Thursday, July 30, 2015

Making Apple Cider Vinegar for Your Home Use

We use a lot of Apple Cider Vinegar in our home on a daily basis.
I use it for additives to drinks during the day, for anyone who is feeling a bit sick with a cold or sore throat and in cooking or making dressings.

I like to use Braggs Raw Apple cider Vinegar and at $12 a 750 ml bottle it can add up very quickly.

So I have been making my own for the cost of 2 cups of sugar and apple scraps. My last batch which is pictured for this post produced about 6 1/2 Liters.
The most expensive part of this process is TIME! As it takes about 3 months give or take a couple of weeks.

I have not managed to keep us supplied continuously yet, but that will come I am sure as I commit to the process more steadily.

Now onto the process!!
I use a 3 liter honey container and collect all my apple scraps in this until it is filled up. As the children finish eating an apple or peel it I get the container out of the freezer and put the scraps in and then place back in the freezer. 
I usually fill 2 of these containers before I am ready to start.
Then I tip the contents into a  plastic bucket I bought from Masters (above)
Then I add 30 cups of water and 2 cups of white sugar ( this and for my Kombucha are the only times I use white sugar)
 and stir it in to dissolve the sugar.
You want to make sure there is enough water to submerge the apple scraps and more water is more vinegar. Do not exceed 2 parts water to 1 part scraps which will leave you with a diluted, low acidity vinegar.
Then I cover the bucket and leave it under our baking bench in the kitchen for about three weeks.
In the first few days I  give it a stir and then periodically over the three weeks, checking on it daily.
Here it is just before I am about to decant it into bottles. This is  three weeks later.
Notice the bubbles! They have been there through out the process and is part of the fermenting process You will notice the sharp smell. Using a wooden spoon to push down the scraps into the liquid, gently mixing the scraps that rise to the top.
Now it is time to strain the apple scraps out.
I use a large colander with a piece of light cloth in side the colander placed over a very large bowl.
Pour the mixture into the colander and strain.
Make sure you don't overflow your container and waste all that goodness..
I then squeeze the scraps with a spoon until I cannot get any more more out of them.
Next use a funnel and pour your apple liquid into sterilized bottles. Use small pieces of muslin and secure it on top with a rubber band.
Now place your apple ferment in a warm, dark place for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

Check by tasting after about 4 weeks  and see if it is to your liking.
If your ferment still has a little alcoholic smell or flavor or if the potency of the acid just doesn't quite pack the punch of vinegar you may simply cover and return it to a warm, dark place for another 2 weeks or so. Just check it every week you continue to ferment it, tasting to see if you have reached the proper acidity.
If ready put a lid on your bottle  and start to use.

And now you have  your very own, homemade RAW apple cider vinegar with all of the flavor and natural health benefits. 

Important measures-
2 frozen buckets of apple scraps  equals approximately 7 1/2 cups
30 cups of water 
2 cups of sugar
not more than double water to apples 

Sorry about the line spacing my template just kept changing on me 
Blessings to you and your homes,
Linked to - Wise Woman Linkup

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 2015 (with a caramel slice recipe)

Despite the fact we had sick children today we had a small celebration  for one of our favourite Marian feast days - Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Rogan made a double batch of Caramel Slice (recipe is at the end of the post) for us to have and then he made a "mount" of it on a plate and placed the 'Lady of Mt Carmel' Eden had made some years ago on top of it for a central piece.
As usual the children coloured in while I read aloud to them from any reading material we have on Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Naturally we had to eat some of that delicious slice and the children had some caramel flavoured milkshakes, made with some home made caramel sauce that Vellvin had whipped up.
I of course needed something stronger than caramel milk and so had a beautiful cup of Caramel flavoured coffee as I read through our readings.

As it turned out this was probably the only time our sick little one sat up on her own for a while and so after this we snuggled down again on the lounge together.

All in all this was one of our least celebrated days but yes full of meaning and love.


Printable Recipe
250g spelt  flour
100g panella sugar
225g butter
200g unsalted butter
200g panella sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
397g tin of condensed milk
Chocolate topping:
200g milk chocolate

Prior to cooking you will need to heat the oven to 170 degree as it is cooked in two stages.

For the shortbread base, place the flour, panella and butter into a food processor and mis together to a smooth dough. Using your fingers, press the mixture into the tin and prick all over with a fork. Chill for 15 minutes before baking in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and firm. Set aside to cool.

To make the topping, place the butter, panella, golden syrup and condensed milk into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the butter melts. Turn the heat up to medium, bring to the boil and then gently bubble the mixture for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent catching, until thick and golden brown. Pour over the cold shortbread in an even layer and leave to cool. 

Lastly, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. 
Pour the chocolate over the cooled toffee and place in the fridge to set. Remove from the tin and carefully cut into squares.

Try to get some before the children devour it !!

Blessings to you and your homes,

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Birthday Treasure Hunt!!

It's been a couple of weeks now but my birthday has come and gone!

The build up to this birthday was quite significant, not due to the number but due to the fact that my birthday last year was pretty non existent.
The major thing I wanted was to have a treasure hunt with everyone involved.
Thankfully I have some very clever children who were able to make this happen.
We divided into three car loads and it was a race to see who won.
Everyone in the car had to get out  at each location and retrieve the clues as we had little people divided over the three different cars.
The first stop was to find have each team run into K-mart and find a book.
It was so fun to have each of us running in and out of that store ☺
Saxon had even organised for us to have to have to ask for the clue from the staff at his work which I am sure they were laughing so hard at as we raced up to the counter and asked for the next clue.
After we had found the last clue we all went back home and had a late lunch! 

I admit it was the most fun activity we have done in a long time.
I would love to do more of this as a family and so think we will look into geocaching as it was a lot of organising to work out the clues and then to plant them before everyone was ready to play.
Here is a list of the clues in order of us getting them.

Thank you to all my family for such a wonderful and special thanks especially to Saxon, Vellvin and Rogan for doing all the organising you did to make this such a special  day for me.

Blessings to you and your homes,

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Tour around our Home Apothecary

I thought some of you may be interested in seeing our Home Apothecary or "The Little House of Healing" as Vellvin and Rogan named it.

It has been a very exciting venture to be able to grow in this area of Natural Healing for my family.
I have been interested in natural remedies since I was a young girl but never had the opportunity to access the ingredients.

Since moving here I not only have access to supplies but I am also  gaining much knowledge to use as well.
Amazingly enough in this house was a room that was simply a 'nothing room' that I was able to convert to our Home Apothecary.

So on with the tour! I will simple list what is on our shelves and guide you through ☺
Please enjoy 
Starting form left to right following around the bench are:
My folder of ideas, recipes and information.
Blessed Salt
Beeswax for making candles and adding to many  home remedies
Soy melts for candle making 
Bentonite clay - in green, pink and white
Bay Leaves
Diatomaceous earth
Next up we will travel around my dried herbs-
Burdock Root
Chaste Berry
Dandelion Root
Elder Flower
Elderberry Berries
Eye Herb mixture I made up for 
Fenugreek Seeds
Feminine Tea- a mixture I made up for the girls in our family
Frankincense resin
Golden Rod
Herb Robert
Ladies Mantle 
Lemon Balm
Licorice Root Powder
Marshmallow Root
Nettle Leaf
Passionflower Tea
Raspberry Leaf
Red Clover Flower
Slippery Elm Powder
St Johns Wart
Out of sight is Magnesium flakes
Now onto my Infused Oils and Essential Oils:
Top Row-
Infused Comfrey Oil (home made)- how to linked in the post
Infused Lavender Oil (home made)
Black Pepper
Calm Kids
Clary Sage
Clove Bud

Bottom Row-
Calendula Infused Oil
Lavender Infused Oil
Shea Butter
Cocoa Butter
Vitamin E oil capsules
Hair Oil tonic
Tea Tree Spray
Activated Charcoal
Almond Oil
Rose hip Oil
A tube of Dettol
Continuation of Top Row:
Essential Oils -
Pine Scotch
Rose Geranium
Spirit of Woman
Sweet Orange
Tea Tree
Thieves Oil
That is all the  Essential Oil

Further along the top row:
Ear Drops
Rescue Remedy
Zinc Cream
Oil of Emu
Caster Oil
Tea Bags-
Rose hip Tea
Nettle  Tea
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Hops Slumber Tea

Apricot Oil
Almond Oil

Aromatic Oils for  burners

Continuation of Bottom Row:
Arnica Salve (bought)
Calendula Salve
Comfrey Salve
Thuja Salve
Witch Hazel Lotion
Healing Salve (my own mixture for school sores etc)
Magnaplasim  (splinter removal)

Black Pepper Hand Warming Cream
Oregano in Coconut Oil for rubbing on  feet for colds

Chest rub - liquid
Chest rub - cream
Chest rub for children

Raw Organic Honey
A container or sticky plaster
In the middle of the bench is a tea cup and saucer for the rescue remedy for upset and hurt little ones
Pestle for grinding herbs
A jar of band aids and cotton buds etc.
A sensory brush for calming down little people
Missing is my Healing Basket.

So there are all the items in my little Apothecary or "Little House of Healing" as we call it 

Blessings to you and your homes,
Linked to- A Wise Woman Linkup

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Special Tea Time Party ☺

I really don't remember when we started having Tea Parties but they are such a regular and important part of our lives.
It seems we don't need much of an excuse to have one in our home, at any hour or day.
AS I write this up we had a mini one last night and Vellvin and Rogan are having another one now ☺
However it has been a long time since we have had one with our lovely Bernadette, our very own Mary Poppins.
Really we have not had one with her since we moved here from Tasmania, and so we truly loved having a special one again.
We were so delighted to have Bernadette visit for a few days and we loved catching up on all the things we used to delight in doing together.
Bernadette would often bring over little bits and pieces of craft and we would, well I would attempt to, do them together ( our small children loved the visits too).
While she was here we started a  new project she brought with her and we were inspired to get back into the crafting we used to do more of.
We knew from the start we needed to fit in a tea party while Bernadette was here and we planned this ahead of time, especially as Bernadette is gluten free!
So we found recipes that would suit both her and our THM lifestyle.

Rogan made a beautiful Strawberry Cornflour Sponge Cake. It was his first attempt at this cake and look how beautifully it turned out!
Vellvin made her famous Baked Lemon Cheesecake. It is both Gluten free and THM friendly.
Vellvin and Arwen made the Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Icing. These again are sugar free, Gluten Free and THM. We have used these in our Feast Days celebrations and the children love them.
We wanted to try a Caramel Slice that if not THM was at least Gluten Free.
So Rogan tried this Salted Paleo Caramel Slice. It was not well received by all. Some liked it but others did not.
Naturally we had our tea cups for this Tea Party and Bernadette has her own tea cup that we keep at our home with ours in the china cabinet for when she does visit.
This has been our tradition since our first Tea Party with her ☺

I was very blessed to be given that lovely High Tea Plate that the cup cakes and caramel slice are sitting on as a birthday gift from her, just in time for the Tea Party. I have long coveted one and the children could not find one for me for Mothers day even though they looked everywhere.
So of course Bernadette in her magical guise of ' Mary Poppins' was able to find a truly beautiful one for me.

Tea Parties are such a wonderful way to show special love and attention and this one was especially special with the visit of our very own Bernadette.

Blessings to you and your homes,
Linked to - A Wise Woman Linkup

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When Queens Ride By!!

Some days our lives seem so difficult and hard that we can't imagine being able to do one more thing.
We don't see the beauty in the everyday and feel defeated by all that is required of us that we fail ourselves in being open to all God has in store for us.

When I feel like this I am encouraged and uplifted by the overcoming of difficulty and the choosing of the opportunity to see and find beauty in even the most trivial and minor circumstances as in the story below.

When Queens Ride By Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Jennie Musgrave woke at the shrill rasp of the alarm clock as she always woke—with the shuddering start and a heavy realization that the brief respite of the night's oblivion was over. She had only time to glance through the dull light at the cluttered, dusty room, before John's voice was saying sleepily as he said every morning, "All right, let's go. It doesn't seem as if we'd been in bed at all!"

Jennie dressed quickly in the clothes, none too clean, that, exhausted, she had flung from her the night before. She hurried down the back stairs, her coarse shoes clattering thickly upon the bare boards. She kindled the fire in the range and then made a hasty pretense at washing in the basin in the sink.

John strode through the kitchen and on out to the barn. There were six cows to be milked and the great cans of milk to be taken to the station for the morning train.

Jennie put coffee and bacon on the stove, and then, catching up a pail from the porch, went after John. A golden red disk broke the misty blue of the morning above the cow pasture. A sweet, fragrant breath blew from the orchard. But Jennie neither saw nor felt the beauty about her.

She glanced at the sun and thought, It's going to be a hot day. She glanced at the orchard, and her brows knit. There it hung. All that fruit. Bushels of it going to waste. Maybe she could get time that day to make some more apple butter. But the tomatoes wouldn't wait. She must pick them and get them to town today, or that would be a dead loss. After all her work, well, it would only be in a piece with everything else if it did happen so. She and John had bad luck, and they might as well make up their minds to it.

She finished her part of the milking and hurried back again to the overcooked bacon and strong coffee. The children were down, clamorous, dirty, always underfoot. Jim, the eldest, was in his first term of school. She glanced at his spotted waist. He should have a clean one. But she couldn't help it. She couldn't get the washing done last week, and when she was to get a day for it this week she didn't know, with all the picking and the trips to town to make!

Breakfast was hurried and unpalatable, a sort of grudging concession to the demands of the body. Then John left in the milk wagon for the station, and Jennie packed little Jim's lunch basket with bread and apple butter and pie, left the two little children to their own devices in the backyard, and started toward the barn. There was no time to do anything in the house. The chickens and turkeys had to be attended to, and then she must get to the tomato patch before the sun got too hot. Behind her was the orchard with its rows and rows of laden apple tree. Maybe this afternoon—maybe tomorrow morning. There were the potatoes, too, to be lifted. Too hard work for a woman. But what were you going to do? Starve? John worked till dark in the fields.

 She pushed her hair back with a quick, boyish sweep of her arm and went on scattering the grain to the fowls. She remembered their eager plans when they were married, when they took over the old farm—laden with its heavy mortgage—that had been John's father's. John had been so straight of back then and so jolly. Only seven years, yet now he was stooped a little, and his brows were always drawn, as though to hide a look of ashamed failure. They had planned to have a model farm someday: blooded stock, a tractor, a new barn. And then such a home they were to make of the old stone house! Jennie's hopes had flared higher even than John's. A rug for the parlor, an overstuffed set like the one in the mail—order catalogue, linoleum for the kitchen, electric lights!

They were young and, oh, so strong! There was nothing they could not do if they only worked hard enough.

But that great faith had dwindled as the first year passed. John worked later and later in the evenings. Jennie took more and more of the heavy tasks upon her own shoulders. She often thought with some pride that no woman in the countryside ever helped her husband as she did. Even with the haying and riding the reaper. Hard, coarsening work, but she was glad to do it for John's sake.

The sad riddle of it all was that at the end of each year they were no further on. The only difference from the year before was another window shutter hanging from one hinge and another crippled wagon in the barnyard which John never had time to mend. They puzzled over it in a vague distress. And meanwhile life degenerated into a straining, hopeless struggle. Sometimes lately John had seemed a little listless, as though nothing mattered. A little bitter when he spoke of Henry Davis.

Henry held the mortgage and had expected a payment on the principle this year. He had come once and looked about with something very like a sneer on his face. If he should decide someday to foreclose—that would be the final blow. They never would get up after that. If John couldn't hold the old farm, he could never try to buy a new one. It would mean being renters all their lives. Poor renters at that!

She went to the tomato field. It had been her own idea to do some tracking along with the regular farm crops. But, like everything else, it had failed of her expectations. As she put the scarlet tomatoes, just a little overripe, into the basket, she glanced with a hard tightening of her lips toward a break in the trees a half mile away where a dark, listening bit of road caught the sun. Across its polished surface twinkled an endless procession of shining, swift—moving objects. The State Highway.

Jennie hated it. In the first place, it was so tauntingly near and yet so hopelessly far from them. If it only ran by their door, as it did past Henry Davis's for instance, it would solve the whole problem of marketing the fruits and vegetables. Then they could set the baskets on the lawn, and people could stop for them. But as it was, nobody all summer long had paid the least attention to the sign John had put up at the end of the lane. And no wonder. Why should travelers drive their cars over the stony country byway, when a little farther along they would find the same fruit spread temptingly for them at the very roadside?

But there was another reason she hated that bit of sleek road showing between the trees. She hated it because it hurt her with its suggestions of all that passed her by in that endless procession twinkling in the sunshine. There they kept going, day after day, those happy, carefree women, riding in handsome limousines or in gay little roadsters. Some in plainer cars, too, but even those were, like the others, women who could have rest, pleasure, comfort for the asking. They were whirled along hour by hour to new pleasures, while she was weighted to the drudgery of the farm like one of the great rocks in the pasture field.

And—most bitter thought of all—they had pretty homes to go back to when the happy journey was over. That seemed to be the strange and cruel law about homes. The finer they were, the easier it was to leave them. Now with her—if she had the rug for the parlor and the stuffed furniture and linoleum for the kitchen, she shouldn't mind anything so much then; she had nothing, nothing but hard slaving and bad luck. And the highway taunted her with it. Flung its impossible pleasures mockingly in her face as she bent over the vines or dragged the heavy baskets along the rows.

The sun grew hotter. Jennie put more strength into her task. She knew, at last, by the scorching heat overhead that is was nearing noon. She must have a bit of lunch ready for John when he came in. There wasn't time to prepare much. Just reheat the coffee and set down some bread and pie.

She started towards the house, giving a long yodeling call for the children as she went. They appeared from the orchard, tumbled and torn from experiments with the wire fence. Her heart smothered her at the sight of them. Among the other dreams that the years had crushed out were those of little rosy boys and girls in clean suits and fresh ruffled dresses. As it was, the children had just grown like farm weeds.

This was the part of all the drudgery that hurt most. That she had not time to care for her children, sew for them, teach them things that other children knew. Sometimes it seemed as if she had no real love for them at all. She was too terribly tired as a rule to have any feeling. The only times she used energy to talk to them was when she had to reprove them for some dangerous misdeed. That was all wrong. It seemed wicked; but how could she help it? With the work draining the very life out of her, strong as she was.

John came in heavily, and they ate in silence except for the children's chatter. John hardly looked up form his plate. He gulped down great drafts of the warmed-over coffee and then pushed his chair back hurriedly.

"I'm goin' to try to finish the harrowin' in the south field," he said.

"I'm at the tomatoes," Jennie answered. "I've got them' most all picked and ready for takin'."

That was all. Work was again upon them.

It was two o'clock by the sun, and Jennie had loaded the last heavy basket of tomatoes on the milk wagon in which she must drive to town, when she heard shrill voices sounding along the path. The children were flying in excitement toward her.

"Mum! Mum! Mum!" they called as they came panting up to her with big, surprised eyes.

"Mum, there's a lady up there. At the kitchen door. All dressed up. A pretty lady. She wants to see you."

Jennie gazed down at them disbelievingly. A lady, a pretty lady at her kitchen door? All dressed up! What that could mean! Was it possible someone had at last braved the stony lane to buy fruit? Maybe bushels of it!

"Did she come in a car?" Jennie asked quickly.

"No, she just walked in. She's awful pretty. She smiled at us."

Jennie's hopes dropped. Of course. She might have known. Some agent likely, selling books. She followed the children wearily back along the path and in at the rear door of the kitchen. Across from it another door opened into the side yard. Here stood the stranger.

The two women looked at each other across the kitchen, across the table with the remains of two meals upon it, the strewn chairs, the littered stove—across the whole scene of unlovely disorder. They looked at each other in startled surprise, as inhabitants of Earth and Mars might look if they were suddenly brought face-to-face.

Jennie saw a woman in a gray tweed coat that seemed to be part of her straight, slim body. A small gray hat with a rose quill was drawn low over the brownish hair. Her blue eyes were clear and smiling. She was beautiful! And yet she was not young. She was in her forties, surely. But an aura of eager youth clung to her, a clean and exquisite freshness.

The stranger in her turn looked across at a young woman, haggard and weary. Her yellowish hair hung in straggling wisps. Her eyes looked hard and hunted. Her cheeks were thin and sallow. Her calico dress was shapeless and begrimed from her work.

So they looked at each other for one long, appraising second. Then the woman in gray smiled.

"How do you do? " she began. "We ran our car into the shade of your lane to have our lunch and rest for a while. And I walked on up to buy a few apples, if you have them."

Jennie stood staring at the stranger. There was an unconscious hostility in her eyes. This was one of the women from the highway. One of those envied ones who passed twinkling through the summer sunshine from pleasure to pleasure while Jennie slaved on.

But the pretty lady's smile was disarming. Jennie started toward a chair and pulled off the old coat and apron that lay on it.

"Won't you sit down?" she said politely. "I'll go and get the apples. I'll have to pick them off the tree. Would you prefer rambos?"

"I don't know what they are, but they sound delicious. You must choose them for me. But mayn't I come with you? I should love to help pick them."

Jennie considered. She felt baffled by the friendliness of the other woman's face and utterly unable to meet it. But she did not know how to refuse.

"Why I s'pose so. If you can get through the dirt."

She led the way over the back porch with its crowded baskets and pails and coal buckets, along the unkept path toward the orchard. She had never been so acutely conscious of the disorder about her. Now a hot shame brought a lump to her throat. In her preoccupied haste before, she had actually not noticed that tub of overturned milk cans and rubbish heap! She saw it all now swiftly through the other woman's eyes. And then that new perspective was checked by a bitter defiance. Why should she care how things looked to this woman? She would be gone, speeding down the highway in a few minutes as though she had never been there.

She reached the orchard and began to drag a long ladder from the fence to the rambo tree.

The other woman cried out in distress. "Oh, but you can't do that! You mustn't. It's too heavy for you, or even for both of us. Please just let me pick a few from the ground."

Jennie looked in amazement at the stranger's concern. It was so long since she had seen anything like it.

"Heavy?" she repeated. "This ladder? I wish I didn't ever lift anything heavier than this. After hoistin' bushel baskets of tomatoes onto a wagon, this feels light to me."

The stranger caught her arm. "But—but do you think it's right? Why, that's a man's work."

Jennie's eyes blazed. Something furious and long-pent broke out from within her. "Right! Who are you to be askin' me whether I'm right or not?" What would have become of us if I didn't do a man's work? It takes us both, slaving away, an' then we get nowhere. A person like you don't know what work is! You don't know—"

Jennie's voice was the high shrill of hysteria; but the stranger's low tones somehow broke through. "Listen," she said soothingly. "Please listen to me. I'm sorry I annoyed you by saying that, but now, since we are talking, why can't we sit down here and rest a minute? It's so cool and lovely here under the trees, and if you were to tell me all about it—because I'm only a stranger—perhaps it would help. It does sometimes, you know. A little rest would—"

"Rest! Me sit down to rest, an' the wagon loaded to go to town? It'll hurry me now to get back before dark."

And then something strange happened. The other women put her cool, soft hand on Jennie's grimy arm. There was a compelling tenderness in her eyes. "Just take the time you would have spent picking apples. I would so much rather. And perhaps somehow I could help you. I wish I could. Won't you tell me why you have to work so hard?"

Jennie sank down on the smooth green grass. Her hunted, unwilling eyes had yielded to some power in the clear, serene eyes of the stranger. A sort of exhaustion came over her. A trembling reaction from the straining effort of weeks.

"There ain't much to tell," she said half sullenly, "only that we ain't gettin' ahead. We're clean discouraged, both off us. Henry Davis is talking about foreclosin' on us if we don't pay some principle. The time of the mortgage is out this year, an' mebbe he won't renew it. He's got plenty himself, but them's the hardest kind." She paused; then her eyes flared. "An' it ain't that I haven't done my part. Look at me. I'm barely thirty, an' I might be fifty. I'm so weather-beaten. That's the way I've worked!"

"And you think that has helped your husband?"

"Helped him?" Jennie's voice was sharp. "Why shouldn't it help him?"

The stranger was looking away through the green stretches of orchard. She laced her slim hands together about her knees. She spoke slowly. "Men are such queer things, husbands especially. Sometimes we blunder when we are trying hardest to serve them. For instance, they want us to be economical, and yet they want us in pretty clothes. They need our work, and yet they want us to keep our youth and our beauty. And sometimes they don't know themselves which they really want most. So we have to choose. That's what makes it so hard".

She paused. Jennie was watching her with dull curiosity as though she were speaking a foreign tongue. Then the stranger went on:

I had to choose once, long ago; just after we were married, my husband decided to have his own business, so he started a very tiny one. He couldn't afford a helper, and he wanted me to stay in the office while he did the outside selling. And I refused, even though it hurt him. Oh, it was hard! But I knew how it would be if I did as he wished. We would both have come back each night. Tired out, to a dark, cheerless house and a picked-up dinner. And a year if that might have taken something away from us—something precious. I couldn't risk it, so I refused and stuck to it.

"And then how I worked in my house—a flat it was then. I had so little outside of our wedding gifts; but at least I could make it a clean, shining, happy place. I tried to give our little dinners the grace of a feast. And as the months went on, I knew I had done right. My husband would come home dead-tired and discouraged, ready to give up the whole thing. But after he had eaten and sat down in our bright little living room, and I had read to him or told him all the funny things I could invent about my day, I could see him change. By bedtime he had his courage back, and by morning he was at last ready to go out and fight again. And at last he won, and he won his success alone, as a man loves to do.

Still Jennie did not speak. She only regarded her guest with a half-resentful understanding.

The woman in gray looked off again between the trees. Her voice was very sweet. A humorous little smile played about her lips.

"There was a queen once," she went on, "who reigned in troublous days. And every time the country was on the brink of war and the people ready to fly into a panic, she would put on her showiest dress and take her court with her and go hunting. And when the people would see her riding by, apparently so gay and happy, they were sure all was well with the Government. So she tided over many a danger. And I've tried to be like her.

"Whenever a big crisis comes in my husband's business—and we've had several—or when he's discouraged, I put on my prettiest dress and get the best dinner I know how or give a party! And somehow it seems to work. That's the woman's part, you know. To play the queen—"

A faint honk-honk came from the lane. The stranger started to her feet. "That's my husband. I must go. Please don't bother about the apples. I'll just take these from under the tree. We only wanted two or three, really. And give these to the children." She slipped two coins into Jennie's hand.

Jennie had risen, too, and was trying from a confusion of startled thoughts to select one for speech. Instead she only answered the other woman's bright good-bye with a stammering repetition and a broken apology about the apples.

She watched the stranger's erect, lithe figure hurrying away across the path that led directly to the lane. Then she turned her back to the house, wondering dazedly if she had only dreamed that the other woman had been there. But no, there were emotions rising hotly within her that were new. They had had no place an hour before. They had risen at the words of the stranger and at the sight of her smooth, soft hair, the fresh color in her cheeks, the happy shine of her eyes.

A great wave of longing swept over Jennie, a desire that was lost in choking despair. It was as thought she had heard a strain of music for which she had waited all her life and then felt it swept away into silence before she had grasped its beauty. For a few brief minutes she, Jennie Musgrave, had sat beside one of the women of the highway and caught a breath of her life—that life which forever twinkled in the past in bright procession, like the happenings of a fairy tale. Then she was gone, and Jennie was left as she had been, bound to the soil like one of the rocks of the field.

The bitterness that stormed her heart now was different from the old dull disheartenment. For it was coupled with new knowledge. The words of the stranger seemed more vivid to her than when she had sat listening in the orchard. But they came back to her with the pain of agony.

"All very well for her to talk so smooth to me about man's work and woman's work! An' what she did for her husband's big success. Easy enough for her to sit talking about queens! What would she do if she was here on this farm like me? What would a woman like her do?"

Jennie had reached the kitchen door and stood there looking at the hopeless melee about her. Her words sounded strange and hollow in the silence of the house. "Easy for her!" she burst out. She never had the work pilin' up over her like I have. She never felt it at her throat like a wolf, the same as John an' me does. Talk about choosin'! I haven't got no choice. I just got to keep goin'—just keep goin', like I always have—"

She stopped suddenly. There in the middle of the kitchen floor, where the other woman had passed over, lay a tiny square of white. Jennie crossed to it quickly and picked it up. A faint delicious fragrance like the dream of a flower came from it. Jennie inhaled it eagerly. It was not like any odor she had ever known. It made her think of sweet, strange things. Things she had never thought about before. Of gardens in the early summer dusk, of wide fair rooms with the moonlight shining in them. It made her somehow think with vague wistfulness of all that.

She looked carefully at the tiny square. The handkerchief was of fine, fairylike smoothness. In the corner a dainty blue butterfly spread his wings. Jennie drew in another long breath. The fragrance filled her senses again. Her first greedy draft had not exhausted it. It would stay for a while, at least.

She laid the bit of white down cautiously on the edge of the table and went to the sink, where she washed her hands carefully. The she returned and picked up the handkerchief again with something like reverence. She sat down, still holding it, staring at it. This bit of linen was to her an articulated voice. She understood its language. It spoke to her of white, freshly washed clothes blowing in the sunshine, of an iron moving smoothly, leisurely, to the accompaniment of a song over snowy folds; it spoke to her of quiet, orderly rooms and ticking clocks and a mending basket under the evening lamp; it spoke to her of all the peaceful routine of a well managed household, the kind she had once dreamed of having.

But more than this, the exquisite daintiness of it, the sweet, alluring perfume spoke to her of something else which her heart understood, even though her speech could have found no words for it. She could feel gropingly the delicacy, the grace, the beauty that made up the other woman's life in all its relations.

She, Jennie, had none of that. Everything about their lives, hers and John's, was coarsened, soiled somehow by the dragging, endless labor or the days.

Jennie leaned forward, her arms stretched tautly before her upon her knees, her hands clasped tightly over the fragrant bit of white. Suppose she were to try doing as the stranger had said. Suppose that she spent her time on the house and let the outside work go. What then? What would John say? Would they be much farther behind than they were now? Could they be? And suppose, by some strange chance, the other woman had been right! That a man could be helped more by doing of these other things she had neglected?

She sat very still, distressed, uncertain. Out in the barnyard waited the wagon of tomatoes, overripe now for market. No, she could do nothing today, at least, but go on as usual.

Then her hands opened a little; the perfume within them came up to her, bringing again that thrill of sweet, indescribable things.

She started up, half-terrified at her own resolve. "I'm goin' to try it now. Mebbe I'm crazy, but I'm goin' to do it anyhow!"

It was a long time since Jennie had performed such a meticulous toilet. It was years since she had brushed her hair. A hasty combing had been its best treatment. She put on her one clean dress, the dark voile reserved for trips to town. She even changed from her shapeless, heavy shoes to her best ones. Then, as she looked at herself in the dusty mirror, she saw that she was changed. Something, at least, of the hard haggardness was gone from her face, and her hair framed it with smooth softness. Tomorrow she would wash it. It used to be almost yellow.

She went to the kitchen. With something of the burning zeal of a fanatic, she attacked the confusion before her. By half past four the room was clean: the floor swept, the stove shining, dishes and pans washed and put in their places. From the tumbled depths of a drawer Jennie had extracted a white tablecloth that had been bought in the early days, for company only. With a spirit of daring recklessness she spread it on the table. She polished the chimney of the big oil lamp and then set the fixture, clean and shining, in the center of the white cloth.

Now the supper! And she must hurry. She planned to have it at six o' clock and ring the big bell for John fifteen minutes before, as she used to just after they were married.

She decided upon fried ham and browned potatoes and applesauce with hot biscuits. She hadn't made them for so long, but her fingers fell into their old deftness. Why, cooking was just play if you had time to do it right! Then she thought of the tomatoes and gave a little shudder. She thought of the long hours of backbreaking work she had put into them and called herself a little fool to have been swayed by the words of a strange and the scent of a handkerchief, to neglect her rightful work and bring more loss upon John and herself. But she went on, making the biscuits, turning the ham, setting the table.

It was half past five; the first pan of flaky brown mounds had been withdrawn from the oven, the children's faces and hands had been washed and their excited questions satisfied, when the sound of a car came from the bend. Jennie knew that car. It belonged to Henry Davis. He could be coming for only one thing.

The blow they had dreaded, fending off by blind disbelief in the ultimate disaster, was about to fall. Henry was coming to tell them he was going to foreclose. It would almost kill John. This was his father's old farm. John had taken it over, mortgage and all, so hopefully, so sure he could succeed where his father had failed. If he had to leave now there would be a double disgrace to bear. And where could they go? Farms weren't so plentiful.

Henry had driven up to the side gate. He fumbled with some papers in his inner pocket as he started up the walk. A wild terror filled Jennie's heart. She wanted desperately to avoid meeting Henry Davis's keen, hard face, to flee somewhere, anywhere before she heard the words hat doomed them.

Then as she stood shaken, wondering how she could live through what the next hours would bring, she saw in a flash the beautiful stranger as she had sat in the orchard, looking off between the trees and smiling to herself. "There was once a queen."

Jennie heard the words again distinctly just as Henry Davis's steps sounded sharply nearer on the walk outside. There was only a confused picture of a queen wearing the stranger's lovely, highbred face, riding gaily to the hunt through forests and towns while her kingdom was tottering. Riding gallantly on, in spite of her fears.

Jennie's heart was pounding and her hands were suddenly cold. But something unreal and yet irresistible was sweeping her with it. "There was once a queen."

She opened the screen door before Henry Davis had time to knock. She extended her hand cordially. She was smiling. "Well, how d' you do, Mr. Davis. Come right in. I'm real glad to see you. Been quite a while since you was over."

Henry looked surprised and very much embarrassed. "Why, no, now, I won't go in. I just stopped to see John on a little matter of business. I'll just—"

"You'll just come right in. John will be in from milkin' in a few minutes an' you can talk while you eat, both of you. I've supper just ready. Now step right in, Mr. Davis!"

As Jennie moved aside, a warm, fragrant breath of fried ham and biscuits seemed to waft itself to Henry Davis's nostrils. There was a visible softening of his features. "Why, no, I didn't reckon on anything like this. I 'lowed I'd just speak to John and then be gettin' on."

"They'll see you at home when you get there," Jennie put in quickly. "You never tasted my hot biscuits with butter an' quince honey, or you wouldn't take so much coachin'!"

Henry Davis came in and sat in the big, clean, warm kitchen. His eyes took in every detail of the orderly room: the clean cloth, the shining lamp, the neat sink, the glowing stove. Jennie saw him relax comfortably in his chair. Then above the aromas of the food about her, she detected the strange sweetness of the bit of white linen she had tucked away in the bosom of her dress. It rose to her as a haunting sense of her power as a woman.

She smiled at Henry Davis. Smiled as she would never have thought of doing a day ago. Then she would have spoken to him with a drawn face full of subservient fear. Now, though the fear clutched her heart, her lips smiled sweetly, moved by that unreality that seemed to possess her. "There was once a queen."

"An' how are things goin' with you, Mr. Davis?" she asked with a blithe upward reflection.

Henry Davis was very human. He had never noticed before that Jennie's hair was so thick and pretty and that she had such pleasant ways. Neither had he dreamed that she was such a good cook as the sight and smell of the supper things would indicate. He was very comfortable there in the big sweet-smelling kitchen.

He smiled back. It was an interesting experiment on Henry's part, for his smiles were rare. "Oh, so-so. How are they with you?"

Jennie had been taught to speak the truth; but at this moment there dawned in her mind a vague understanding that the high loyalties of life are, after all, relative and not absolute.

She smiled again as she skillfully flipped a great slice of golden brown ham over in the frying pan. "Why, just fine, Mr. Davis. We're gettin' on just fine, John an' me. It's been hard sleddin' but I sort of think the worst is over. I think we're goin' to come out way ahead now. We'll just be proud to pay off that mortgage so fast, come another year, that you'll be surprised!"

It was said. Jennie marveled that the words had not choked her, had not somehow smitten her dead as she spoke them. But their effect on Henry Davis was amazingly good.

"That so?" he asked in surprise. "Well now, that's fine. I always wanted to see John make a success of the old place, but somehow—well, you know it didn't look as if—that is, there's been some talk around that maybe John wasn't just gettin' along any too—you know. A man has to sort of watch his investments. Well, now, I'm glad things are pickin' up a little."

Jennie felt as though a tight hand at her throat had relaxed. She spoke brightly of the fall weather and the crops as she finished setting the dishes on the table and rang the big bell for John. There was delicate work yet to be done when he came in.

Little Jim had to be sent to hasten him before he finally appeared. He was a big man, John Musgrave, big and slow moving and serious. He had known nothing all his life but hard physical toil. Hedaviess had pitted his great body against all the adverse forces of nature. There was a time when he had felt that strength such as his was all any man needed to bring him fortune. Now he was not so sure. The brightness of that faith was dimmed by experience.

John came to the kitchen door with his eyebrows drawn. Little Jim had told Jim that Henry Davis was there. He came into the room as an accused man faces the jury of his peers, faces the men who, though the same flesh and blood as he, are yet somehow curiously in a position to save or to destroy him.

John came in, and then he stopped, staring blankly at the scene before him. At Jennie moving about the bright table, chatting happily with Henry Davis! At Henry himself, his sharp features softened by an air of great satisfaction. At the sixth plate on the white cloth. Henry staying for supper!

But the silent deeps of John's nature served him well. He made no comment. Merely shook hands with Henry Davis and then washed his face at the sink.

Jennie arranged the savory dishes, and they sat down to supper. It was an entirely new experience to John to sit at the head of his own table and serve a generously heaped plate to Henry Davis. It sent through him a sharp thrill of sufficiency, of equality. He realized that before he had been cringing in his soul at the very sight of this man.

Henry consumed eight biscuits richly covered with quince honey, along with the heavier part of his dinner. Jennie counted them. She recalled hearing that the Davises did not set a very bountiful table; it was common talk that Mrs. Davis was even more "miserly" than her husband. But, however that was, Henry now seemed to grow more and more genial and expansive as he ate. So did John. By the time the pie was set before them, they were laughing over a joke Henry had heard at Grange meeting.

Jennie was bright, watchful, careful. If the talk lagged, she made a quick remark. She moved softly between table and stove, refilling the dishes. She saw to it that a hot biscuit was at Henry Davis's elbow just when he was ready for it. All the while there was rising within her a strong zest for life that she would have deemed impossible only that morning. This meal, at least, was a perfect success, and achievements of any sort whatever had been few.

Henry Davis left soon after supper. He brought the conversation around awkwardly to his errand as they rose from the table. Jennie was ready.

"I told him, John, that the worst was over now, an' we're getting' on fine!" She laughed." I told him we'd be swampin' him pretty soon with our payments. Ain't that right John?"

John's mind was not analytical. At that moment he was comfortable. He has been host at a delicious supper with his ancient adversary, whose sharp face marvelously softened. Jennie's eyes were shining with a new and amazing confidence. It was a natural moment for unreasoning optimism.

"Why that's right, Mr. Davis. I believe we can start clearin' this off now pretty soon. If you could just see your way clear to renew the note mebbe. . . ."

It was done. The papers were back in Davis's pocket. They had bid him a cordial good-bye from the door.

"Next time you come, I will have biscuits for you Mr. Davis." Jennie had called daringly after him.

"Now you don't forget that Mrs. Musgrave! They certainly ain't hard to eat."

He was gone. Jennie cleared the table and set the shining lamp in the center of the oilcloth covering. She began to wash the dishes. John was fumbling through the papers on a hanging shelf. He finally sat down with and old tablet and pencil. He spoke meditatively. "I believe I'll do a little figurin' since I've got time tonight. It just struck me that mebbe if I used my head a little more I'd get on faster."

"Well now, you might," said Jennie. It would not be John's way to comment just yet on their sudden deliverance. She polished two big Rambo apples and placed them on a saucer beside him.

He looked pleased. "Now that's what I like." He grinned. Then making a clumsy clutch at her arm, he added, "Say, you look sort of pretty tonight."

Jennie made a brisk coquettish business of freeing herself. "Go along with you!" she returned, smiling and started in again upon the dishes. But a hot wave of color had swept up in her shallow cheeks.

John had looked more grateful over her setting those two apples beside him now, than he had the day last fall when she lifted all the potatoes herself! Men were strange, as the woman in gray had said. Maybe even John had been needing something else more than he needed the hard, backbreaking work she had been doing.

She tidied up the kitchen and put the children to bed. It seemed strange to be through now, ready to sit down. All summer they had worked outdoors till bedtime. Last night she had been slaving over apple butter until she stopped, exhausted, and John had been working in the barn with the lantern. Tonight seemed so peaceful, so quiet. John still sat at the table, figuring while he munched his apples. His brows were not drawn now. There was a new, purposeful light upon his face.

Jennie walked to the doorway and stood looking off through the darkness and through the break in the trees at the end of the lane. Bright and golden lights kept glittering across it, breaking dimly through the woods, flashing out strongly for a moment, then disappearing behind the hill. Those were the lights of the happy cars that never stopped in their swift search for far and magic places. Those were the lights of the highway which she had hated. But she did not hate it now. For today it had come to her at last and left with her some of its mysterious pleasure.

Jennie wished, as she stood there, that she could somehow tell the beautiful stranger in the gray coat that her words had been true, that she, Jennie, insofar as she was able, was to be like her and fulfill her woman's part.

For while she was not figuring as John was doing, yet her mind had been planning, sketching in details, strengthening itself against the chains of old habits, resolving on new ones; seeing with sudden clearness where they had been blundered, where they had made mistakes that farsighted, orderly management could have avoided. But how could John have sat down to figure in comfort before, in the kind of kitchen she had been keeping?

Jennie bit her lip. Even if some of the tomatoes spoiled, if all of them spoiled, there would be a snowy washing on her line tomorrow; there would be ironing the next day in her clean kitchen. She could sing as she worked. She used to when she was a girl. Even if the apples rotted on the trees, there were certain things she knew now that she must do, regardless of what John might say. It would pay better in the end, for she had read the real needs of his soul from his eyes that evening. Yes, wives had to choose for their husbands sometimes.

A thin haunting breath of sweetness rose from the bosom of her dress where the scrap of white linen lay. Jennie smiled into the dark. And tomorrow she would take time to wash her hair. It used to be yellow—and she wished she could see the stranger once more, just long enough to tell her she understood.

As matter of fact, at that very moment, many miles along the sleek highway, a woman in a gray coat, with a soft gray hat and a rose quill, leaned suddenly close to her husband as he shot the high-powered car through the night. Suddenly he glanced down at her and slackened the speed.

"Tired?" he asked. "You haven't spoken for miles. Shall we stop at this next town?"

The woman shook her head. "I'm all right, and I love to drive at night. It's only—you know—that poor woman at the farm. I can't get over her wretched face and house and everything. It—it was hopeless!"

The man smiled down at her tenderly. "Well, I'm sorry, too, if it was all as bad as your description; but you mustn't worry. Good gracious, darling, you're not weeping over it, I hope!""No, truly, just a few little tears. I know it's silly, but I did so want to help her, and I know now that what I said must have sounded perfectly insane. She wouldn't know what I was talking about. She just looked up with that blank, tired face. And it all seemed so impossible. No, I'm not going to cry. Of course I'm not—but—lend me your handkerchief, will you dear? I've lost mine somehow!"

Blessings to you and your homes,

Monday, June 22, 2015

Festival Bread Recipe

This is the bread we typically use for our 'Festival Breads.'
We use this recipe for our St George Celebrations and Pentecost Celebrations.
It can be used for any 'mouldable' bread and the children have long used this with great success.

This serves about 6-8 people and we have successfully doubled it.
1kg of flour of your choice, we prefer Spelt
3tsp of celtic sea salt
5 tsp of dried yeast
600ml lukewarm milk
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs beaten
80-100g butter

Sift the flour and salt into a warm mixing bowl.
Cream the yeast and sugar together, add a little of the warm milk and leave until frothy.
Melt the butter and mix it with the milk and nearly all the beaten egg.
Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast and milk mixture.
Mix to a soft dough and knead will.
Leave it to rise in a warm place until about double in size.
Knead again and shape into the shape you are using.
Decorate as desired.
Brush with leftover egg ( we don't often do this) and bake ina pre heated oven at 200 degree Celsius for approx 45 mins.
It can also be used to make Sun Bread as for the Winter Solstice and also for Palm Sunday toppers for the processions.

Do you make Festival breads for your family?

Blessings to you and your homes,

Friday, June 19, 2015

Table Time Learning - while we have Breakfast!!!

Each morning as we eat our breakfast together I start our learning with some basics to get us started.
We have had this 'table time' learning for years, although I admit there are times where we lose our rhythm and don't do it in it's entirety.

I do find that I love this time and it has evolved over time too to suit what we are doing and the children who are participating.

I would like to share what we are doing each 'table time' at the moment.
The pile of books above are our standard read alouds for learning virtues, The 24 Family Ways, Australian Nature, The Saint of the Day, a short reading from one of our Saint books  and the daily prayer from the Missal.

We read from the 24 family ways first - memorising the verse and bible verses.
Then we read from the Saint of the Day form one of our varied books.
Next up is a virtue from God's Wisdom for Little Boys and God's Wisdom for Little Girls and writing the chosen virtue up along with the 24 Family Way so we can work on those virtues through out the day.
Then we read from one of our short stories about the life of a Saint.
The  Nature Study we do is a little each day from Amy Mack's  A Bush Calendar.
I read a little each day from the monthly readings and we look up the mentioned native flowers, trees and bird life in our Nature Field Guides.

After this we move on to praying for our day together and using as our final prayer the prayer from our Missal for the day.
After this we go through our various additional extras.
I ask each of the younger children to say aloud the  name of the day and they take turns to change it on our Daily Wheel as well as the Seasonal and Monthly wheel.
We also have a little card that tells the name of the day  on our wooden stand. Our Liturgical colour is changed as needed for the season we are in and our little elementals are displayed here too.

Then we read aloud the Poem from the  Elsa Beskow - Around the Year that I have written out and changed the name of the month to suit our Southern Hemisphere seasons.
 Next up is the poem I have selected from the monthly plans I had prepared earlier in the year and we read it aloud again with the children.
 We then move on to this little part of naming the numerical date, the month, the season of the year.
 As we try to cover not only the seasonal aspect of our lives but also the Liturgical side too.
We have a new picture to remind us of the Liturgical month we are in.
Our Art Appreciation is briefly covered here as well.
I ask the children to look at the art I selected earlier in the year as well and to study it so they can relate back to me what they observe and on Friday they draw the painting as best they can.
I try to have a new painting each week, but it doesn't always work out that way.
Again I have a little seasonal display for us to see through out our day.
A seasonal picture and mini items that reflect the season we are currently in.
 And sometimes because I love these little displays I add another one to our home.
 Each season I turn the pages of our various Gerda Muller books that have beautiful scenes that show children enjoying the season that the book is about.
 Last of all we  have the Tasha Tudor Around the Year book that we progress through seasonally.

After all of this we recite the times tables, and skip counting aloud together and any other sight words or counting that we need to cover.

During this, well towards the start of it, we are eating our breakfast.
I manage bites as we go through this process J
I am so very thankful we can have this time together each day to start us off on the right foot in our learning journey and I know that the children learn from it when we are consistent.

Blessings to you and your homes,


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