Saturday, 25 October 2014

Paths to Joy-full Homemaking (Part one)

Peder Severin Kroyer

This repost is due to the fact I had somehow deleted the original post! Of course, this meant that I also lost the kind comments left by readers. I would like to sincerely thank Lynne H and Tierra for their offers to help me. You are lovely ladies.

There are wonderful women who wish with all their heart to be good home-makers; creating a clean, tidy home, full of beauty, meals on the table on time, and to be able to invite people in for tea at the drop of a hat. These women are full of good intentions, but at the end of the day, they seem to be no nearer to that dream than they were at the beginning. It is disheartening, and they seriously wonder if they are 'just not "home-maker material". Where is the joy in home-making? 

I myself, have had that very experience. I did not consider myself to be "home-maker material", and suffered the same weariness and discouragement. I could not feel comfortable inviting anyone in for coffee, because all I could see around me were the imperfections of my home-making skills, lack of progress, and was not able to relax with people who came in. I was constantly fretting about whether things were perfect (which they were not). 

Another major difficulty faced by many women I hear of, is the inability to get off their computers, and do the necessary home-making they so want to do! It is baffling that one can make the seemingly innocent decision to '"quickly look something up on the internet", and the next time one glances at the clock it is three solid hours later. Nothing has been achieved, except, perhaps, backache from sitting in the same position for so long! 

Those lovely home-making blogs themselves can be a grave distraction from actual-factual honest-to- goodness practical home-making. These blogs are wonderful and can be a real blessing and community for home-makers, but if we only read about home-making instead of doing it, we won't gain much joy in the long run.
Why do we spend hours on the internet and come away unsatisfied every single time? 

Even if you are really strong, and don't give in to the temptation to "browse" your computer, are you
thinking about browsing, and rushing through the cleaning, tidying and cooking as fast as you can. Is it any surprise there is no joy in it?

I think that there are paths to joy-full home-making, and that there is hope for those who feel they fit into the "not home-making material" mould, and I hope these suggestions may be of use and encouragement to other ladies.

Isaiah 55:2
"Wherefore do ye spend money for
that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness" 

Firstly, it can be truly helpful to think about "Why you labour for that which satisfieth not" Can you take a moment to jot down what happens when you rush though things and get to the beloved computer? Is there an anticipation that computer time will be satisfying? How will it satisfy? It is often a desire similar to the anticipation of eating a whole box of delicious chocolates - full of the promises of satisfaction, but each time you indulge yourself the end result is always the same - nausea? It is a nasty trick and a deception. 

I believe that we can share these things in prayer with our heavenly Father. He knows all about them anyway. His burden is light and His yoke is easy. It is so sad when at the time we need Him most, we often turn away from his help and love because we don't want to share our weaknesses with Him and allow Him to guide us through to overcoming, in His gentle, kind way, as the shepherd cares for and guides his sheep and lambs.

Peder Severin Kroyer - Marie en Ravello

Things you don't need the computer for: 

If you want to look up a recipe - get a little notebook and find a cook-book or two. Yes, a real cook-book. Unplug the laptop and use your desk-space to write down some of the recipes that will satisfy your family's needs. I strongly suggest that you avoid recipes that take too much time and different processes, or that require many, or expensive ingredients. You are after simple meals, easy to prepare, healthy, tasty and quick. If you have children, you will be able to pass your own recipe book on to them. It is not quite as special to pass on to them a bookmarked internet page with a list of recipes on it : ) 

To learn to sew, garden, clean, de-clutter... You can get more fun and satisfaction learning the old- fashioned way. Ask someone who knows; an older woman, relative or, again, read a book. Take it slowly and enjoy the process. There is no rush to learn. Little by little can be fun, and very satisfying. I have a friend who sews beautifully and bakes lovely things. She is an older lady so did not grow up with computers. Her pace is slow and relaxed. She learned to learn that way and when I visit her, she makes me feel relaxed too. 

The computer is so fast. It creates in you an anxiety to cram in information fast, and learn fast, and achieve fast. Ladies, we are not built that way! God gave us a "pace" It is a "smell the roses" pace. There is joy to be found simply in slowing down and doing so. You can take all year to knit a scarf! It is okay to bake the same simple recipe every single time, it is wonderful to just have grown a single tomato plant in your garden! The internet can lie. It can say you are a failure, but you are not. Slow down, smell the roses, delight in your half dozen home grown tomatoes, lovingly wrap that simple scarf you took your time with, and make someone feel special. 

Sometimes we are fearful of failure and the computer is a procrastination tool. You may also find that you are judging everything you do by the standards of the exceptional. For instance, instead of enjoying the satisfaction of baking your homey, loaf of bread, you see images of successful bakers with perfectly formed loaves of every flavour, made with exotic ingredients, and photographed against improbably scenic backgrounds. That is not your goal. Your family don't really want those loaves. They want bread baked with loving hands. Its imperfection is its beauty and they want to eat it not look at it! Providing a loaf of lovingly-made, fresh, fragrant, home-made bread will give you joy.

If you will switch off the virtual world, and take the first step of home-making it can be joyful and peaceful. Your family will love the imperfect things you do and will be grateful that you care about them. That is what home-making used to be about - and that is where the joy is to be found today.

I realise that this is a longer post than I intended so have split it into two. I hope to post part 2 soon. I do hope you will take the time to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you - and also by email, and hope some of you are still here after my long absence.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Paths to Joy-full Homemaking (Part two)

Another thing which I think can prevent us from finding joy in our home-making, is our agendas.

Women throughout history seem to share a common struggle with Agenda. It distorts and complicates much of our thinking and can leave us mentally and emotionally exhausted before the day is done. I personally believe that it can hinder God's practical work in our lives, because we cannot get our 'sticky fingers' off situations; instead of  sharing - and then leaving our cares with our Heavenly Father. Very often women have agendas concerning husbands or their adult children -  These are sometimes perceived as wanting the best for them, yet it can actually be simply a strong impulse to control situations; and  I think that the root of our agendas are mostly Fear.

Isaiah 26:3  

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

1 John 4:18 -

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love

There can be torment in our fearful agendas. They steal the joy, and peace in our daily lives.

1 John 3:1

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

We are often unaware that our agendas are actively influencing our level of peace and  our purpose through the day. I think it is very helpful to share them with Him when we wake each morning, and know that He has heard our prayers. We can thank him in faith and turn to other matters. It is like a spiritual clearing of clutter, similar to clearing away over-whelming clutter in our homes. Clutter just gets in the way of everything and it is such a relief to get it out of the way. It is much easier to enjoy home-making when things are picked-up and not clogging up our thoughts. When I say clutter, I am not talking about the pretty and calming things around us. I mean the type of clutter that is ugly, unloved, and which stresses and upsets us.

I believe that another, more obvious barrier to the joy-full home-making sought by women, can be "self"-ish-ness. I remember a time when I would wake up each morning and feel utterly depressed and unmotivated. I kept praying for help and could not understand how I would ever feel happy. Then my answer came. I found that if I would take the focus off myself, and onto others, my mood would lift within a very short time. I experienced this same answer to prayer many times. Today, the world teaches that putting ones-self first, is the key to contentment. Of course, that is not true. 

Luke 9:24
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

Mark 10:44-45 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.


Peder Severin Kroyer-Marie  y su madre en el jardin

Many home-makers find the benefit of making a list of those things which need to be done in her day. Mostly, the list acts as a guideline; as life often gets in the way, and changes our plans. 

The list can also help us to turn away from those exacting agendas and focus on the joy of our daily business of home-making. In a way, when we write things down, we can put our priorities in order. Our priority is not to achieve a spotless house to the detriment of the family and their needs. What is the purpose of our home-making?

“I believe that a godly home is a foretaste of heaven. Our homes, imperfect as they are, must be a haven from the chaos outside. They should be a reflection of our eternal home, where troubled souls find peace, weary hearts find rest, hungry bodies find refreshment, lonely pilgrims find communion, and wounded spirits find compassion.”

Jani Ortlund

Have a Joy-full day ladies

Saturday, 18 October 2014


Hot Blackberry and Apple Crumble

Yesterday afternoon I put together a blackberry and apple crumble for tea. I used the blackberries that we had picked from the hedgerows and just added one or two cooking apples (Bramleys) but the apples are not necessary - you could use just blackberries, or even add some apples from the crab-apple trees which you can find growing in many places. It is nice to make such a thrifty meal, but if you use the crab apples, they are very acidic and sharp to the taste. You will have to add extra sugar to counteract this.

Some more thrifty tips:

1. Make up more than one crumble at a time, enough to fill your oven so as not to waste electricity or gas. Make sure all the dishes fit on the shelves and bake all at once.

2.Cool, wrap and freeze the extra crumbles. I spoon them onto foil that I have turned up the edges of to stop leakage, and then wrap the edges of foil over the top to make a convenient package to slip into the freezer. They are so quick to reheat in the microwave.

3. Portions: To me, the pudding is not supposed to be a filling meal, but a little treat or finisher. I often see photographs of desserts where the portions are huge. I find it helpful to serve puddings in smaller bowls, rather the enormous ones that people seem to use nowadays.

4. If you are using evaporated milk, you can dilute it by adding the same amount of ordinary milk. This brings the cost down, but it is hard to detect any change in flavour. Also, evaporated milk can make you feel over-full as it is so rich, and can overpower the taste of the dessert iteslf

5. If you do not wish to make a lot of crumbles at once, keep your made-up crumble in the fridge and bake when you have the oven on for other things. Sometimes, I like to bake small potatoes in their jackets to fill unused areas of oven shelf. You just wash and slide your smallish potatoes onto a long skewer, like a kebab, which makes them cook quickly. I have heard that you can freeze cooked jacket potatoes, but I have never done it. (I would like to hear if you have done this)

Blackberry and Apple Crumble


Enough blackberries to cover the base of your baking dish
One or two cooking apples to cover the blackberries

Crumble topping

6 oz Plain flour
3 oz butter ( or baking margarine)
2 oz sugar ( I used demerara, but any sugar is fine)

A sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Put a layer of blackberries in your baking dish. I have put in mine straight from the freezer.

Peel, core and slice one or two cooking apples and lay over the blackberries. Sprinkle on a little sugar. (You can sprinkle on a little cinnamon here if wished, or you can sprinkle it over the crumble before baking, or leave it out altogether).

Now make your crumble mix. Put the plain flour, butter or margarine (cubed) and the sugar into a bowl and rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle this mix over the fruit to cover.

Bake at 200c/180c Fan/Gas 6 for around 35 minutes until light golden brown.

If you have other things in the oven that require a different oven temperature, you can still bake them together, just keep an eye on the crumble and take it out when it is golden brown.

Serve hot, with custard, evaporated milk, cream, or a scoop of ice-cream

Thank you to Mari for pointing out that some people know this dessert as a "cobbler" rather than a "crumble" This may be another cause of confusion between US and UK terminology. 

A UK cobbler is a scone-topped recipe. This is quite often used with savoury recipes too, for instance, a plain scone topped Cottage pie.
Although they are not exactly the same, I think that scones are known as "biscuits" in the US.

Of course... Biscuits in the UK are an entirely different thing! Not like scones at all, but like cookies. 

It is getting complicated so I will stop here : )

Friday, 17 October 2014

Blackberry Days

Blackberries in the fields

This year the apple trees did not yield much fruit, they seemed to go bad before as soon as they had developed. But we have never seen so many blackberries in the hedgerows round about. Not only has there been such a bumper crop, but the berries on the brambles have been good for picking for many weeks.

We have enjoyed a lot of fruit crumbles, with custard or topped with a pouring of evaporated milk. Blackberries freeze very well. You can just rinse them, put into bags or containers, and straight into the freezer. Fruit crumbles when they are cooked also freeze well. If you are in a hurry, or fancy a change, you can make a quick blackberry sponge pudding in the microwave. I have not tried freezing that, but I think it would be fine if you did as long as it was well-wrapped.

The recipe for crumble is frugal and quick to make, so I hope to post it here with some pictures, if the light is suitable for taking photographs. Sometimes the weather is dark and dreary and I cannot get a clear photo.

Kitchen shelf 

Last year, my husband made me this shelf in the kitchen. I have one or two lovely china cups that have no saucers, so I can hang them on the hooks and they brighten up my day.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

House-dress for Winter

Daniel Ridgeway Knight. (Coffee in the Garden)

I have been busy these last few days sewing something warm in preparation for the cold winter days to come.

UK and US terms can sometimes be confusing, but in the UK, a 'Jumper' means a Lady's sweater.

And a 'Pinafore Dress' is what is referred to in the US as a 'Jumper'!  

So, I decided to make a pinafore dress to go over my jumper

But if you are in the US or Canada, I decided to make a jumper to go over my sweater. I hope that clears things up : )

I am going to be using UK terms in this post.

I wanted a loose, comfortable and very warm pinafore dress that could be worn at home on those very chilly days.

I had borrowed a pattern that was printed in 1977. The keen eyed reader will observe that it is a maternity pattern. I chose to not adapt the pattern so that it was roomy and comfortable to work in at home. Also, the sizing then was for figures a little smaller in the waist, and I wanted to be able to wear my thick jumpers underneath when it was really cold.

This pattern is Sew Simple Style 2102

Oh dear, Hands in my pockets! I used to remind my children NOT to do this.

I have taken up the hem a bit so the dress is a little shorter than in the photo.

 I am possibly planning to add some small amount of coordinating floral fabric trim to the front, but I like that the Royal Blue colour is not drab - it may not need anything else.

It is certainly warm! I used a needle-cord (pin-cord) fabric and it is quite heavy. Sewing with corduroy for the first time was quite different from sewing with cotton. When the right sides are together, it has a tendency to slip.  In order to counteract this you have to pin against the 'nap',So pin horizontally. Also you have to remember that it is quite bulky to sew. You may need a sturdier machine needle. Sometimes, I had to lift the presser foot and carefully sew across the bulkier joins. Remember too, that you will need slightly more fabric as you will be using a 'nap' layout to cut your fabric. I forgot, but was able to add a metre to the continuous length to my order just in time.

On those cold days, I will be wearing a cotton t-shirt under a warm jumper, and black leggings with black socks. Also a petticoat to help trap the warmth. Under a long skirt or dress, it is possible to add leg-warmers too, on the very coldest days.

If I was going out shopping, for instance, I would take Lady Lydia's advice, taking off my apron and slipping on a jacket over the dress.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Cornerstone Confessions

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Putting the Garden to Bed

My shady summer Begonia Corner

Autumn is here...

It is fresh and windy and there is a nip in the air.

It is goodbye to my summer reading nook at Begonia Corner, above, until next year.

It's time to put our garden to bed.

We have a pocket handkerchief garden, so it doesn't take long to tuck it up for the winter.

A few days ago we pulled off the last of the tomatoes. It has been a good year for tomatoes. The green ones mostly ripen on the sunny windowsills, but about 2lbs were made into Green Tomato Chutney, from a simple Scottish recipe which I will post here if people would like to try it.

Tomato Chutney awaiting labels

After pulling up  plants, we removed the soil from the boxes that we plant in. This one had potatoes in.

 We scattered used soil onto the grass as our tiny lawn gets a lot of walking on.

Then,  we put in some plants to the empty planting box and covered it over to protect from the frost.

My husband collected leaf mulch from a local path. You just have to make sure there isn't holly in it. He puts the mulch into bags with a little water and makes sure there are one or two friendly worms to take up residence in there. It is good to use last year's mulch on the garden. We use mulch all over the planting areas, and around the plants. 

Begonia wintering indoors

We brought in a few Begonias, but have left some and a couple of other plants outside as they are still flowering.

Part of putting the garden to bed to us, is pruning back the plants such as roses. But that is for another day.

A few weeks ago, I made a couple of fabric pumpkins from this tutorial

I used scrap fabric I had from years ago. The tutorial is so lovely and simple. It is so generous of others to share their tutorials with us all isn't it?