Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31- Where You Relax

A very apt prompt for today. After 31 days of blogging, I'm ready to sit and relax in my favourite spot. Mama's Chair. This is from where I survey all that goes on in the hub of Crabapple House, from my cosy corner of the family room.

Up against the bay window, I hear my chickens when they squawk outside, and incredibly, the tap of oranges as they ripen on the tree and scrape against the glass.

More importantly, this is where I see and hear my family as they rummage for food and look for the lost remote controls and phones. Where we converge to connect, when we're not texting each other from the various rooms in the house.

Someone once told me the best place to sit was in a corner with your back against the wall. Always face the door so you know who's coming and going, and never let anyone take you by surprise. (I think he wanted to be in the secret service.) While there's no urgency to fend off double agents here, I do prefer the coziness that comes from a favourite chair in the corner. The spot I call mine, with my knitting close by and the sun on my shoulders. This is where I relax. Where I check my emails on my phone and watch dear friends come and go when they visit my blog.

I'll be looking for this chair by the end of today. I have a full list of chores waiting for me and when I've ticked off all my to-dos, I shall sink there and enjoy the familiar warmth of my Mama's Chair. 

And while I do, I shall be deeply grateful you have followed my March Photo A Day challenge and encouraged me here. I've been thrilled each day by the cheers of many who've popped in to comment here, comment on my links to this challenge on Facebook, and simply like my photos as I've shared them. I've seen your flags appear on my feed and smiled each time.

In the month of April I will continue with my love of all things romance and yesteryear. I have a wonderful line up of historical romance authors to get to know and lots of free books to give away.

Do you have an e-reader? Kindle or something similar? Charge the battery people, we are in for a wonderful list of gifts and new books to explore.

Have a wonderful weekend.
God bless

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30 - A Toy

Routine is my dear friend. I love keeping to a schedule and I've passed on this love of order to my daughter who is a planner and list maker.

There's a comfort in knowing what's coming next. That familiar predictability which most people like. She's no exception and I think I know why.

When she was a toddler Sophie vacated her cot early, in preparation for the arrival of her baby brother. She went into a big girl's bed many months before most little ones we knew, and she wasn't impressed.

Most nights she was too tired to protest for very long, but afternoon sleeps proved more difficult. So we hit on a plan to help her settle. We had a favourite Bible for toddlers and read one story from that, and a verse or two from a book of children's poems for good measure. But still, the sleeping routine in the new room upended her. Until we pulled out the secret weapon.

A wind up music box with one of those dancing ballerinas. If you wound the key all the way, the little doll would spin quite fast and the music kept up a lively pace. But as the music slowed, so did her dance and by the time it was over, our little girl was meant to be asleep. That was the plan, and we told her so.

I would wind the key and set the music box back on the shelf beside her books, and tell Sophie when the ballerina stopped her pirouettes, she too could sleep. But she was to watch the ballerina from her bed, right to the end. 

Most times the trick worked. The music would fade and so would our little girl. On the days she was still alert she'd call us to wind it again. A true follower of rules like most firstborns, she wanted to make sure the routine flowed as we'd set it.

Like many babies, her words came out with an incredible mix of the real and imaginary. So saying music box didn't quite sound like the words we used, but I have loved her version more. I wish I could add a music file to this post and let you enjoy the sound of her 'golly golly.'

Yes, I know, golly golly is nothing like music box. Perhaps she was trying to repeat the sound of the music. I don't know, but it was just so cute we couldn't let it go and adopted it as the new name.

The haunting melody of the golly golly has kept me company while writing this post. More yesteryear than even I can endure, my room is filled with the bitter-sweet sting of nostalgia. Does music do that to you? I've been transported back to when my little one's world was made complete by Noah and his ark, a little Peter Rabbit mischief, and the fading sound of the golly golly

I'll just play it one more time, before I put it back on her shelf. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29 - Feet

Like trash, feet are not for blogging. Are they? Well, maybe when they're the cute footprints of your own children, aged 3, 7 and 9.

Stamped into a small slab of concrete for a garden shed, we marked our property with their little feet shortly after we moved into Crabapple House, ten years ago.

As a new build, everything we've done has pressed our individual mark here. But this is one of my favourites. With their initials and date scratched into the concrete, it's as permanent a reminder as one can get, of who they were when we moved in.

I can't help think of the many steps they've taken since. Steps we've guided and illuminated, others they've taken for themselves. Some misguided, but most in the right direction.

As quickly as this concrete weathered (I had to rub dirt into the crevices for this photo) I know they will outgrow and fade away from their childhood years. I'm in no rush to see it happen, although I have enjoyed watching them leap into the world they're eager to explore.

And while they have many steps to take in the days ahead, I hope they don't rush too much. That they remain standing, as they did on the concrete slab, when standing is what's required. Just as Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and calls for us, He also requires those who respond to stand firm in their faith and follow Him. To flee from temptation. To stand on holy ground.

This little concrete step is a precious corner at Crabapple House. I've been told if we ever move, we'll have to cut it out of the ground and take it with us as a memento of the time my kiddies got their toes stuck in wet cement.

But even more precious is the foundation laid for them on the solid rock, their saviour Jesus Christ.

And that's where I love to see their feet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28 - Trash

Or as we like to call it in Australia, rubbish.

You would have to club and gag me, lock me in a closet and sneak your way to my rubbish bins yourself, if you really wanted to see my trash on this blog. After years of carefully choosing romantic pictures for here, I can't believe it has come to this.

Instead, I reluctantly offer you a quick peek at my food scraps, as they looked this afternoon on their way to my beautiful chickens. (These girls don't just hatch for me, they dispatch too.)

They dispatch of all my kitchen rubbish, by sifting through onion skins and potato peelings (which I know they don't care for) to find morsels like the tops of tomatoes and watermelon skins.

I mix it all together and toss it into the coop, as I know what they don't eat they'll scratch into the dirt. One day, when the mood strikes me, I'll get in there with boots and spade and dig it all up. And by then it will be compost - black gold!

This compost gets stored under the apricot tree where we wait for the heat of the chicken manure to dissipate before spreading it all over the veggie garden. I'm convinced it's the reason Crabapple House grows amazing apricots.

It's a circle of life thing. Beauty for ashes. Another reminder from my everyday simplicity, that God wants me to consider Him as I go about my day.

To remember His desire for rescue. For redemption. For new birth.

My garden and it's cycles always show me earthly glimpses of my Heavenly Father. What better place to consider the first Gardener, than in the setting where He walked with the people He created?

A place where He didn't abandon the 'trash' to be collected and destroyed, but set humanity on a course for transformation.

And now, He calls us Beautiful.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27 - Your Name

I was named after my dear grandmother.

In a tradition I love, my Beloved and I also named our own daughter in honour of my mother, and our sons carry their father and grandfathers' names too. While we like the meaning of all our children's names, we chose them because we wanted to reflect something more personal - our family history.

When I thought about a name for my blog, I tested lots of variations. In the end I settled on Ink Dots. I shared the story behind my blog name back in 2009, just after I began blogging, but for some of my new friends, here's the shortened story, retold.

Ink - Is for the beautiful way a word appears on the page when it's written with an ink pen. One of my favourite Christmas presents is an elegant fountain pen I love to use everyday. There's something romantic about the way the nib scrapes the paper and the purple ink flows, (yes I use purple ink) even if I'm scribbling a quick shopping list. Milk and bread look so much better with violet tails and swirls.

Dots  - Well, that's me. Dot, Dotti, Dorothy. I go by all these names. Dots is what the ink makes on its way to becoming words. Little splatters which join and blend and become the message on the page.

My stories. My ink dots. My Ink Dots.

Most parents choose their children's names with great consideration. I did the same with my children and I like to think I did the same with my blog.

Is there a story behind your name? Were you lumped with an old family name you hated as a child, or did your parents give you the perfect name, for you.

I'm happy with Dorothy. It will always remind me of the beautiful woman I was named for. It's old fashioned, which I've come to appreciate more and more over the years and it means gift of God.

How about you? What's the story behind your name?

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26 - Key

I've run away from home for a couple of days. With the blessing of my Beloved I get to sneak in a few writing days here and there. So here I am at Phillip Island, where the house is quiet and the beach twinkles from nearly every window.

If I'd been at home, I don't know what I'd use as my subject for today's picture. But here at the beach house, there's an old dinning room dresser my grandmother kept in her house for many years. With a mirrored back to the display case, it reflects my mother's coffee set and other glass pretties now. And has, for me to admire, an old fashioned key in each cabinet door beside the shelves.

Very yesteryear. Something I'm glad I had the chance to look at from a closer angle, as I have passed this dresser many times and not really looked at the key.

And that's what I love about this challenge. The closer inspection of things around me. The appreciation of something until now, insignificant, but really beautiful when admired up close.

I wonder how much of life I ignore in my rush to get through each day. How many beautiful pictures there are still to be discovered if I slow my pace and hunt them down.

I've been working on scenes today where my hero is involved in a hunt, of sorts. And I've had lots of fun with him and my heroine, the subject of his other, more significant 'hunt.'

It's so much fun to mess with these dear people, I mean characters. So you will excuse me, while I feed the cat and mouse, and nudge them along as he works out it's more than a hunt. That if he's going to get the girl, he'll have to find the key to her heart.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25 - Breakfast

If I wasn't gluten intolerant, I'd eat pancakes with maple syrup and strawberries for breakfast every day. My sensible breakfast, of two boiled eggs however, comes a close second in the deliciousness stakes, especially as I know the generous hens who've contributed.

Imagine my thrill when I cracked open this egg to discover a double-yolker. Laid fresh only yesterday, there's nothing like sitting down to double the blessing. It's not the first time I've cracked an egg to be delighted by two yolks. But it never gets old.

It reminds me of the old hymn, Count Your Blessings, something I don't always do first. There are days when I'm more focused on what I don't have, and grizzle at what I believe I have the right to expect. Today, God reminded me of all I do have, thanks to Him, and all He's added as extra blessings. Just because He loves to do that sort of thing. 

The writer of Count Your Blessings, Johnson Oatman Jr, was an American born in 1856. Some say Count Your Blessings was his finest hymn. So great was the enthusiasm when it reached the revival halls of Great Britain in the late 1890s, it was celebrated as America's greatest hymn.

The London Daily reported, 'In South London, the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on this hymn.' I'm guessing every generation needs to stop and consider what God has done for them. The Londoners of the 1890s were no different in heart, to the Melbournians of today. We all get distracted by our 'woes', but discouragement is fought when we list God's blessings and turn our focus on Him.

So amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all.
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done. 

I know it's a little old fashioned to be humming hymns from more than 100 years ago. Especially with all the great worship songs we have to encourage us today. But there are times when I love to dip into the old hymnal for something special. To crack open its pages and sing along with the heart of the old hymn writers. To count my blessings, and be surprised afresh with all the great things He has done.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24 - An Animal

The celebration of my dear mother-in-law's birthday today, brought the family out to the farm she and dear father-in-law tend in country Victoria. And what better place to collide with a village planning it's Autumn Harvest festival and the preparations for that event tomorrow.

Getting a head start, quilters converged to ooh and aah over hand made beauties. They foraged through two rooms of a converted cottage, where bolts of cloth from all over the world lined the walls with pretties my sister-in law and I could only drool over.

And that's where I found my animal inspiration. I could've photographed the chickens and sheep on the family farm, or the new celebrity puppy, but there was no way I could slip past this big-eared cutie in the quilt shop.

So please enjoy her for a moment. Take in her hounds-tooth hide and home made dress. She's all I love about hand crafts. Something beautiful, fashioned from what could very well have been scraps, from one talented needle-woman's basket. Little Miss Big-Ears will make someone very happy. I only wish I'd thought fast and been that someone, myself.

Have a wonderful weekend. :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23 - Moon

Some days you wonder why things happen. Why mistakes you could have avoided end up ruining your plans. And you kick yourself when you consider all the ways you should have dodged trouble. You shake your head and bite your tongue because you so want to say, 'I told you...' or 'why didn't you check...?'

Then you drag yourself away from the pity party and hunt for something really good in your mess. That glimmer of goodness you can savour instead of the bitter pill lodged in your throat.

Such an evening greeted us recently when my Beloved and I took a leisurely drive to Phillip Island for our anniversary over the long weekend. Light packing, anticipation of meals to be eaten in foreshore restaurants and long sleep-ins, drew us there like the moon drags the tides.

We took our time arriving for our seafood dinner by the beach and walked hand in hand back to the car.

Very romantic, weren't we? Until we fished out an old set of keys to the beach house and discovered they no longer worked, as locks had been changed and keys had not been replaced. The good keys were at home. Not in our clenched hands, which tried and tried in vain to make the impossible happen, while the car engine hummed and the headlights illuminated an uninviting house.

Um... romance disaster. No hope of watching the sun set from the balcony for us.

Back in the car we looked at each other. What now? Sleep here? Hardly. Look for a vacancy sign. Not appealing. Drive home, get keys and come back? Only choice really.

So we turned around and began the 2 hour trip home, flat and sorry. Not much conversation came to mind. Neither of us was at fault but we both had to pay for it. After a while we decided there was no point worrying over something we could not change. We were together, and that's what the weekend promised anyway.

With the moon over the road ahead, we chatted and tried not to envy the cars arriving on the island as we departed. We talked about our future and soon enough the mood changed for the better. The road ahead shone with moon spilling over clouds

I knew back then I needed a moon photo for today. Was it cheating to squirrel this one away so many days in advance? I don't think so. It's a great reminder of a night where trouble nudged us off course for a while, but rewarded us with something unexpected.

With our backs to the sunset, we followed the silver lining as it lit our way home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22 - Kitchen Sink

From where I stand at the kitchen sink, I can only see my own tiny garden world, contained within the hedge we planted here 10 years ago. Before that, I could see right onto the street as I stood there washing dishes and peeling potatoes. We had to wait some time for our little seedlings to grow and become a living fence to screen us from the road, and while we secured some level of privacy, we lost a bigger picture.

Back then, I could see cars drive up and down the street and watch my children play on the far corner with their friends. The neighbours and their business were on show for me with the regularity of a soap opera. They'd wave as they went past and I'd wave back from the little window at the kitchen sink.

Now my view is limited to what happens within the privet hedge. If I'm lucky, I'll see my kids race past onto better things, and even my own Beloved can pull into the driveway and I won't know about it until I hear the back door swing open.

Slowly, like the way your own kids shoot up taller than you but you don't realise until someone else points it out, our surroundings changed, and with that, came a subtle shift in our perspective.

Less about the whole street, and more about just us, it requires determination to not become lost in your own little world. To seek the ones around you, lost behind the hedge. To take yourself through the mess of green and out to those only a few steps away.

I want to be connected with those who share my road. To shoulder my way past what normally keeps my eyes glued to my feet, and lend a shoulder where it's needed. To knock on a door with an armful of peaches and know there's a friendly face to feed my chickens when we're away.

Fortunately, my writing room is upstairs. From where I sit most days, I can see my dear friends come and go. I see them walk their grandbabies up the street and through the hedge to visit my hen house and collect an egg or two.

And I'm glad for all my missed efforts and good intentions, the lost view does not keep good neighbours away. For they too, don't see us as well anymore, but still remember to knock on the door and say hello.

 For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21 - Delicious

Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia. We take our coffee short, strong and very seriously. Don't bother arguing with me, it's so and that's final. Many people believe the coffee culture sprang during the 1950s and 60s with the arrival of southern European migrants who preferred coffee to tea, and roast-and-ground coffee to instant.

I've always liked that theory. My Greek mama shared her love of coffee with me when I was a student in high school. She'd bring me a cup of Turkish style blend in a demitasse cup each evening while I studied.

Imagine my delight when I discovered The Colonial Cookbook praise the richness of Melbourne's coffee establishments in the 19th century. Perhaps our post war Europeans had a head start, thanks to the refined customs of early Australian coffee connoisseurs. Here's what they had to say in 1870.

The coffee, as dispensed at the Cafe de Paris, at Melbourne...was unexceptionable in flavour, and served hot. The 'garcon' brought in a large sized white stone china cup and saucer, and after putting before the visitor, on a little marble table, a small basin of white crystallised sugar, the grains of which sparkled in the gaslight, proceeded to pour simultaneously into the cup two jets of coffee and milk from silver ewers. We question whether the city on the banks of the Seine could supply mocha better made or served, for the same price - sixpence. 

Who knows? Perhaps. What I do know, is how delicious it is to sit with my Beloved in a cafe somewhere, read the Melbourne Saturday papers and sip on a good coffee. Thanks to the great foundation laid by our colonialists and the equally fervent Europeans, we can enjoy a steaming cup of the world's best brews.

Little marble tables, crystallised sugars, gas light and silver ewers?  Could it get any more delicious? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20 - Before and After

Lessons from Jam Making

Crabapple House is a big home on a tiny block of land. Somehow we've managed to squeeze as many fruit bearing trees in here as well as berry plants and a veggie garden, all to satisfy my longing to live on a farm. (Still don't have that goat though. Perhaps I'll get one for Mother's Day.)

What I do have is the bounty of summer, all lined up like soldiers in my hallway cupboard. My personal treasure trove of home-made goodies, preserved to last all year long. And my favourite, is apricot jam.

Each summer we fight the rosellas for fruit and this year was no different. Thankfully, it's a win-win for us both. They come to pick the trees clean, we hear and run out to frighten them away. To mock us, they peck as much fruit as they can reach before flying away, and we snatch it back and bring it in to cover the kitchen table.

At some point, when we're drowning in apricots, we turn it into jam or sauce. Luscious and sweet, I love to see my ripe fruit, some blemished by the sun, others casualties of bird attack, saved and turned into something with a purpose.

And here's what I've learned from summer jam making.

1. Real jam requires a mercy mission. If we don't rescue this fruit, it's destined to rot where it sits. The birds only take small chunks out of each apricot and move on to destroy more. But add some sugar and fire and what once had such limitations, now lives again. Sound familiar? I know what it means to be rotten and ready to shrivel. As a child of God, I've been transformed into something so much better. I now have an eternal future. And while I'm not a fan of fiery trials, I know without them, I'd still be a rotten mess.

2. Real jam requires sacrifice. It takes time to make jam. A full day of stirring, an upturned kitchen and in my case, a burn or two. The process of transformation is costly to me. But I'm prepared to go through it because I value my fruit and have a plan for it. And I'm comforted to know God does not give up on the task of redeeming us. It cost His son to snatch us from death. He, more than anyone, is acquainted with the suffering which comes from being the Redeemer.

3. Real jam requires a purpose. My jam is useless in the jar. While I love to look at my bottles of fruity promise, they're only sitting pretty if they stay on the shelf. Dusting their lids does not make me as happy as when I pop open a jar and make my kids P B and J sandwiches or slather a batch of scones with fresh jam. Some breaking is required when others are to be blessed by my work. A disturbance of my neatly ordered shelf. The emptying of bottles I filled to the brim.

I want to know I am not just sitting pretty in a jar, waiting for the day when being saved means I go to heaven. I want to know God's purpose for me is being fulfilled, today. Are you saved by God but still stuck somehow? Sitting pretty, but blessing no one?

If you're not sure, perhaps you can begin by asking the Redeemer.

How can God use you this week, now that you've been transformed from almost rotten to delicious? How can your sweetness make someone's life richer?

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19 - Funny

There's no one like a dear friend, one who's travelled the road with you for over 20 years, to appreciate the dire need to dislocate arms and necks in the pursuit of a decent photo. These days, we're experts at holding the phone camera way above our heads for most candid shots. Yes, we hold the giggles in as best we can, and the camera as high as our arms allow, to capture the most flattering shot of chins and eyes and minimise as much of gravity's assault, as we possibly can.

Thankfully we have other tricks up our sleeve too. Luminescence and Instagram layer and illuminate us with tones we can only dream about in real life. Gone is the drab cafe light which washed us out in the original this afternoon. Now golden highlights bounce off our hair. And warmth from our skin.

After some tweaking we can share ourselves on the internet without the fear of looking like an alpaca and horse. (Trust me when I admit there are photos, deleted for fear of potential exposure, where our grins spill across the little screen with frightening resemblance to creatures from some back paddock.)

This is when we share our school girl moment. When we lose it and well up with tears at the sight of ourselves as we really are. We dab at our lashes so as not to mess our mascara, and our throats become a little phlegmy. Laughter and unladylike guffaws wipe away any other distractions and we become lost for a moment in 'the funny' no one else can see.

I've cried with this dear girl many times over the last two decades. In His generosity, God's made sure she's a fixture in my life. A sister I can't do without. There's is no one else who makes me laugh the way she does and even if we end up looking like herd animals, it's worth every racoon-eyed, snot-nosed, throat-clogged moment of 'funny' we can endure.

Lucky for us, when it comes to frivolity, our endurance is pretty amazing!
Here's to more days like today.

Love ya Kerryn :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18 - A Corner of Your Home

I inherited a 6 drawer wooden cupboard from my dear grandmother. It had always filled a corner of her bedroom and I took it gladly when it was offered to me, as I love to have her things around me.

Now it sits on a corner of the landing at Crabapple House, topped by a few of my pretties in the shadow of an old Singer sewing machine. The machine hints at what sleeps inside those deep drawers, for they hold my quilting and sewing gear. There's an unfinished patchwork top in there, lengths of fabric I've squirrelled for a project I may get to sometime, and a tangled mess of feathered wool from last decade. All incomplete projects I had to fish out and identify for this blog post.

As I opened each drawer, a deeper flush of shame pinned me, as I pushed one incomplete craft aside to unearth the next.

And then, I found it. A pattern for woollen mittens I'd knitted for two of my kids one winter. One black pair, the other dark green.

Mittens, people! Not just a straight line of knit/purl for a simple scarf, but the shaping of wool to fit human hands. Even now, I'm not sure how I managed it, but the creased pattern pages serve to remind me I did follow instructions to the very last,

...seam cuff, palm and thumb - darn ends. 

I needed to rummage around this cupboard today. To the left of where it sits, is my writing room. Stored on my computer I have articles in draft form I'd like to submit to magazines. I have the shells of novels, yet unwritten. I have The Everlasting dancing its way to completion, and I am, each day overwhelmed with the business of unfinished writing.

But the memory of those mittens fuels me to consider, even I am an unfinished project. God is not done with me either. He's still working on the slipped threads of my life and fashioning me to become the woman He desires.

So I press on with the works He's put in my heart with a new measure of gladness tonight, as I consider my Heavenly Father is also at work in me. Still.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you,
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 
Phillipians 1:6

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17 - Green

Wild, country style cottage gardens, I love.

Dusty, weed infested paths and rotten tomatoes, I don't. So I spent all day outside today, ridding the garden of summer's debris. I love this time of year, when the weather is perfect for a full day's gardening chores. Gone are all our tomato stakes and bean poles, hidden behind the shed until next spring when we'll dust off the cobwebs and drag them out again.

I swept neglected paths and scooped out the awful stuff wedged between the bins and fence. I washed window frames, hosed down the clothesline and even collected all the clothes-pegs for an overnight soak.

My Saturdays don't normally look like this but every now and again I'm carried away by a frenzy of spring/autumn cleaning.  I already know I've done too much and will hunt down my bed very soon, but with the change of seasons, I've been itching to clean away the old and make way for the new.

I still have pruning and weeding on my list. There's an exuberance in the garden around Crabapple House which I've not yet tamed. Dear friends have pointed out the overgrown wisteria by the front door and I've nodded and smiled and thrilled at the 'secret garden' wildness lapping at my porch.

For while I will gladly tuck my weary bones into bed any minute, content with clean paths and windowsills, I'll also be glad for the unruly favourites with their roots firmly stuck in the ground, whose lusciousness survived another day. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16 - Sunglasses

The day has come when I have to post a photo of something plastic. Not what I had in mind when I started this blog, about romance and all things yesteryear.

I could tell you all about the earliest wearers of 'sunglasses' - the bloodthirsty mobs who cheered on the gladiators and lions in ancient Rome. (True, they held coloured glass and gems to their eyes to fight the glare.)

But I don't want to go there. And why? Because I'm the sort of girl who likes to find romance in everything. Guilty of looking at the world through rose coloured glasses, am I. Not just the naive, life is beautiful, view, but real scenes as they appear before my eyes when I wear sunglasses.

Some years ago, I happened to buy rose tinted sunnies. No real reason. I probably paid more attention to the design than the lenses. But I did, really discover, the world around me looks markedly better with a layer of muted pink.

And a few silver hair accoutrements, a silk rose... under the glow of a lamp.

Ok. I'll stop there.

You may roll your eyes now. Only please, hide behind a dark pair of shades where I won't see, and all will be rosy.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15 - Car

Now if today's challenge had been horse and carriage, I would've been set. I have a wonderful photo of my Beloved in New York in one of those Central Park horse and buggies.

Had it been bicycle, I would have raced outside to take a shot of an old bike I've got gathering cobwebs and earmarked for a garden makeover.

But no. Today, I had to photograph a car. Not easy, when you want to stick to your theme of old world-romance.

Thankfully, my Beloved likes to collect vintage style replicas of old model cars. Prettier to the eye and more romantic than the family car in our garage, this is an 'ornament' car I don't mind having around. I guess some boys never outgrow their love of all things... brmmm brmmm! Thankfully it's a miniature, with no petrol tank.

And I guess I should be glad I don't have to care for the old fashioned mode of transport either, by mucking out a horse stall and filling buckets with oats.

But I've ridden in an Amish buggy. I've listened to the sounds of the night as our host let his horse meander 'round the streets and take us the long way home. To the slow clip clop of hooves on a wet road, where our hearts became endeared to a way of life less rushed and more in tune with the smell of rain and grass.

If I could choose it would be horse and buggy in the rain. Every time. How about you? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14 - Clouds

During our 12 months in Thailand, we lived in an apartment complex with many young families from around the world.  My dear Canadian friend Reshmi and I would take our children to the swimming pool on the 7th floor, as we searched for ways to keep them cool and busy.

Not only was our year spent in a country far from home, but as a family we discovered the peculiarities of apartment living. The ease with which one child could be taken in the elevator to another child's home for a play date. The luxury of having a pool without needing to care for it, and the terrifying site of window washers hanging outside our rooms with their cleaning apparatus, 28 stories up.

Unaccustomed to living so high, the view from our windows never got old. A stream of traffic ribboned along the motorways and side streets without ceasing. Night and day. The only time we didn't see it so clearly, was when it rained.

And rain it did. Anyone who's experienced Bangkok's weather, knows shoes get wet and trousers need folding up if you get caught in a sudden downpour.

One such day I received a call from dear Reshmi. Her children were restless and wanting company. She suggested we hit the pool.

Torrents cascaded off the windows and walls. 'Today? In the rain?'

In my mind I imagined Reshmi move closer to one of her windows. And boy, did she have beautiful windows. She lived in the Penthouse Apartment on the 45th floor, with unmatched views across the sprawling city. 'What rain?' she asked.

'Reshmi, it's pouring out there. Has been all day. Where have you been?'

'Here. And I don't see any rain.' We laughed as she looked down from her apartment perched above the clouds, where even the showers fell below, without her knowledge.

We made different plans that day, even if I don't remember them. But I do remember, discovering there are people who really live above the clouds. Way above them. Not just in songs, with rainbows.

Back in Melbourne, and grounded by our realities here, we look up to where the clouds hang. Like most people, we know rain is falling when it hits us on the head.

Unless the day is fine and you stop for a moment to look up from your driveway, through your boys' basketball hoop, to the spot where perhaps, in another world, an apartment building may graze the sky. And there beside a freshly washed window, a friend may bask in the sunshine.

I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13 - A Sign

I've always dreamed of having backyard chickens. Fresh eggs, free manure for my veggies, and pets, all rolled into one cute package. Who wouldn't? It took some persuading to get my Beloved to agree, but in the end the poulet chalet came to our yard and soon after our first flock of hens.

When I spied this olde worlde tin sign at a market in Shipshewana, Indiana, I knew it was the perfect memento to bring home to my Aussie backyard. Light and easy to pack, it's smooth repatriation to the chook shed door gave the poulet chalet that certain, yesteryear feel. Especially, the undervalued price of eggs!

And while my intentions of marking and defining their domain with a cozy sign brought me some measure of delight, it seems the chickens themselves were not served in any way by my efforts. Some wintery days you would think the sign read;

'No eggs for you. We're taking the day off.'

No, these chickens don't rely on painted signs. They're driven by real ones. They hear the porch door slam, know I'm on my way with a bucket of scraps and jostle for prime feeding positions. They practically snap their own necks to fight for the odd worm I toss their way when I'm gardening. And when they see shadows lengthen over the apricot tree each evening, they soon make their way in single file up the ladder to their roosting post.

Some months back my sign fell off the hen house door, and got stashed behind the gardening tools. Rust blended with cobwebs and dirt to cover the words completely. It didn't make any difference to my girls. They kept on living as they always had. Scratching around for what they needed, and giving what they could in return.

Thankfully, like my little chickens, we are not defined by the labels people put on us. We can be who God designed us to be with complete freedom to listen to Him, and not the demands of those who think they know better.

As our calendar bring us nearer to Easter, I can't help catching a glimpse of the work of the Lord Jesus, when I keep watch over my little backyard flock. I am reminded, only the Creator has the right to place a value on us, and He's already done that.

We are priceless. Paid for by a ransom only His son could afford.

A SOLD sign I'm blessed and humbled to wear.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12 - Fork

Have you ever had one item in your house which everyone wanted, only because it was one of a kind? My mother had one in her kitchen when we were growing up. It was an ugly grey and brown melamine plate which came too close to the gas stove one day and sported a scorch mark for the rest of its working life. This burnt edge made it different, and by some strange turn, special. So special my brother and I would leap across the room to ask for it when Mum dished up our tea each night. It wasn't even pretty. But still, we fought over it for its individuality.

Fast-forward 20 years and my own young family scored their own 'special' kitchen item. A fork, brought home after a business trip to China by my Beloved. His hosts had kindly given it to him and advised he hold onto it for the whole trip, in case chop sticks didn't thrill him.

As he unpacked, we were all bemused to see the addition of a stainless steel fork to the pile of gifts he'd brought home.

Said fork soon took on the name, The China Fork. No surprises then, that my own offspring soon hollered to have their turn with The China Fork beside their plate. Too bad if you'd eaten with it the night before. You would have to wait your turn another two nights.

And the reason this fork took on such appeal?  It had a story. Nothing any other piece of cutlery in the drawer could match.

And isn't that what grabs our attention? In our ordinary, garden variety, everyday kind of world, we like to hear a story, no matter how simple.

Once upon a time, I fell in the fire.
One upon a time, I was smuggled out of China.

And in the case of the silver fork in today's picture... Once upon a time, I was dug out of the ground where someone had buried me years before.

True story. I did the digging.

My grandmother did the burying.

See what I mean. Story pulls us in. And holds us there.

Got an ordinary item in your home with a cool story of its own? Come share with me and add to my comments. I'd love to hear it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11- Someone you talked to today

Today, I talked to my mum on the phone. Twice. This happens most days, as we like to 'visit' each other and find out the goings on of family life.

Isn't she beautiful?

Sometimes I forget she ever had a life without me in it. That she was a young girl with hopes and dreams of her own like everyone else. That when she was 14 she spent a year in school with a wicked teacher who wouldn't let any girl cut their hair and forced them to wear it in long plaits. Aren't hers gorgeous?

I forget that in 1959 she went on a school excursion to the beach and was the only girl to pose for the photographer in mourning clothes, as her father had died earlier that year. I forget she toured famous archeological sites around Greece and played a guardsman in the school play. That her summers were spent picking cotton on the family farm when all she wanted was to escape to Australia and start afresh.

Ten years after this photo was taken, she was a new mum, with me to talk to.

She talked to me so much I knew how to speak earlier than most babies, and could recite Bible verses well before my 2nd birthday.

We haven't stopped talking since. There's always something to hold off for the next time we chat. Which will probably be tomorrow, while I do the ironing with the phone cradled under my chin.

Love you Mum. xx 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10 - Loud

I took a short cut with this photo.

It's my wedding anniversary today and I'm away at the beach with my Beloved, celebrating our 22 years together.

He wrote the word LOUD in the sand for me. He does things like that. When I'm stuck and need help, I know he'll come up with something. When I think there's no solution, he finds one and when I'm not brave enough, he tells me there's nothing to be afraid of.

I guess in many ways, he is the LOUD in my world. He turned up the music the day we married, and it's been pealing every day since.

Here's my favourite song. He sang it while we walked along the foreshore at sunset this evening. Loud enough for all to hear and see.

And even though it won't be there by morning, I'm a lucky girl. I've come to expect something equally loud will ring again tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2012

March 9 - Red

I once nearly burned our house down. It's a true story.

After telling my kids not to play with candles when they're lit, I did that very thing, and ran my finger through the flame of a candle as it burned beside me on my desk.

Oh, I thought I was so clever to enjoy a little fire while I wrote. Just like my heroine would have as she wrote in her journal. And I just couldn't help myself.

In a moment of weakness, I made the flame dance with the quick passing of my finger and I don't to this day know how I managed it, but ended up with a lit candle, still burning on the carpet at my feet. In a pool of molten wax. Not the interruption I needed.

I learned my lesson that day. I learned how to remove wax from wool, how to scrape it off the edge of a wooden desk, and how to place any future candles on the book shelf, way beyond my reach.

And now you know why I wear a writing shawl. It's a safer way of disappearing into the 1870s than going up in smoke.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

March 8 - Window

I made two discoveries this morning as I lay across our staircase to take today's photo. 

1. I have a new found respect for photographers.

I've seen them contort indelicately to capture the best angle for their shots, but now I have a new appreciation for the twisting of bodies in the name of art. And glad I am, as a writer, I can sit at the computer with my shawl and peppermint tea and create scenes which don't require the scraping of my spine along hard wooden steps. 

2. I haven't watched a cloud pass me by in ages. 

I must run up and down our stairs countless times each day, and while my eye might catch on the goings-on at ground level, I hardly ever stop to look up through this window. See those clouds in my picture? They were gone after I took this shot. In two seconds the view changed and I sat there for a long while, looking at the moving sky as if it were new to me. 

I wondered how many moments of splendour I've missed in my rush to get to where I think I should be. How many times God has reached for me when I've been busy doing my own thing, and how many others share the same regrets I do. 

It's been 8 days of photo taking so far. And while I've used this challenge to kick-start my daily blog posts as well as play the Marchphotoaday game, I've gleaned a little more than writing and photography.

I've slowed down and looked at my world in a new way. Considered what surrounds me, and how it came to be there. 

And I'm seeing afresh how God fits into and above everything I gather for my nest. He sent the clouds to fashion the skies. He drapes me with feathers and protects my writing dream. He's the keeper of days and clocks only count what He allows. He gives me reason to smile, a story to tell, sets me in the neighbourhood where I live and provides my daily bread. And figs. And cheese. 

And at every turn, gives me reason to look up. 

My help comes from the Lord. The maker of heaven and earth. 
Psalm 121:2

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

March 7 - Something you wore

I know what you're thinking. This could be a curtain or granny's lap blanket. Well, I promise it's not. It's a cream shawl, with pretty detail and long fringe. And I wear it when I write.

It sits on the back of my chair, and now that Autumn mornings sneak up on us with their welcome chill, I'm glad to wrap it round my shoulders.

When my fingers get stuck in its lacy holes, or it slips off my shoulders, I straighten it again and imagine I'm not the only one wearing 19th century garb. I let the wool scratch against my neck or twist the edges of the fringe until they're frayed, and imagine how my heroine might feel with something similar draped over her. How she might use it to cover herself late at night when she's afraid. How she might tangle her fingers in the loops of wool as she wrestles with the issues of love and life.

Gathered alongside other pieces for an 1850s costume, I wore this thrift shop find on a school camp to the gold-fields in Sovereign Hill when my Tom was in year 4. It remained buried in the dress up box for years until it made the significant leap from costume to one of my favourite pieces of clothing. (Inside the house only!)

Now, I wouldn't be without it. It adds to the atmosphere of my world alongside tea pots, a fountain pen and old photographs. All kept close to inspire and evoke some of what my stories share. The fixtures of my writing room, where threads of romance knit together and drape my world in the richness of happily ever afters.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

March 6 - 5pm

If there were ever a perfect clock for the wall of a romance writer, this would have to be a firm contender.  Taken from the illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker, it caught my eye many years ago and quickly found its way home with me. Could I really leave a clock behind when it whispered, 'storybook?'

A clock and book cover all in one. Clever idea, that. In this age of custom made gifts and mass produced knickknacks I wonder if any of my writer friends consider making their book covers more than just that. A clock or a calendar to glance at all year? The front cover of a notebook perhaps or a set of mugs? Definitely a screen saver, right?

I've seen writers' walls with their first edition dust covers, framed and hung in rows. Entire franchises hum with book spun merchandise from t-shirts to bedspreads, and if your book's for children, the ubiquitous cartoon lunchbox. 

I have dreams for my book cover. I know the model well. She's my favourite green-eyed honey-girl and will look just like a heroine should, when she frocks up in costume. And perhaps we too can think of special ways to mark the occasion when the cover finally arrives. 

For now, I polish the inside. And I try not to watch the clock too much, as I scribble away. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

March 5 - Smile

For 12 months our family lived in Thailand, the Land of Smiles. We arrived a party of 4, plus one in the belly, and 5 months later I gave birth to our youngest son.

He inherited this knitted toy, a gift from his older brother, who in turn had received it from his older sister. Always known as Baby, this little guy has never stopped smiling at us. From the day he entered our family and snuggled into Tom's glass crib in the hospital, he's been cherished as one of the few toys destined to stick around, when many others found new homes.

Perhaps that simple two stitch smile, neither overblown nor shy, is the reason we could never part with him. And who could blame us. A smile is the language every baby understands. The curve that sets all things straight. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

March 4 - Bedside

There she stands. With her back against my romance novels, the shipping records of a 19th century clipper, and a collection of old colonial era letters, you will find a brass bell. Or should that be brass belle?

I bought this serene beauty at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, a few short weeks before my tonsils were removed in 2004. I figured with smaller children, I would need a way to call them if I needed my jelly and ice-cream. And while my family came to regret the incessant ring of my crinolined purchase, I loved, and still do love, ringing that bell when I'm having a doona day. 

There's no denying we've embraced the latest technology since 2004, and all 5 of us at Crabapple House now use mobile phones, even to send free texts from one bedroom to the next. But I have fun interrupting modern living on occasion, and call my people the old fashioned way. 

Don't be fooled by her demure stature. While she may be small-waisted and fit in my palm, this upstairs bell can pierce the air of a downstairs room quicker than any iphone. 

True, my dear ones may not know what I want. Just, that I need them. And sometimes, that's enough. The rest we can say face to face. 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

March 3 - Your Neighbourhood

It's raining today. All day. So forgive me if I don't venture too far into my neighbourhood for today's photo, of what my family calls 'the stairs at the end of our road.'

This sneaky shortcut takes the happy wanderer through to the local primary school and up to the bus stop on the main road.

Looks pretty doesn't it? All wet and shinny on a quiet Saturday morning.


Don't be tricked. These steps are evil. Especially if your Beloved thinks they're perfect for running up, and down. (There's a further set of steps, hidden from view, designed to make legs burn.)

And all that lush, green groundcover?

Disaster... for the hens at Crabapple House. Rumour has it, a den of foxes uses this area as home-base... and my poor chickens' pen as their larder!  (Ok, this happened only once, but I'm still crying for those lost chooks.)

So there you have it, My Neighbourhood on a wet Saturday morning. When runners push their unlaced shoes back into the cupboard, and foxes and chickens keep their noses dry another day.

Friday, March 02, 2012

March 2 - Fruit

In my own mind I like to call our home Crabapple House

Don't laugh. It doesn't yet sport a sign or anything elaborate, but one day we will name it formally and hang a shingle some place where others can see and mock, I mean join in the fun with us. We are, after all, surrounded by 7 gorgeous crabapple trees.

But their glory is long gone by the time we reach early autumn. Now is when our two fig trees shine. Tucked at the back, against the garden shed, they wait until all the other trees have wowed us, and just when we think the summer bounty is over, they offer their deliciousness. 

So finding today's photo challenge was as easy as picking it right off the branch. The perfect afternoon tea, paired with a good hunk of goat's cheese - I couldn't ask for more. Actually, I have been known to ask for a goat.

Imagine, being able to make my own, easy to digest cheese. But the answer was a resounding 'No.' Still, I'm happy to plate up my own fresh figs. Perhaps the goats will come in some retirement small farm dream of mine....

March 2, your rewards are sweet indeed!

 Are you a fan of the fig?  What favourite fruit do like to find on your plate?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Mission for March - Photoaday

My eye is always drawn to the remnants of life from another era. Anything old, anything not plastic. Nineteenth century is always a winner. So when I read about the March challenge by FatMumSlim to take a photo a day from her prescribed list, I wondered if I could capture something around me to fit in with my love of all things yesteryear.

Most things on her list marry well with my love of everything old. Some might be a challenge, like the sunglasses, and I'm going to have to think hard about day 29, but I'm looking forward to collecting 31 photos I hope will reflect the images which inspire my writing, and feed my love of Victorian life in Colonial Australia.

So, in an effort to share the world as I see it, here's my first photo. 
 March 1 - UP

The view from the bottom of our staircase. Wood, plaster, a brass hinge and glass. So far, so good.

For more photos, see Instagram #marchphotoaday.