Category Archives: Everyday Beauty

On Our Bookshelves in December

December Book Review


Books, specifically the reading of them, play a pretty major part in our family’s daily rhythm. In the past I’ve written a few ‘bookish’ sort of posts but nothing consistent. So as part of my way to welcome in the new year, I’ve decided to give you a monthly (hopefully) round up of some of the books we have explored. I find book reviews like this immensely interesting (ok, think what you like. I’m a book tragic.) and tend to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing your reviews, then, dare I admit it, I often find myself increasing my bookshelf capacity to keep up with all the ‘must read’ titles I discover. So as part of my 2015 plans, I’m throwing this idea on it’s head and going to share my two bobs on the book review front.

Since today is the last day of December and for the past month almost all my read-aloud-to-the-children reading has been completely out of our Christmas basket, it seems a good idea to share a couple new titles which have become favourites.


:: Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen:

A passing glance as I walked past a bookstore while visiting family (trying hard to be restrained) caused this title to jump into my hands. And I’m so delighted it did. I highly recommend it. The story of a young girl and her family, living on the Nullarbor, relying on the weekly ‘Tea and Sugar Train’ to deliver provisions to their remote location. This book tells the story of young Kathleen waiting for the one extra special train of the year, the Christmas train. It’s arrival not only meant that her family would once again have tea, sugar and other provisions but she would also receive a gift. Her delight in the gifted book was tangible as was the joy evident in the exquisite illustrations. Forgetting to buy sugar and having to wait another week till the train came again was forgotten in the shear joy of a family celebrating Christmas.

As a side note, this train was still supplying those communities right up to 1996 – I had no idea until I read this story. Connecting the true story of such a remote community with a celebration which all (or most) children can relate to, Christmas, made this historical recount all the more poignant. It is probably the best Australian Christmas story I have ever seen (in my view) and the illustrations are beautifully realistic.


:: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, Illustrated by P.J.Lynch

This title is on many a ‘best of’ list of Christmas stories and now that we have a copy in our Christmas basket, I’m going to add it to our favourite list as well. The story of raw love and devotion is displayed both through the words of the well-loved storyteller, O.Henry, as well as the original illustrations by P.J.Lynch. It provides such a simple way to reflect and discuss the important things in life – love and generosity.


:: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, Illustrated by P.J.Lynch

Another delightful Christmas story set in Victorian times with the realistic illustrations transporting us back to that earlier period. The author says the she wrote this story to ‘Illuminate … the message of Christmas – hope.’ She certainly achieved this. The three main characters begin with an air of hopelessness but by the end of the story their lives are all greatly enriched by their relationship with each other.


:: Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble

This became the absolute favourite of my youngest boy. The illustrations seemed to draw him into the story and although the family life portrayed in the story is nothing like our modern, Australian lifestyle, he seemed to relate to them intimately. I think the underlying story of a family working together and the love they demonstrated goes beyond all boundaries and differences becoming a connecting link to the story being told. The sadness and hardship which was threaded through the story culminated in a better-than-expected solution and a delightful prospect for the future.

2014 Reflections…

The end of the year is drawing close. Christmas, with all it’s glitz, lights, parties and shopping seems to be surrounding me – although I feel rather insulated from it all this year, enjoying the simplicity of crafts and stories with my young family this advent season. It is such a delightful way to spend these hot, summer days – sipping iced tea and reading some of our new Christmas books (oh my, there are some beautiful books in our basket this year); drawing, painting and crafting engrossing everyone as gifts are created and quickly squirrelled away before they are seen. Memories are being made in our household on these quiet, homely days and I’m appreciating each and every one of them.

With this background of family and creative mess, I’ve been reflecting the year just past. I realise I’ve not kept up some of my plans with which I began January (consistency here in this space being one of those) but I also realise that this past year has been full of far greater richness than I had written in those well intentioned new year plans. I have delighted in a year of living in a new location, away from the normal, ‘expected’ activities and I’ve been able to chose, very intentionally, just how my children and I will spend our time – lots of time at home with adventures on the days we can go as a full family. The hours spent at home have been filled with heartfelt discussions with my ever growing children; all of us learning (or re-learning) many skills including how to knit, crochet; much sewing; even more conversations; hours spent simply sitting and watching these delightful beings (whom I’m privileged to call my children) play and interact with each other and at times their friends; I’ve stopped and enjoyed so many little moments and it’s these little moments which fill the greatest space in my reflective heart.

I could look around and wonder just what happened to the year as I haven’t recorded it in words or photographs nearly as much as I intended to. But because I have made the conscious effort to be present and appreciate the little moments, I have a wealth of memories and pictures embedded within my heart which I’ll carry with me forever. I may have neglected writing here (sorry, I do apologise) and neglected other writing and photography projects which I know I could have pursued (and will one day) but I really believe I’ve made the right choices for me this year. I look at my children and know that I have invested in their lives at a time when that was needed most.

I know the decisions I’ve made this past year will dictate my future and I’m content with that. I’ve lived intentionally, sometimes I may have been right and sometimes wrong but always with intention, and it feels good right now as I reflect on the year just past.

I’m not one to sit and ponder on the past too much, preferring to dream and plan for the joyous future in my minds eye. So this last week of 2014 I intend to do just that. I’ll reflect on what went well this year and dream of how I can be a better ‘me’ next year. Oh, what an exciting prospect.

Please will you join me this week and reflect on the past with a grateful heart and dream of the future with a joyful imagination but above all appreciate the present moment with the utmost respect, because that is all we ever have in our lives – the present moment.

The Gratitude Journals

Around here I’m Grateful for:

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* Happy children chatter: All are huddled in a corner surrounded by legos. Such a common sight around here and it’s almost assured to be accompanied by happy sounds.

* Flowers from the garden: The term ‘garden’ may be misleading – it’s really an assorted collection of pots which grow the most amazing collection of herbs, greens, tomatoes, strawberries……. YUM! And I’ve recently discovered flowers – herb flowers are really beautiful.

* Music in the mornings: Listening to the sounds of music as I am working in the studio in the early hours of the morning always succeeds to fill the entire day with a calm, happy atmosphere – even more so if the music is created by my own munchkins.

* Twisting yarn: Whether it’s in the form of crochet or on the knitting needles – these past few days have found me reaching for the yarn quite often.

* Studio time: Early mornings are the best – quiet, productive, contemplative, cool, birds singing, sunlight streaming through the door, yes a very good time indeed. Maybe it’s writing, maybe listening, maybe studying, maybe sewing, maybe preparing for day ahead but regardless it is usually accompanied by a cup of tea and I’m finding it to be the perfect start to every day.

* Reading: Of course! Heidi is our current family read aloud and even my three year old begs for it every lunch time – oh the imaginative play that proceeds from reading a classic like this (and further questioning and learning of course, now the children are planning a trip to Switzerland especially as we finished the William Tell story last week as well).

* Life: Yes, I enjoy living this life of mine and just finished an embroidery yesterday which proclaims, “Life is Beautiful”. And I really think it is. That might just become my mantra for the next little while. Life is Beautiful. Yes.

I hope you are finding the beauty in the little moments as well.


Hi there. I’m still here and terribly sorry about the radio silence in this place. While this little slice of my life has been rather silent of late, I can guarantee it’s not been silent in the real-life, in-situe version of my life. Family, Fun, Sewing, Noise, Sewing, Travel, Sewing, Writing, Sewing, Learning, Sewing ……. yep, it’s been rather full and to be honest, rather ‘normal’. It’s just that I’ve been so busy actually living and sharing the fun with my family that I sort of forgot to come and share with you here. Sorry.


So this morning I just thought I would pop in quickly and say ‘G’day’.


I’d love to give you a great round up of my recent crafty endeavours but the photos aren’t quite ready (yes I’m behind on getting them from camera to computer. They are sitting there waiting…. waiting…. waiting…. like so many other things). So that will be coming. Promise.

Then I thought I could give you an overview, a ‘Best Of’ sort of post about our family life over this past month or so. But really….. it’s all rather…. shall we say…..normal. General living and learning together. Hmmm inspiration hard to come by on this front.

That brings me to a post I’ve had open on a browser tab for the best part of the past month. A bookish related post full of photos and reviews of some of our favourite books we have delved into recently. But… well… that still sits there. Incomplete. Waiting for another day. I have no idea why I’ve got stuck on that one but the words just aren’t there to share. So when the words flow, I’ll bring it to you.

So… today…. I’m here. Just saying, ‘G’day’. Letting you know you aren’t forgotten. And getting back into the flow of meeting with you in this place with an expectation that I’ll call back to visit again very soon. Because to be honest, I’ve missed our little conversations here. I do so enjoy sharing my life with you in the hope that I can inspire you in some small way to live your life with intention, enjoying your family to the fullest, being grateful for the life you live and finding BEAUTY in the small, everyday moments of your days.


Talk soon.


The Voice of Women in the Redlands – Strength and Inspiration

Last week I found myself a bit excited. Or maybe it was nervous? Maybe a touch of relief thrown in there as well. I’d think about Saturday and the butterflies would start dancing inside – a beautiful, graceful dance, not all skitterish with nerves, but butterflies dancing in harmony. That may sound a bit ‘airy-fairy’ but it describes my feeling well.

Now the interesting thing is that my anticipation of the upcoming event on Saturday and the butterflies and genuine feelings of pride which accompanied those graceful creatures had nothing to do with me. It was all in honour of a delightful friend of mine to whom Saturday would mark a major milestone in her life.

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About 15 months ago my friend, Louise, started on an epic journey and began writing a book. This book is a collection of stories about 12 ladies who are impacting the lives of other women in the Redlands. She was inspired by some ladies whom she knew well – the librarian of her children’s school and another former colleague of hers – and felt that their stories needed to be honoured. They were the ‘unsung heroes’ of our community and impacting the lives of those around them. So she set to work, with a massive amount of time and effort and interviewed 12 ladies and recorded their stories. And I’m extremely humbled to admit that my story makes up one of those chapters.

I think there’s a common feeling among most of the ladies involved, ‘Why my story? I’m just doing my job. Doing what I’m passionate about. Quietly living my life without any great hullaballoo.’ Well, that’s how I feel anyway. And I think that’s the beauty of this book – it illustrates the impact you can have by simply living your life well and being the best person you can be. That’s all it takes. Waking up each morning determined to be a better person than you were yesterday and enjoying your life in the process.

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The process of documenting these stories has been long and, I suspect, much more time consuming and all consuming that Louise ever anticipated. It’s been quite a privilege to have been involved in the little way I have and able to support Louise in tiny little ways. And I’m so proud to have joined her at her book launch last Saturday and observe as she spoke with quiet confidence to the several hundred people who attended. I feel that Louise’s story deserves to be honoured and remembered just as much as those 12 ladies who make up the pages of her book.

To illustrate the her generous spirit, Louise is donating all the profits from the book launch raffle etc. and half of all the author royalties to Hummingbirds Early Intervention Centre. One of the ladies whom Louise connected with through the writing of the book and recorded the story of this amazing lady, Bec, who has a massive vision which is gradually becoming reality and making a big impact in the lives of children who need extra care. A truly inspirational story.

So check out Louise’s website and know that purchasing a copy of The Voice of Women in the Redlands, Strength and Inspiration will be impacting the lives of so many families who truly need it.

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Postcards from North West QLD – Part 4

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Today I’m bringing you the next instalment of our camping trip throughout Queensland. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of bringing you these photos. Sharing our trip with you makes it seem all the more richer and being ‘forced’ to go back through our photos and reminisce has been pure delight – and not something I’m prone to do often.

I understand that someone else’s holiday snaps are never as interesting as your own. I look at these images and see a lot more than the photos, I see the memories attached to the images. And, quite obviously, you don’t  have those same memories. So I’ve been trying hard not to bore you to tears with too many photos or a running commentary but still share our experience in a meaningful way. (I could go on and on about each shot and where it was, why we were there, what we remember, what the camera settings are and even what we were wearing  – if you were interested, No? Thought so.) I do hope you are enjoying the process as much as I am.

Postcards from North West QLD – part 2

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I brought you the first instalment in our western QLD camping trip here and today I thought I’d share a few more photos and memories. It was an experience which we will all refer back to regularly in our ‘best-family-memories’ discussions for many years to come, I’m sure. Our trip has several distinct memories for us, some of which are captured in this series of photos:

:: Long, straight roads where the scenery changes very little even after several hundreds of kilometres travelled.

:: Some firm favourite audio books which will be forever linked to outback QLD in our memories. Including: Winnie-the-Poo, The Wind in the Willows and The History of Classical Music, narrated by Aled Jones (I do agree, it is a strange collection of stories to be linked to a place which is such a stark contrast to the locations in which the stories are set).

:: The HUGE, clear, blue skies which sit so beautifully in contrast to the endless, brilliant, red dirt.

:: Waterholes and rivers which always provided a welcome stopping place – whether it was for a snack, lunch salad or place to set up camp.

:: The full moon (and nearly full moon) rising over the flat surrounding landscape which was made all the more beautiful when our camp was situated on the only ‘high’ spot for miles around.

:: Camp fires and the hours our whole family spent in discussion or quiet, comfortable, companionship as we watched the embers burn low before retiring for the night. And, of course, the unmistakable flavour of camp-oven cooking – YUM.

:: Sunrise and sunset – each and every day. Yes, we enjoyed these bookends to the day immensely, which is quite obvious when looking through our entire photo album from this trip – a large percentage show the natural brilliance which is captured in the dawn and dusk light.

:: And so much more……




Winter PJ’s

After all my talking about the beautiful winter days I did last week. It feel’s completely appropriate to mention here that it’s been getting awfully cold as well. In fact it’s the first time in about 7 years that I’ve spent a winter in a place where frost can be found on the ground – quite thickly, every morning – and even ice on the car windscreen! I think I’ve become a bit soft about the whole cold weather issue, living in the mild climates which I have in recent years.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, winter days are still my favourite time of year, especially when spent in the glorious sunshine outdoors. But it’s the nights and early mornings which are taking a bit of getting used to.

Since my studio is the most lovely, deliciously, warm, sunshiny (that’s a word isn’t it?) place to be found in our home during the day. And as a bonus it’s within cooee of anything happening in the yard and rest of the house as well – a big bonus with four little ones (and not-so-little-ones) running around all day. I’ve been spending a good amount of time here. Perched at my big, white desk, playing with fabric and wool. Such a delightful way to spend these afternoon hours, I do think.

The wool part is still in process – knitting does take time, now doesn’t it. And I’m learning as I go so I suspect it’s taking me more time than some. But that’s just fine. The process is ever so enjoyable. But the fabric and sewing part, I’m much more adept at – a fair amount of practice in this area I suppose.

And the result of my studio time this last week has been my four munchikins snuggled warmly in mummy-made pi’s each night, under a Mummy (or Ma) made quilt.  Ahhhh, it does my heart good to see that as I slip a little kiss on these four sweet faces, on my way to bed at night. Warm children snuggled in Mummy’s love. Yes, a good way to greet the slumber I do think.

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It’s such a pity you can’t feel these fabrics. They are so delicious. Flannels – yes. But the thickest, snuggly flannels I’ve ever sewn with. I would compare them with a wool rather then a typical sewing flannel. I discovered them at one of my favourite patchwork shops last year but refrained from purchasing (I was very aware that shifting house etc. wasn’t conducive to much sewing and they would no doubt sit in the cupboard if I bought them then). But this year a new range of prints arrived. Much more subtle, like ‘grandpa’s pi’s’ was the way I described them. So, of course, I had to splurge. It was a rather extravagant fabric to use for kid’s pi’s. But I figure they sleep in them every single night for a whole season (or more) so why not use the nicest possible fabrics.

I’m Grateful For….

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When the days trundle by in a semi-predictable routine, it’s refreshing, essential even, to stop and appreciate the life we get to live. So I’ve decided to start a semi-regular segment here in this on-line space which I share with you. ‘I’m Grateful For…’ will be a place for me to share the little (and big) moments which make my heart swell with gratitude. It’s a beautiful life I’m privileged to live and I rather like the idea of giving you a peek into the beauty which fills my days in this way. I hope you enjoy my ‘Grateful’ columns and please share what you are grateful for in the comments and even link to your own ‘Grateful’ blog posts to share with us as well.

Scenes like this are fast becoming the ‘normal’ in our family. Picnics by a river somewhere. Grand, old, gum trees lining the banks with roots down deep, making the most of the water when it’s available.

This picnic was a bit different to others in recent times. The recent rains have meant the drought isn’t so extreme in these parts. The river is filled with fresh water. Green grass lines the banks. Birdlife is prolific (along with mosquitos and flies but I’ll ignore them here). And the air breathes fresh optimism and life.


Cooking Tomato Sauce

My kitchen has been a hive of activity this week. So much fresh produce has been processed, cooked, frozen, bottled and eaten. It is such a great feeling to wake Monday morning to a pantry and fridges laden with fresh produce (thanks to my bulk buying of fruit and veg last weekend) and a crisper full of greens and herbs from Dad’s garden. But it also means a very productive week needs to happen to make use of it all.

After a few batches of lemon and lime butter were made, it was time to use a case full of beautiful, ripe tomatoes, so tomato sauce of all varieties has emerged from my big pot on the stove. Apart from my usual tomato ketchup (with spices and plums added to the tomatoes) the family favourite is this tomato pasta sauce which I now have about 9 litres of, either in bottles in the pantry or in my freezer.

I’m not much of a recipe follower so I just filled the pot about 3/4 full with quartered tomatoes, then added a whole heap of fresh herbs – basil, oregano and parsley, along with some garlic, celery, onion, carrots and a bit of water. It bubbled away for about an hour, I suppose, then I blitzed it into a sauce consistency. Yum. Yum. Yum. Especially served by the bowl full with hot sourdough bread to accompany it, or over roasted spuds with parmesan sprinkled on top or ….. well the list goes on.

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