commented at her blog ( she already has a tonne of admirers) but her gorgeous tea tables have given me lots of inspiration for my business and I'm very grateful that she takes the time to do this - do take note I mentioned she is a grandmother. Her children have left home. There are seasons for blogging and what you can offer the world.

And this is all I can offer now. I hope you understand. I'm still editing my life. I've made adaptations and there are so many goals I have set and projects I would like to try but I have said two important words to lots of those activities. 'NOT NOW'!! Some things I have let go of all together and if I never make a quilt this side of heaven well that's fine. I can only keep stitching together the pieces of this life that lie in my lap right now. If I don't stitch those parts well and attempt to add in more pieces it's likely that the quilt (my life) will start to come apart at the seams. Maybe sometime I will tell you more about what I don't do and why.... it's quite a list!

The new school term starts next week. My adult daughter is in Thailand working at an orphanage, it is her second missions trip. I can't believe I just called her that - my adult daughter. She grew up so quickly! I have lots of preparations for next week. Need to get my house back in order and my girls are begging me to start their lessons now. They don't want to wait until next week! I am needed so I'm signing off.

I'll be back - just not sure when!
Enjoy the rest of your week.


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