Saturday, May 20, 2017

In Progress

I have several things on the go at the moment (apart from two novels needing to be finished and/or edited).

On my needles I have three pairs of socks in various stages of progress and one shawl (which has increased in size since I took the photo a few days ago).

First up I have the Zarathustra Socks from Ravelry. These look complex (they're not) and rather strange until they're embracing a foot. I have had so much fun with this pattern and can see myself doing it again ... and again.

So far, one sock complete and another in the very beginning stages.

Next, there are the Pin Stripe Socks in a self-patterning yarn that I had leftover from knitting for my daughters-in-law. I wanted something for knitting in the car where I didn't have to count rows or follow complex patterns. These fit the bill perfectly.

They're almost finished and I probably need to get onto them so I can cast on something else.

Finally, as far as socks go, I have a lace and cable pattern that I adapted from a pattern book. It doesn't photograph well. I've completed one sock and haven't got around to casting on for the second. But soon. It's a quick easy pattern.

All these socks utilise either a V-heel or French (Round) Heel worked toe up. I've fallen in love with these heels and the way they fit and have developed a quick reference system so that I know how many gusset increases, when to turn etc. The heels are worked similarly and it's really just a preference which one to work. The V-heel appears to be ideal for those with a narrower heel but the French Heel also fits comfortably. I doubt I'll ever go back to any other type of heel - at least for adult patterns.

The last item on my needles is a shawl using Malabrigo Yarn. I fell in love with this yarn years ago and it's never gone out of favour. I have two colours and hope to make an extra large shawl loosely based on the Prism Shawl. I have introduced a new colour (not seen in the photo) and did one repeat of Nightmare Stitch (also known as Dropped Stitch Pattern). Believe me, when you have over 100 stitches on your needles and then all those doubled yarn overs, my name for this pattern better suits. The yarn overs wouldn't slide easily along the needle and would cross over the knitted stitches and I estimate it took me four times as long to work that row than it would normally. It was a nightmare! But the craziest thing is that I plan to do another repeat further down in the shawl where I'm likely to have 300+ stitches!

I also have a quilt in progress which I'm hoping to work on some time today but the stained glass wall hanging is finally finished and waiting for DH to cut the rod to size so I can paint it and get the quilt on the wall.

Not exactly on my needles, but a few weeks ago I had cause to mend some hair sticks. I decided at the same time that I would make myself a few new ones. Unwisely, the headpins I used are not strong enough so I will have to source some new ones and redo the toppers, but I'm happy with the way they look - I just can't wear them yet because the beads bend the headpins, making them sag downwards! Not a good look.


Needles and beads and yarn and fabric aside, I am slowly working my way through Janette Oke's Return to the Canadian West series. I say slowly, because reading time is limited (and I have a whole new curriculum to read through for work -ugh!) and I am now old/mature/sensible enough to know that staying up reading until three in the morning - even on the weekend - is not a good idea.

And, as I am very well aware, I am still a work in progress and am thankful that I am being crafted by a Master Hand.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

All About Cleaning

When our children were little and my husband worked long hours, I made a habit of not doing housework on the weekend (apart from dishes and beds and several loads of washing). Now that I'm working, and weekends are precious, I try to ensure housework is up to date before Saturday morning. Doesn't always work, but it's a good goal.

Hence I avoid, as much as possible, working Friday afternoon - so that I can use that time to rush around like a lunatic cleaning and polishing and making our home spic 'n' span.

There is something relaxing, for me at least, to be able to sit down on Friday evening and marvel at a clean house.

But sometimes the effort required to get to that state is ... monumental.

Until recently when a friend (and clever salesperson) gave me Norwex cloths to trial. After three hours of cleaning I was hooked! With just plain water (yes, water!) and a cloth I was able to achieve a home that was sparkling clean.

Who wouldn't want to be able to clean with just water and reduce the use of chemicals? (Would you believe me if I said my home even feels and smells cleaner than before Norwex/E-Cloth - all with the use of just water?)

But the price!

Online research suggested that E-Cloth offered a similar product at a fraction of the cost. I purchased some of each, and this then is my unprofessional, un-sponsored, unbiased (maybe) review of the two products.
Norwex Kick Start Kit containing EnviroCloth, Window Cloth, and Dusting Mitt.

Norwex EnviroCloth. Loved, loved it! To be able to clean an entire house with one cloth was wonderful. For the first time ever I was able to remove soap scum in the shower with just plain ol' water. Imagine! However, my hands were not happy afterwards (red and dry and split and painful) but I had cleaned solidly for three hours, not wanting to stop when I saw the amazing results.

Norwex Window Cloth. After years of never having windows that sparkled despite untold effort, this cloth was a marvel. A spray of water, a wipe over and windows and mirrors were sparkling clean. And they seemed to stay that way longer (apart from doggy prints and granddaughters' sticky paws which no cloth could prevent).

Norwex Dusting Mitt. This worked well but I found it cumbersome. My preference would be to have two EnviroCloths and keep one dry and one wet for a wide range of cleaning purposes.

E-Cloth 8-Piece Home Cleaning Kit containing the following eight cloths:

E-Cloth Bathroom Cloth. As far as I'm concerned, this works as well as the EnviroCloth. I love that the E-Cloth pack has separate cloths for bathroom and kitchen. That alone makes them seem more hygienic. Of course, you could just have two EnviroCloths if you preferred.

E-Cloth Kitchen Cloth. This has a pocket for your finger for heavy duty scrubbing. I haven't used it yet. But the cloth works great in my opinion - as great as the Norwex.

E-Cloth Hob and Oven. This is another great cloth. Cleaned my gas hobs and oven with just water. The polishing cloth left my stove bright and shining.

E-Cloth Stainless Steel Cloth. This worked well. I'm just not sure it's necessary as the kitchen cloth seemed to work just as well. But it was in the 8-pack that I bought so I used it and will continue to do so. And it did leave my sink and chrome-ware gleaming so what's not to love about it?

E-Cloth Duster. I prefer this to the Norwex Mitt since I found it easier to use. However the Norwex Mitt was incredible on venetian blinds - and worth it just for that.

E-Cloth Window. I was sceptical of this cloth since it was a two-step process: wipe with cloth then finish up with polishing cloth. But I tried it and it worked and the extra step was worth the effort.

E-Cloth Glass and Polishing Cloths x2. There were two in the box which is very handy as I found one quickly became wet and they're best used dry. These work great on glass. And on granite. Especially on granite. And on my Falcon stove. I've decided to keep one in my kitchen along with the Kitchen Cloth so that I can always have shiny granite.

Verdict: The Norwex three-pack will clean an entire house but it's expensive. The Norwex Window Cloth is amazing but the E-Cloth Window is as good. (The Norwex Window Cloth may have been marginally better although the E-Cloth polishing cloth levelled the playing field.) The Norwex Dusting Mitt makes cleaning venetian blinds child's play but I found it cumbersome for general dusting.

The E-Cloth eight-pack provides a variety of cloths which performed as well as the Norwex, at a fraction of the price. I liked that there are separate cloths for bathroom and kitchen and the polishing cloth was amazing. I also think the E-Cloths were slightly smaller and thus a more manageable size in my opinion.

As much as I loved the Norwex - probably because I tried this brand first and was amazed at the results - I would probably recommend the E-Cloths to friends and family since they performed to the same standard and were a lot kinder on the wallet.

Whether Norwex or E-Cloth: maximum results for minimum effort.

Now, please excuse me while I go and sit back and enjoy my sparkling home. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Seven Family Activities That Build Faith

As a parent one of the greatest joys in life is to see our children growing and maturing in faith. As a young parent I read an article that suggested that for children from Christian homes, stepping into a faith they naturally owned should be as natural as a duck taking to water.

Natural, but not always easy. And our children have a mind and will of their own, after all. So what are some things we can do as parents that can help build faith in our children?

I, by no means, have all the answers, but these are what worked for our family:

1. Church. Ten years ago I would have thought this obvious and yet after years of youth ministry, my husband and I have been surprised at how often this has been a "choice" in Christian families. We were strict - and our rules may not be for everyone - but we did church every week and our children were encouraged to set aside this day for worshipping the Lord and enjoying time with family. No part-time job or sporting team was to interfere with us all worshipping together as a family. Some times my husband was forced to work Sundays (and some jobs, particularly those in essential services such as medical, fire, police, defence work, etc do not fit nicely into a five or six day working week) but everyone in our family knew that generally speaking, Sunday was for church. And we went together.

Our preference was for a church that allowed us to worship together as a family unit for at least part of the service, before everyone went off to their separate areas, as we felt that parents had a great opportunity to train children right there in the pew.

Whatever your beliefs and manner of worship, I believe this first activity for building faith shouldn't be overlooked.

2. Eat together. At the table. Where all family members can talk. With busy schedules, this can be difficult. I know that. We struggled with it too. Not because of busy schedules so much but because I hate being cold and New Zealand homes tend to be cold. Especially dining rooms with no heating. In winter we would migrate into the living room in front of the fire to eat. And the TV. I can guarantee that the meals in front of the fire did not provide the opportunities for discussion as did those around the dining room table simply because with that box directly in front of us it took a lot of willpower to keep it switched off. Willpower we often didn't possess, sadly. (Not being face-to-face with one another wasn't conducive to conversation either.) Wherever you choose to eat, keep the TV turned off, ban cell phones and other devices for the duration of the meal, and eat together.

Use this time to share news of the day. At first it might be awkward, but it can become a wonderful time of building relationships, learning what struggles and concerns other family members have, and supporting each other without distractions. It's important to put that phone away for half an hour or turn off the TV and give undivided attention to other members of the family. It might be the only time anyone truly listens to them all day.

3. Pray together. I would encourage whole-family devotions either at meal time or bed time. If there are a range of ages in the family, my suggestion is to gear it to the youngest member. You can always delve into a deeper study with older children at a later time when the younger ones are in bed. Bed-time prayers are also important for training young children in their faith and understanding.

Share prayer requests. No matter how small. Of course, you may not want to share all the details of your requests with young children but asking them to pray for Daddy's job without telling them your fears of redundancy and not being able to make the mortgage repayments shows them that you trust God to be interested in every aspect of your life. Pray with them about the friend that is hurting or the teacher who seems unfair (without judging the teacher) and share the answers when you receive them. "Remember we prayed for Daddy's job? Well, God answered our prayers and Daddy has received a promotion."

4. Get outside. Enjoy the outdoors together and all that God has created. This is easy for us as we live in a beautiful part of the world with access to the outdoors at our fingertips. I have stood on a mountain and felt the majesty of God and wanted to shout praises. My husband feels that the bush is a temple where he can worship God. Share these experiences with your children. Whatever it is that you like to do - climb mountains, scale rocks, swim in the ocean, kayak rapids, go stargazing, collect seashells, go bird watching, run cross country - whatever - do it with all your might and remember the God who created it all.

Explore the world's wonders. Volcanoes. Caves. Geysers. The Milky Way. Whatever your local area has to offer and those further afield. And remember the Creator. Share what He has done. Share Bible verses that talk of His wondrous acts. Enjoy and experience our natural world.

5. Enjoy events together. This can be whatever you enjoy doing together as a family. Picnics. Mini golf. Horse riding. Archery. Concerts. Team sports. A day at the beach. Camping. Drives in the country. Ten pin bowling. Golf. Musical recitals. Whatever it is that you love to do, do it as a family.

We would always pray together whenever we were about to embark on a car journey as a family (and still do even though our children are now adults). We would ask for safe travels, naturally, but we would also ask that the time we had together as a family would unite and strengthen our family. And then we would go off and have fun.

This doesn't mean everything always went smoothly. Sometimes we were rained out, or had car trouble, or forgot some essential item or items, or were snowed in during our spring holiday, but these "misfortunes" also created memories and bonded us more closely together as family.

I believe that our unspoken motto was that the family that prays and plays together, stays together. And by praying before enjoying any event together, we both prayed and played with the effect that it strengthened our family (and I believe still does so today with grandchildren in the mix).

6. Read together. I cannot guess at the number of books my husband and I have read to our children over the years. But it would be lots and lots. Any teacher will tell you how valuable it is to read to your child and the benefits to your child in terms of education and relationship. And, yes, that is important. But books also give you an opportunity to present a Christian worldview without sounding preachy (unless the books you choose to read are preachy). There are books that are overtly Christian, others like C. S. Lewis' Narnia tales that appeal to both Christian and non-Christian readers alike, and those that perhaps appear "neutral" as far as faith goes but which endorse Christian values. For the older child who is learning to dissect what they hear and read, reading a story that may differ from some of your beliefs can provide an opportunity to discuss your beliefs with your children and why you hold such beliefs. Obviously, if the book contains scenes and language that seriously challenge your own beliefs it may be better not to read it.

And do not forget biographies. These can open a window to viewing how faith is lived out in daily life. Ordinary people serving an extra-ordinary God.

7. Serve together. Find ways to serve together as a family. Go Christmas carolling. Help out at a soup kitchen or some event at church. Sponsor a child together. Host a visiting speaker in your home or write letters to a missionary. Prepare a family item for the Christmas Service or go door-to-door inviting neighbours. Clean your local Christian school. Wash a neighbour's windows or mow their lawns for free. Visit a rest home or elderly neighbour. Fold pamphlets for the church's Christmas drop. Collect items to send to an overseas orphanage. Go on a short-term mission as a family. Find ways to serve Christ together that utilise the gifts and abilities of members in the family.

Finally ...

While I believe these activities are all important for growing faith in children (and I didn't always do so well on some of them) I believe an important habit we should cultivate is the habit of including God in our daily conversation. Never miss a chance to talk about God with your children. When enjoying the outdoors, a comment such as "What an awesome God we have to create all this" inspires awe in children and grows their faith. When watching a documentary or movie, see this as an opportunity to express your faith. If the beliefs differ, don't be afraid to discuss this with older children. Examining what Scripture says in light of what they've seen or heard is valuable in helping them understand their own faith. Naturally, you are going to want to avoid movies or shows with scenes that are violent, sexual, or disturbing or which contain inappropriate language. And if you're struggling to find  movies or shows that reflect your beliefs, you might like to check out Pure Flix's collection of Christian movies.

Encouraging children to pray and praying with them for each of their concerns teaches them to trust to God for answers. Teach them what God's Word says and how to put it into practice. And model faith in your own life. If you don't practice what you preach, they won't get it.

(Disclaimer: I do not receive any income, reimbursement or other from Pure Flix that could be considered payment or reimbursement.. I was happy to link their website as a site that offers support and resources for Christian families.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ANZAC Part Two

ANZAC Day is remembered in Australia and New Zealand alike with ANZAC services, The Last Post, and, of course, ANZAC Biscuits (which I made yesterday especially for today). And in both countries, it is often a time for family time together. Today DH and I had the immense joy of spending time with half our family. Half, because Son#1 and his family and Son#3 and his wife were unable to join us.

A manageable drive and we were able to explore and walk part of the Sledge Track. I have a feeling that we will be returning ...


And if we do return, some of us may even do more than bushwalk and actually tramp the longer and more difficult tracks. I know that The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5 is keen!

ANZAC Part One

The rest of the world may not know much about us, may confuse us (how Kiwis hate that!), may not be able to locate us on a map, or may pronounce place names incorrectly, or, worse still, may think we are one and the same. And while we do differ and are distinct, there are several things that Australia and New Zealand have in common but nothing seems to unite our two countries more than ANZAC Day. In both countries it is a statutory holiday. In both countries it is marked by a memorial service (more often than not a Dawn Service). In both countries the dead are remembered - those that gave their all for their country and its freedom - and the living servicemen and servicewomen honoured.

Removed as we are from the realities of war by time and distance, it is often easy to forget the sacrifice paid by those who have gone before. Only recently was I made aware of the price my father-in-law paid. I knew about his injury and the fact that he was on an army operating table on his twenty-first birthday; I knew that he named his eldest son after his best friend who fell at his side; I knew that he chose not to talk about his experiences until much later in life; but the nightmares, the mental impact, I had not considered, at least as far as he was concerned. And when I do consider, I can't help but wonder how many others nursed severe unseen wounds, mental and emotional. For some, they may have thought the friends they left behind in unmarked graves had it easier.




I don't know and I was never brave enough to ask those questions of my father-in-law but I am grateful. Grateful for his willingness to go to war, to put his life on hold, and even on the line if need be, to protect a way of life that we often take for granted.

Which is why we can never forget. Had they not gone and fought, our history for the last one hundred years may have been very, very different.

Therefore ...

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

(From Laurence Binyon's poem, For the Fallen.)

Monday, April 24, 2017

MIA: Southern Lights

Last night DH and I drove out to the beach in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Southern Aurora. Usually its display is not seen this far north - and certainly not of the calibre of display on show this weekend - but with sky gazers seeing it in Auckland on Saturday night, we thought it was worth a try.

Alas, this is all we saw ...

(For those not in the know, these are the lights of town looking back from the river mouth.)

The Southern Aurora appears to be the lesser known sibling to the Northern Aurora. Just as spectacular, apparently, but seen less often. Perhaps because there's less open land devoid of lights from which to view it. Or perhaps because we have the erroneous idea that only the Northern Lights are worth chasing.

I had hoped for a glimpse of the Southern Lights when DH and I holidayed down south last year, even though it was 'out of season'. It was not to be.

Last night Wellingtonians were rewarded with a spectacular display. I'm almost tempted to drive south tonight just to see if we, too, can catch a glimpse.

However, we are not without hope. There is the chance that the display will be repeated in 25-28 days and this time I won't be giving up and going home before midnight. Not now that I know that an hour either side of midnight is the best time for viewing. (Why didn't I learn this before last night? At least we stayed longer than anyone else but we still left too early - that's if there was anything to see from our particular vantage point.)

And if this should prove futile? Well perhaps we can plan another trip down south. Between March and September. Or perhaps we can console ourselves with the thought that we think we may have seen the lights in the past when travelling late at night ... we just didn't realise at the time what the green or pink glow in the sky signified.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Sweetness

Despite the rain ... despite the storm that was predicted and didn't eventuate ... despite disrupted holiday plans for some ... we had an Easter filled with sweetness ...

The Most Adorable Granddaughters#4 and #5 asked to visit, and, not realising they'd be awake at 5.30 am both days, we readily agreed. A local event saw us hunting for painted rocks in exchange for Easter eggs. This was harder than it first seemed until The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5 discovered it was much easier to find rocks if one followed the man who was hiding them!

Then it was off for a Sausage Sizzle in the rain followed by face painting. When the rain clouds gathered overhead a second time we decided it was time to leave!

Our pastor's message on Sunday was particularly moving and inspiring ... the Roman guards who handed us three nails apiece as we entered the door was an object lesson we'll never forget (even if we were anxious all through church that a Most Adorable Granddaughter or two could end up being poked with one or more) ... and again we appreciated the opportunity to remember all that Christ did for us on the cross.

On Easter Monday, empty nesters again, DH and I enjoyed a walk together, avoiding most of the mud (unlike Son#4 who brought half of it home from camp with him), spooking some wildlife, managing to stay dry, and taking in some amazing views. And practically all in our own backyard! Next time we're taking some Most Adorable Granddaughters with us.

(By the way, I have recently been informed that I do not 'tramp'. I have used the word interchangeably with 'hike' but according to some of the males in my family, tramping is a more difficult level to that in which I normally participate. [Really? Some of what I've done has not exactly been a walk in the park!] Apparently I only 'walk'. Therefore I will try to remember in future to use the term 'bushwalking' - even if I'm not technically walking in bush - rather than tramping.)