December Days and the end of a year...

 I hope you've not overdone yourself this month? Many of you have a large family gathering at Christmas, which requires a bit more than the usual energy expenditure when family or guests visit for an 'ordinary' meal together. Hopefully you enjoyed this special season though, sharing the love and light of Jesus with those around you at home, and those far away whose voices made merry your heart over the phone or in a card or newsy letter. 

Ours was a fairly quiet Christmas, as is normal. We arrived at Blossom's around 7.30am to share breakfast with her, Ross and the children, opened gifts, listened to all that the children wanted to tell Poppy (as he works six days a week and does not see them as often as I do)...and we hugged, ate, played with the grandkids, before heading back home two hours later. After our visit the family had a tidy-up and Charlie had a nap, before they headed off to Ross's fathers house. Last year they came to our home, and will again next year, but in between years the main hours of the day are spent with Ross's family. :-)

Hubby and I relaxed the rest of the day (an unusually wet and moderately cool summer day for this time of year in the tropics), enjoyed a lunch of chicken cous cous salad and fresh baked bread, then we actually went and had a nap - something very rare for me as I normally cannot sleep in the daytime. Later we swam and floated in the pool between rain showers, and finished the day with a movie and some snacks. Oh, and some chocolate. mmm. nice. 

On the 28th of December we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. After breakfast he read to me a section of our marriage ceremony from the bible, and I read my part to him (both from Song of Songs). Then my dear man had to leave for work so I made sure dinner that night was one of his favourites (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad), and I recreated our wedding cake. The brother of hubby's best man was a baker and made a beautiful banana cake with passionfruit icing at my husband's request. I made a much smaller version, but very yummy, and yesterday dear Blossom came by for the day and so the cake was shared amongst the children and the leftover section given to them to take home. 

Now here we are, just two days from New Year, and I'm finding it to be a time of deep reflection on the year which has passed, something Blossom and I discussed in detail yesterday. New Year for us is a time to shake off things from the old year which had proved cumbersome, overwhelming, or simply not worth our effort. We spoke about the positives we had learned about ourselves, about God, and about life during 2022 and how we intended growing in a number of areas which we noticed needed our attention. We made some good plans, but we also invited the Holy Spirit to change those plans if need be, and to give us discernment and wisdom to hear God and follow where He leads us in 2023. 

Have you had a time of reflection? Any thoughts you'd like to share?

So how have I spent the past three weeks of absence from blogging? Well, I have moved my small sewing room around to accommodate more of an office area, and I'll show photos of that once I finish reorganising shelves etc. During these early days of going through every shelf and storage area of the sewing room/office I have been implementing ways to use less space, and was able to find larger storage containers for my threads which actually take up less room because instead of seven thread boxes I now have three, plus one container of duplicate threads which are still in skeins and can be stored elsewhere. 

I use mostly DMC stranded embroidery threads in my designs, but also Cosmo as I have the full range of them. As Cosmo are more expensive than DMC and not as readily found overseas, they tend to be my go-to for personal use or patterns which do not require specific thread numbers.

I love the enticing rows of pretty threads, their colours offering a glorious sheen in the morning light...

My January reading list awaits, though I do admit to having already finished one of the books this week, 'Gracious House Keeping' by Mrs Sharon White, which I really enjoyed.

The British Bake-Off recipe book was a gift from hubby, as was the yarn pack for Attic 24's new Crochet-a-long which begins in just over a week.

Reading, crochet, stitching, writing, baking, the garden...these are all things I look forward to through the coming year, some of which I spoke of last month in THIS blog post about planning ahead. 

I've begun to play around with some slightly different bread recipes already...

....and have harvested calendula flowers (which have been dried naturally) and will soon make tins of calendula salve for the family. Loads of elderberries have been processed already, which I processed into bottles of elderberry syrup for health and cool drinks this summer.

I baked my first Panetonne this December, which 4yo Rafaella absolutely loved, and made many jars of jam for gift giving. I also baked fresh scones to go with the jam for my elderly neighbour because she often requests both from me. :-)

Another plan for relaxation next year, besides the crochet and reading and baking, is some cross-stitch. It's been years since I did this, and though I prefer the rhythmic surface-hand-embroidery of my own designs, I do love cross-stitch and have a desire to pick up some Aida cloth and stitch some lovely pictures for our home. These are the patterns I purchased, two designs by Plum Street Samplers (love her designs!).
Stitching scripture, and my fondness for cows...

As my re-organisation progress continues in the sewing room/office, I have had to consider the hundreds of original hand embroidery pieces I have designed over the years, and stored away. Naturally I cannot use them all, even though every piece contains the memory of a time and place when I sketched the idea, traced the design onto fabric, and spent many hours hand embroidering to create a pretty picture in needle and thread. 
I have put aside the ones I really, really love and want to keep, and have begun sewing them into items I can use - but I am also sewing some into items I will sell in my shop further into 2023. 

This is a bag I shall keep! The Jane Austen design is truly one of my favourites and I will probably design more patterns using her quotes in the coming year, but for now, I love how this stitchery came alive as the pocket on a new bag...

The handles have ties, slightly off centre, which I thought was a lovely touch. 

Now let me show you one of the stitcheries which I'm currently completing as a cushion cover, and this one will be listed for sale in my shop later in January.

At the moment I'm still hand quilting the borders. 

The patterns for both of these hand embroideries can be found in my shop as instant digital downloads - use the links below. The detailed patterns are only for the hand embroidery blocks, not the bag or cushion cover instructions.

The fabrics used on the cushion cover are old Tilda prints, some of my favourites, so as I normally do at this time of the year, I stitched part of the Heartstrings embroidery again and bordering it with these lovely prints, made my self a new pincushion for 2023.

The only change I made to that section of the Heartstrings stitchery was to add a leaf to the tailfeather of the bird. I highly recommend you try using sections of embroidery patterns to create smaller projects. If you need some inspiration have a look at this old blog post from 2018. :-)

Before I sign off today, in response to some queries, yes I shall continue with the Emilie Barnes book study as we're only half way through the book, and I'm sorry I took such a long hiatus from it (but I needed to put my attention elsewhere for a while). 

As is usual every new year, the annual January tea towel blog post (with free pattern) will be shared in a couple of weeks, and we shall get back on track with Emilie Barnes and the next chapter, titled "The Secret of the Kitchen" at the same time.

I'll be back on January 1st (or 2nd) with the next free pattern in my new "Virtuous Wife" block of the month quilt. 
If you missed the November and December blocks they are HERE

I pray we all experience the grace and provision of our wonderful God in the coming year; that we grow closer to Him and draw further away from the ways of the world; that no matter what we face, we remain assured that we are not standing alone, but are held fast in the strong, loving, faithful arms of Christ. 

Bless you heaps!! See you next year...

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