Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Candles

We're a bit behind this year - December seemed to suddenly be here. Finally got the Christmas candles out today and they are now in position in the middle of the table. 

We've used the same set for a few years as you can tell, but we'll start with a different purple one this year. A new candle is lit each Sunday, and we will talk about its significance then (just a two minute talk).  We light any candles for the week whenever we are home for dinner that week. Tomorrow is the second Sunday already, so we'll light one tonight and two tomorrow. Usually we light the candles before dinner and keep them lit until dinner is over.

Sunday 1:  purple candle one
Symbolising hope
Isaiah 60:2-3

Sunday 2: purple candle two along with previous candle
Symbolising peace
Mark 1:4

Sunday 3:  pink candle along with previous candles
Symbolising joy
Isaiah 35:10

Sunday 4:  final purple candle along with others
Symbolising love
Isaiah 9:6-7

Christmas Eve: all four candles and the white one in the middle
Symbolising the light of Christ
Luke 1:68-79, 2:1-20

ALSO, today is St Nicholas Day, so I thought that at bedtime tonight I'd read the story of St Nicholas, then in the morning we'd try to do secret acts of kindness - we'll chose names from a "hat" for the person to be secretly kind to, and at lunch the kids can guess who their kind person was. I wonder if I'll be able to convince the kids that this is a good idea.  There are lots of stories of St Nicholas online.

(If I'd planned ahead we would have read the story this morning and done the acts of kindness today.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jesse Tree

One of our Christmas traditions is the Jesse Tree.  There are lots of pictures of Jesse Trees around the web - including downloadable pictures to cut out and stick onto a paper tree or pictures for children to colour, so if you haven't started one yet, it isn't too late.

I made ours a few years ago based on someone else's blog pictures, so its time that I posted pictures of ours.  I can't find the original blog that I based my pictures on.  If you know it, please add a comment with the link so that I can acknowledge the owner.

A Jesse Tree has a symbol for each day which is hung (or stuck) onto a tree.  Jesse was King David's father (from the old Testament), so it is named after him (Isaiah 11:1 "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit" NIV).  Through December, you read a short passage from the Bible each day, starting with the creation of the World and continuing through to the birth of Jesus, showing God's hand at work and His continual commitment to drawing us back to him.  Each passage has a symbol which is hung on the tree.  (You will find a better explanation elsewhere - this is just the very quick version.)

So ... here is a photo (from a few years ago) of our half completed tree mid December:

(The fluffy yellow thing near the top is not part of it - its a wool felt angel hanging on the wall.)

Now, I'm not going to write a tutorial, just a quick explanation incase you want to use this for ideas.  If you want more details let me know.

We made the stand out of dowel, but you could easily just use any small Christmas tree or a branch.  I put the symbols onto leaves.  They are all made of felt.  I just cut lots of leaves from felt with short brown strips to make loops for hanging.  The loop was inserted into the top of the leaf - which was two felt leaves joined together.  I machine stitched around the outside and added machine stitched veins.  Once I had a big pile of them, I added the pictures.  They are not sewn on, but just ironed on - cut from felt and applique backing, then put together and ironed.  So far they have held together well.

Here are some of the individual leaves.  Some of the Jesse Tree "plans" have just a few verses, some have devotional passages, but I prefer longer Bible readings that we chat about.

(Day 1:  Put up the branch and read Isaiah 11:  1-2)

Day 2:  Genesis 1:1-2:4

Day 3:  Genesis 2: 4-24

Day 4:  Genesis 3:  1-24

Day 5:  Genesis 6:5 - 9:17 (or choose shorter selections)

Okay, that's it for today.  I'll post pictures of more as soon as I have time!

Sunday, November 30, 2014


This post was from a couple of weeks' ago, but I just realised that it didn't upload properly that day. I haven't done this cooking today along with everything else!

Easy Italian style bread

Still too hot to cut.

And I used up some bananas on banana bread - using freshly ground wheat flour, coconut sugar, etc. Still to be tasted.

Learning to use a sewing machine

I started to teach my little girls (age 6 and 7) how to sew with a machine today. They have done quite a bit of hand sewing before and I will try to do some catch up posts about that soon, but I'll start with machine sewing so that I can post about it as we go.  I have followed a similar process for my older two. 

Before I go on, considering my last post, also from today, you may wonder at us doing this on a day that we have designated as a rest day. Remember that I said I wasn't making lots of rules about it.  To us, sewing lessons together were a fun thing. Once sewing lessons become work, rather then fun, relaxing, together time, I will avoid them on a Sunday. For now though, I think they are very appropriate, especially as the other kids had gone out so they weren't being left out.

We have a little sewing machine - a Janome "sew mini". It is simple, with only a few stitches, and it is nice and slow. I have found it to be a perfect machine to start on. Over the years I have bought downloads of a few "learn to sew" books, so I pick and chose pages from those. I'll list the books and which pages I'm using in a later post (at the moment I'm sitting by the pool watching the kids swim and typing this on my phone, so I can't look it up).

I print off a page with the parts of the sewing machine labelled, some pages with lines to practice sewing over, and because I had two of them learning at once, I also had a couple of other sheets they could do when it wasn't their turn at the machine. I'm not a huge fan of lots if worksheets, and in future I may have activities for them, like helping me by cutting loose threads from sewing or something, but for now, I wanted some "busy work" for them. One worksheet that was very helpful was an unlabelled diagram of a sewing machine - but a different machine. They looked at the first diagram and tried to work out the names of the parts in the second diagram and write them on. They have a scrapbook each to stick in any info pages, worksheets, stitching samples, project photos and instructions, etc.

So today, I showed them the parts of the machine and how they work (just what they needed to know for today). Then they were to start by sewing straight lines on paper. I demonstrated first, then they had turns. A little rhyme that I learnt when teaching at technical college years ago which I still find helpful for teaching practical skills is:
"I do it quickly
I do it slow
You do it with me
Then off you go."

I sort of followed that procedure, with variations as necessary. 
1) I demonstrated, explaining what I was doing. (Then they thought they were ready to start, but I didn't let them.)
2) I demonstrated again, getting them to tell me what to do as I went.
3) I let them start, but got them to explain what they were doing as they went and gently reminded them of things they forgot, so I was right there with them.
4) I stepped back and watched as they did the next row of stitching. 

At this point, it was sometimes necessary to go back over something, like resting gands gently on the paper to let the machine feed it through.

Each girl sewed about five lines of stitching. Remember that at this stage we are just stitching on paper tracing lines, and there us no thread in the machine.  While one sewed, the other could work on the worksheet, which I helped with.

After they finished the page of straight lines I showed them how to turn corners, leaving the needle down while raising the presser foot. They had another sheet of lines to sew over that had corners - first just 90 degrees then stars.

They were keen to keep going after the straight lines, but in hindsight it might have been better to leave corners for another day as they were getting tired. 

Next time they will finish their page of corners and work on a page of curves.

Just to finish for today, I will briefly tell you the difference when I started teaching my son a few months ago. He is older, so it was quicker for him to learn. He did all the sewing on paper in one day. The second session I showed him how to make basic shorts out of calico (which he could use for pajama shorts). The third session he made himself a pair of shorts with pockets out of blue pin corduroy - they were the same pattern but with pockets added - which he wears around a lot. I'll get him to make more shorts, adding different pockets and trying different fabrics, and he can also make himself flannelette pajama pants fir winter pajamas. Then we'll move onto something else - perhaps a t-shirt or a bag.

Perhaps the shorts aren't clear in this photo as they are dark, but they look great


I have been trying to make Sundays more of a Sabbath.  I'm not getting legalistic about it, but I think that with our busy lives, a day when we intentionally do things a bit differently - slow things down a bit, focus on time together when possible, and try and not use the day to catch up on things we classify as work - is what we need.  And it is one of God's commandments, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised when it turns out to be something that I think is good for us.

One of the things we have been trying to do sometimes on a Sunday is making and sharing delicious (white) bread for lunch. We almost always have homemade bread, but on weekdays we mostly have wholemeal loaves and on the weekends we have white bread for a treat. About every second week I make a big tub of dough that we use for pizza, naan, gozlemes (well, our version anyway), etc.  The alternate weekends I make Turkish bread.  Sometimes we vary from this, such as if we're having burgers (bean and veg) during the week and I don't have time to make rolls, we have Turkish bread as it's quicker, or if I'm sick I might even buy a loaf (!!). 

Back to our Sunday bread ... I make the dough in the morning using the bread machine, and when it's ready for shaping I divide it up into roll sizes and each of the kids gets a ball of dough to shape as they please. I've shown them how to shape nice round rolls, but then they can make whatever shape they like.  We also make one bigger roll - about twice the normal size - for sharing. Usually I shape it into a sun or similar, but today I let the youngest do a star, so it looks like the shaping if that loaf might be shared around in future.
Shaped bread ready to bake 

I try to have some extras for Monday lunches.

Risen, baked and ready

At lunch time we generally put out salad fillings, etc, although we could just have jam or vegemite and add a green smoothie for our fruit and veg. We start by giving thanks that Jesus came to forgive our sins - one of the children does that - and we pass around the larger roll (in this case, the star) and tear off a piece each. It is hot and soft and delicious. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014


We go through a lot of a dried goods - wheat and flour for bread (yes, we're not gluten free), almonds and coconut for milk making, other nuts in cooking, snaking, etc, dried beans in meals, etc. I like to buy organic but it is expensive, so trying out buying in bulk.

Now to work out where to put it all.

From our garden, hidden amongst the weeds

Also from our garden unfortunately, from the lemon tree:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nature Bags

Quite a long time ago I made my children each a "nature bag" and I've never posted pics of it here. You can see the big gap in posting. Well, I've still been sewing and crafting all that time; just not posting. I'm sure you won't be interested in a catch up of everything, but there are some projects that others might like to get ideas from, so when I think of it, I'll put them here.

So the nature bags are supposed to remain well stocked with the things we find useful when we go on the kind of nature walk that includes observing things closely and/or drawing something from nature.

Here are some pics.
This is the outside.  The other bags were other colours (in fact, the others were hand dyed hemp muslin) all with contrasting lining.

You can't see the inside well, but this gives you the idea. There is a big pocket at the back for the nature journal/sketch book, and lots of smaller pockets. I made pockets for everything I thought we'd need - some pencils, a water filled paint brush, a monocular, a loupe, some little specimen containers, etc. There are also some loops on the sides. Here's a pic:

The loops have clips so the items can be removed easily. One has a mini combined compass, thermometer and torch, the other has a safety whistle.

Here's the contents, out of the bag. The monocular is missing, and so are some pencils and an eraser. There's plenty of room in the middle of the bag for a water bottle and small camera or iPod ( for taking photos) if they want to take those.

This is in the back of their sketch books. It isn't attached.

It's their watercolour paint palette. I got the idea from Jane Davenport's website. It uses wonderful paper impregnated with paint (or perhaps it's coated with paint) called Peerless Watercolors. I bought a pack of rectangles of them and cut off tiny rectangles to make the palettes. The name of the colour and a sample of each colour is under each rectangle. There's plastic taped between the two sides so the colours don't mix and to use for mixing while painting.

I'd love to know what else you would put in these bags. We do try hard to keep them light or there are complaints about carrying them!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter treat

It's been a long time since I posted, but perhaps with mobile devices now it will be easier.  I do have a couple of posts from another blog that I'll move across at some stage.

Onto my reason for posting today.

If you're after something nice for your children (or you) to make for an Easter treat - perhaps to take to a friends house for sharing - we made these yesterday after the kids helped make some at church for the Good Friday service.  In the afternoon I needed something to occupy them for a short time and these worked beautifully.

They are crosses made of puff pastry. I pulled a couple of sheets of puff from the freezer, defrosted them and cut them into strips, then cut the strips at about one third (so there was a long piece for the vertical and a shorter one to cross horizontally). Then I set out trays with baking paper, a small cup with milk (soy for us) and a pastry brush, and a little dish with sugar with a little cinnamon mixed in.  The kids made the crosses with the pastry on the trays, brushed them with milk and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar.

They took about 10 minutes at 200 deg C in a fan forced oven (set it to 20 deg C more if not fan forced or see the instructions on your pastry packet).

If you are taking them somewhere to eat cold, cool them on a cooling rack otherwise just eat them warm.