Monday, December 26, 2011

Handmade Christmas Decorations


It's been a secretly harboured desire of mine for many years now. One of those 'one-day' wishes. Something which I would love but really never though it would be possible in this season of my life.


It all began several years ago, about this time of year, when I was flicking through a magazine. The image which met my eyes has been burned on the screen my mind ever since. Oh, how I wanted that picture to have been taken in my lounge room, not just a far off dream in a magazine. But every year since, no such picture has been forthcoming - primarily because the subject matter has not been available.


There are a few things in life which make my heart skip a beat, one of these is handmade lace. I began making handmade, bobbin lace while living in England several years back and my lace making supplies have seen daylight only occasionally since. Bobbin lace and young children is a hazardous mix, in my opinion. A mix which I haven't been brave enough to hazard very often. But the love of the craft remains and one hour spent twirling those bobbins so easily grows to five.



The image, which so captivated me those years back, was nothing less than a Christmas tree decorated with golden, handmade, lace ornaments. Oh, the beauty and joy. Just imagine having that tree in my home (well it's the decorations I am envious of, not the tree). What a delighful mix of an ancient, and almost forgotton, craft and a modern home, decorated beautifully. Every year since then, I have known that this dream would yet again be just that, a dream.


This year though, that dream is (almost) a reality. It was November last year, when when I made a purchase which unexpectedly included a monthly, machine embroidery design delivered to my inbox. Imagine my delight when I discovered that each and every month, all year, I have been receiving a machine embroidery design for . . . . wait for it. . . . nothing less than. . . . machine-stitched, golden, lace ornaments. I have been oogling these designs all year and dreaming of them being mine but until now hadn't actually done anything about making them real. I have put this to rights now and my table is decorated with . . . .well just have a look. . . .isn't it just beautiful!!







Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Birthday Party.



"Is this the party food for Jesus?"


It stopped me in my tracks, these seven words spoken across the bench laden with spice cookies and icing. How do I answer such a thought provoking utterence?

"It's His birthday isn't it. Why don't we make him a cake?"

A small child seemily able to see more clearly through the tinsel and baubles than I am able to.
Well.... ummm.... exactly...... why not?

"There are lot's of Christmas songs, but none say 'Happy Birthday' to Jesus."

It's knickname is the 'silly-season'. The expectation thrown at us, from the marketing gurus at least, seems to encourage us to eat far too much sweet junk, feel over full, spend way too much money on unneccesary stuff and spend all year paying off the credit cards. Why?

It seems that the guest of honour can be lost in the pile of wrapping paper. It is HIS birthday after all.

The cookies continued to gain their colourful iced topping as Away in a Manger played in the background. It really is a birthday we are celebrating. A birth day which seems so remote from our current culture. A birth of a 'normal' baby boy. The reality of a birth which sometimes gets clouded by the images of sheep, cows and wise men.  A baby who grew into a small child, he probably played with the children of the village just like any other child. Probably came running to his Mummy for comfort after a fall resulted in a skinned knee. He was sent to earth as a 'man'. A baby born so long ago. A child who played and grew and learned. A young man finding his place in the family and world around him. A man whose life continues to profoundly touch our hearts a couple thousand years later.

Is this who Christmas is all about in my heart and family this year? Are all my plans and preperations and cooking and gift buying and meals and celebrations for the purpose of celebrating the life of Jesus?

Enjoy a blessed Christmas today, as we celebrate this Birthday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spiced Christmas Cookies


It's not cold here, but even in the sweltering humidity there is a certain comfort which comes from cinnamon and spice. The smell pervades every corner of the house as they are mixed, rolled and baked. It's a family affair this. Children helping with every stage and mess which seems to spread further than the hands can reach. Christmas music playing in the background with giggles and conversations to punctuate the quiet, concentrated effort.



It's a much anticipated Christmas tradition - making Spiced Christmas Cookies. This year a little later than others but the enjoyment was still evident. Other years they have been single biscuits in shapes of trees and stars but this year our creativity was taken to a whole new level with multi-sized flower cookie cutters. Our cookies just screamed to be made into little trees, decorated with white, chocolate fudge and bright coloured icing.

An hour spent together. Fingers which were too little to help last year, now very capably working at their task.



The end result was some gifts for special people. A few fingers licked here and there (I'm just guessing this as no one will admit it of course!). A happy Mummy, some happy Kiddos and a memory made together.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gingerbread House Making


There were 10 of us around the table that night. Another table was added as we spread further and more elbow room was needed. Conversations were regularly punctuated with rumbustious laughter. The atmosphere was one of love, fun and delightful friendship. How blessed I felt to open my home to such a group of women. Women who arrived in various states of health and fragility of mind and emotions. Women who arrived and were instantly swallowed by the loving concern and fun laughter which was ever present all evening.
Children in bedrooms down the hall were trying ever so hard to be 'good' and sleep but every so often a little head would be spotted peeking round the corner. After all, these Mummies were making a lot of noise and curiosity just got the better of them at times.


As the evening progressed every tiny particle of bench or table was covered with our supplies (oh and the obligatory tea/coffee/desert/chocolate/fruit treats). The floor became less and less recognizable and even the chairs were showing telltale signs of our endeavors. In fact still today, 5 days later, I'm finding remnants of it hidden in small corners, on the bottom of chairs and in my kitchen drawers.



Oh, but what a fun evening it was. 10 of the most gorgeous women in the world (in my biased opinion anyway), more laughs than I have experienced in quite a long while and colour aplenty. It was a first for many of us but all have firmly decided it will not be the last. Some worked away with quiet concentration, while others just had to laugh - or else they would cry! Others were called over to lend a helping hand and our most experienced one was busily monitoring the activities of all.



The outcome was some beautiful friendships cemented yet further, some stresses floated away and a healthly tiredness for all. The unveiling at the end showed what we all suspected: our creations were nothing short of masterpieces - each made with laughter and love.







Friday, December 9, 2011

Five Minute Friday - Colour

The challenge is to write for 5 minutes. Non-stop. Just write. Don't worry about it. Just write.Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

The topic today is: Colour



Ready. . . . Set . . . Go

Colour:



The sun shimmers as it hits the choppy waves. The water is inviting, refreshing, and just plain beautiful. It's the summer season here, but winter somewhere else. Ours is reflected in the bright blue sky, the lush green grass, the bright pink rose, the vibrant yellow sun and the oozy brown mud. Theirs is reflected in white, the blanket which covers everything in its wake - snow. White is foreign to us. Ever. We never see the blank canvas which is winter white.

Life moves in seasons too. Sunny summers - bright and fresh and hot. Icy winters - cold and hard and lonely. Brilliant Autumns - bold and brazen and beautiful. Subtle springs - hopeful and new and exciting.

Some see winter white every year. Some for many months of the year. But for us it is a picture book fantasy only. It is a delicate beauty which is never brought into our lives here. A dream for many to experience at this time of year but also a stumbling block to noticing the colours surrounding us here. I look out my window and see the emerald green leaves, growing prolifically. The bold yellow, orange and bronze sunset stills me in amazement. The flowers are in every colour of the rainbow. But do I notice or do I wish for that which is far off? Do I notice the beauty around me today? It's beautiful here today - not in black and white but in full colour!

Stop.




I'm joining the 5 Minute Friday fun today at Gypsy Mama.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Calming the Conflict Within



It’s the time of year for intense, but delightful, sensory overload, Christmas. It reaches us through musical notes floating through the air, smells of baking wafting through an open kitchen window offering a welcome to those still outside and all around us we find our eyes resting upon sparkling lights, glowing candles and shining decorations. Those decorations are a symbol of the time of year. They indicate that it’s time to browse the shops with the intent of buying presents and the time has come, once again, to partake in the parties and breakups which fill our calendars. Those decorations are such a strong reminder that the weeks are creeping ever closer to the new year waiting on the horizon.


I flick open a catalogue and see ‘the’ Christmas tree and decorations I MUST have. In the fresh, new colours of the season it appears to be the image of perfection. I go into a store and see ‘the’ perfect table decorations that I NEED to match my d├ęcor. I go to my friends place and notice she has made some gorgeous decorations with her children, so VERY beautiful. Everywhere I look around me finds my mind filled with awe and wonderment. It is as though all this perfection and beauty I feel surrounded by, is feeding my desire for order, beauty, traditions, memories and love. I feel the need to have it all perfect, be the perfect hostess and give the best gifts. But at the same time, I find myself retreating away from all this perfection.

Read more here






I'm sharing in the 8 Days to a Christ-Centered Christmas series over at The Feminine Intellect today.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I am Enough




The glass splinters into a thousand pieces as it reaches the floor. The floor which was uncharacteristically sparkling clean just moments before. The response which flowed from my mouth was anything but gracious. An accident at the hands of a small child, a moment which should have been met with understanding, a string of words which were not neccessary.

I am enough.

The washing machine leaves a pool of water all over the laundry. A laundry which is overflowing with washing. My heart sinks as I view the mess all around.

I am enough.
A small child leans on the sewing machine and ruins the project half made. A gift for a friend, just waiting for that spare moment to be finished. I stare in disbelief and disappointment. All my spare moments today had been given to that project, now it stands for nothing.

I am enough.

The day has been full of ups and downs. Moments I like to hold close to my heart and moments I'd rather forget. The theme has been the same, whether cuddly babies or spills and messes.

I am enough.

A smile meets my eye - a beautiful, loving, innocent smile. The words which accompany melt my heart. "Mummy, can I please help you. I want to cook just like you." A few shared moments, a meal prepared and a smile on our faces.

I am enough.

Can I ever be? The messes keep accumulating. The washing keeps breeding. The jobs still need doing. The meals still need preparing.

I am enough. I am all I need to be. What I do isn't as important as who I am. The moments shared with a giggle. The books read while snuggled on the coach. The heart moments shared. The cuddles given. The encouraging words spoken. This is what will live on and be remembered. This is what will make a difference to those around me. I know:

I am enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Remember. . .





The days come and go. Routines, rituals and chores are mixed with once-yearly activities. The mix of the commonplace, normal and everyday combined with the delightful yearly traditions form days and weeks which are full and overflowing. The days float by and become a memory almost as soon as they begin. The weeks creep ever faster towards the new year which is lurking on the horizon. The months are almost all ticked off the calender for this year, just one last month to enjoy and make part of the memories which become our lives. The whirlwind of breakups, Christmas parties and end of year activities is right there just waiting to swallow me up. It seems that just one step will have me falling right into the centre, into an abyss over which I have no control. Just one moment, in which I let down my guard and I will be gone, lost and fighting to come up for air.

My mind is whirling, trying desperately to hold onto each day's activities.  Trying to keep everything orderly and organized and civilized. Oh, how I wish I could stop. Totally stop, just for a moment or two or maybe three. Give up trying and for one day float as a feather in the wind. Allowing the days to come and go, flowing here and there and enjoying the stillness within.

I sit here wondering why I feel so tight and overwhelmed and I remember. I remember that I really don't have to be everything. I don't have to do absolutely everything.

The candles are flickering, it's a simple way to light the room, reminiscent of times of long ago. A simpler time. A time when taking the time to sit, reflect and remember was a part of the daily routine.

It's a reminder of the baby who was born in a simple way all those years ago. This baby, who would change the course of history, came to earth without any fanfare.

He came and brought the peace and stillness within my spirit. It is a reminder to stop all the hussle and busstle and be still and remember.

Remember the days. . . . the time. . . . the reason. . . .

Stop and give the time to being me.
Stop and give the time to living with joy.
Stop and give the time to seeing through grateful eyes.
Stop and give the time to loving the people in my life.
Stop and give the time to remember. . . .

Monday, November 28, 2011

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @
lowercase letters

1. i had the privilege of spending just over 24 hours with my beautiful sister this past weekend. it's the first time we have spent time together for oh so long. we talked non-stop for hours. we indulged in our shared, but crazy obsession with stationary. we simply enjoyed being sisters.

2. my aformentioned sister finally got me joined up to what i'm predicting will be a wonderfully, inspirational time-waster for me. pinterest. it's been there calling my name for a while now, but i've resisted, just in case it required more time than i was willing to give it. now i'm hooked.

3. it's hot, hot, hot in this part of the world, these days. summer is approaching fast. in fact it's well and truly here, in full force. i'm so thankful for air-conditioned coffee shops and my boy to share a chocolate truffle with.

4. our christmas tree is shining and sparkling in our lounge room. candles on the coffee table and nativity scene on the piano. it's a time of year i enjoy so much. there is something about the traditions and memories which seem to say; take the days a bit slower, enjoy each day and make the time to do things together which we only seem to do once a year.

5. the simple pleasures. big kids with their little toys. a steam train ride through the bushland made for fun for young and old alike.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

---Inspired by SouleMama---



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Solitude


Right now I could hear a pin drop, if it dropped that is. I can hear every droplet of rain that floats down and lands gracefully on our roof. If I still myself even further, I hear some birds chirping in the distance and the gentle, repetitive tick of our clock as it keeps me company on our journey through the day.

It is a rare moment when I get this feeling, absolute solitude. Today solitude has reached out and beckoned to me with open arms. I haven't sought it out but I am ever so thankful it found it's way into my home on this day. Oh, I do enjoy hearing my own thoughts sometimes. There is a certain sense of accomplishment when an idea can take root in my mind and sit there growing and changing as I dwell upon it for more than 5 seconds. It's moments like this that I often feel I should be doing things and getting so much done. I could accomplish much in this time of quietness but instead, today I've taken the opportunity to rediscover a long hidden part of myself. Like opening up a box within my life which is covered in dust and hasn't seen any light for far too long. And I have enjoyed the journey immensely.

Day's drift past all too quickly sometimes (and all too slowly at other times!) and before my head hits the pillow I try to reflect on the day just past. As my eyes are begging to close and my body finally succumbing to relaxation as it melts into the soft mattress below, I bring into my mind's eye things I'm grateful for in the day just past. More often than not, these reflections are 'one-liners'. Just a fleeting thought which is very quickly pushed aside as slumber gains control. Today though, I have had more time than expected to allow my mind to dwell on those things to which I give my gratitude . Even mundane tasks such as folding the washing have become moments of meditative beauty.

So I give my heartfelt thanks to solitude for greeting me mid-morning and remaining my companion till mid-afternoon. I have enjoyed our walk together today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Birthday Girl

Celebrating a special birthday yesterday.



Present surprises all round.




Big brother helping to read some cards sent from family.


Friends, tea party, dancing music and pink cakes.
It all makes for one very special birthday for one very special girl.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Celebrating a Birthday

It comes around as regularly as clockwork, exactly 365 (and a quarter) days after the last, the one special day of the year we dedicate to celebrating this special person in our family.


Our little Butterfly turned 6 today and as I sat by her bed tonight, watching her peaceful but exhausted, sleeping body move ever so slightly with each breath, I reflected...

She is:
  • our only daughter
  • the one who lives everyday with a beautiful, contagious smile on her face
  • the one who brings joy, laughter, beauty, pink and all things 'girly' into our family
  • a helper and playmate to her brothers
  • always by my side ready to help with cooking, washing or any other task
  • learning the skills of sewing alongside me
  • a delight to sit and stitch and giggle with over a cup of tea
  • always ready to read to me and getting better each and every day
  • anxious to start a proper handwriting book in Grade 1 next year
  • by my side feeding, changing and looking after her 'baby' as I look after mine
  • ready at any time for a game of princess snap/memory or uno
  • the one who will call me back in to her room for yet another kiss and cuddle every night
  • wanting to be a ballerina and 'Mummy who stays home to look after her children' when she grows up
  • needing to be challenged with books to read and activities to do - nothing babyish or boring for her!
  • my super, special 6 year old princess
I love you, my Holly Girl.

Friday, November 18, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

---Inspired by SouleMama---



My Koala Sleeping in a Tree

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Busyness





I caught myself this morning, sitting in a crowded place, drinking coffee, feeding a baby, remembering what I had to buy here, planning the menu for the weekend when I realised that there was free internet here as well. So out came my i-pod and I logged in to look up a web page. I was multi-tasking to the extreme when I heard a noise in the midst of all this. It was just my children talking to each other. Hearing their conversation was enough to drag me back to the present and look at my actions objectively.

I began to think about space and especially mental space. It seems so easy to get caught up in the busyness of the city. Words are floating around waiting to land in someones thoughts, noises crowd out any restfulness, to-do lists seem to appear out of nowhere all claiming to be the most urgent. Whereas watching the waves rhythmic pounding of the shore or listening to the bird songs filling the silence of the rainforest or drinking in a view which reaches to the horizon, those times seem like honey to my soul. When I'm surrounded by God's glorious handiwork it's much easier to rest my mind and replentish my soul.

But here I was multi-tasking magnificently when I stopped it all. Well, I did keep feeding the baby and sipping my coffee, but I brought my mind to where I was and who I was with and away went the electronic device - why do I need interenet everywhere anyway? I remembered these words I wrote a week or so ago. My children and I chatted for a few minutes about this, that and the other and we all walked away with a restfulness which wasn't present moments earlier. Once again I am reminded to live here and now, walk slower as I notice and enjoy this life I am priviledged to live.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Live Intentionally

Live Intentionally. These two words have unassumingly woven themselves into the fabric which is my life. I haven't sought them out or until now, even consciously realized how tightly woven into my very being they have become. They are words I find myself being drawn towards in moments of confusion, procrastination and uncertainty. They seem to show their true beauty in thoughtful, reflective, soul-nourishing moments.



The concept these two simple words encompasses has been thrown into the very forefront of my consciousness and like a deep, repetitive drum beat it reaches right into the very depths of my being. It is as if I have been forced to bring it to the surface of my mind to dwell upon and clarify my thoughts about this whole idea before allowing it to rest once again, woven throughout the background colours of my life's fabric.

Everywhere I turn at the moment brings these two words into my heart. I glance through some journal entries I've made over the past 4 years and find it reaching out to grasp my attention on at least six occasions. When writing a new entry into that very same journal over the weekend I discover these same words written no less than twice in the same amount of pages. I was having a discussion with my husband over a few very mundane issues and yet again this theme crops up. It is reaching out to me even as I chat with some friends about Christmas traditions while watching our children play.



A greater sense of everyday, practical clarity has moulded into my thoughts while reflecting on this discussion about Christmas traditions and what each family does or doesn't do. How much should we 'go with the flow' as we live in our culture and how much should we 'close off' from the common cultural norms surrounding the season as we celebrate Jesus' birth at Christmas time. Most people who were taking part in this particular conversation had very similar views on the matter so it wasn't the most dramatic of discussions I've been privy to. But, it has remained in the forefront of my mind for these past days and I haven't been able to shake the underlying theme. Which was (if you can't guess) Live Intentionally.



Oh, those words were probably not even spoken on that occasion and the other ladies will probably shake their head at wonder as they read this. This wasn't really what we were talking about on the surface level but I sensed it was really what we were meaning with our words, in the deeper levels of our lives. If we didn't have the desire to 'Live Intentionally' in our lives would we even be discussing what are appropriate, good, right and fun Christmas traditions make part of our families? Without this desire to live intentionally, would we just go with what our culture tells us to do? The very fact we were having that discussion indicates our desire to live intentionally in our lives. Ah, how that brings some small portion of rest to my mind as I know I am reaching out to grasp this ideal with others joining me on the journey.





Linking with:

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Our Shelves



Having a shelf (or plastic tubs) set out with a variety of activities for my younger children to choose from has worked really great for us for several years now. I change the activities regularly - depending on the interest and age of the child. Sometimes it's a theme for a month or so, other times it's been different activity books or reading books. At the moment my 4 year old boy is loving hands-on, real-life activites so I'm trying to keep a variety of these types of baskets on his shelf. This is the way I work with the Montessori aproach in our homeschool routine and environment. Having a whole room set aside with a big variety of activities contantly available just isn't practical for us at the moment.

I find that by keeping things simple and having only a few activities to choose from makes it easy for them and they try different activities and skills more readily. For example, by selecting one colour of crayons in different shades leads to a different appreciation and learning about colour than having a full tub of crayons. I just make sure I change them regularly and be constantly watching for learning readiness and interest.

Here is a snapshot of our shelves this week.


Heart shaped crayons we made a while ago and a little note book.
Note: This has been used to draw one person on one page every day for about two weeks now. Alexander's idea of what to do with these resources and he loves the simple repetition each day at the moment.


A multi-coloured pencil and truck stencil.


This ice cube tray fits these circles perfectly. It is quite a challenge to get them in and out without using hands.


Tracing and cutting practice.
I am amazed at how simple this is but how much they love it.



Looking in a cheap shop recently these were chosen by Alexander. At the time I questioned why he wanted me to buy these two packets of beads (I really thought it would be Holly who would choose these). He was adamant that this was what he wanted so I splurged the $2 and bought them. I am so glad I did. He has spent hours and hours threading these with his 'real' tapestry needle


Modeling clay and some clay tools - it makes a change from playdo and the creations are endless.

I'd love you to add a comment with ideas you use for your younger children's activities.





Linking up with:
Montessori Monday

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
---Inspired by SouleMama---