Category Archives: Memories

Past, present, future

Our church is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and there have already been a variety of events marking the milestone. This weekend was the anniversary weekend and it included a banquet last night and a special service this morning. The guest speaker at the banquet commended us for having a party, for celebrating and rejoicing in fifty great years. He also told us to meditate on the blessings of those years. So I have been.

When we arrived in Canada we went church shopping, visiting a handful of churches in the area where we were buying our house. Alta Vista was one of those churches. I remember the first time we came, we were welcomed at the door by two women involved in the Sunday School program. Our girls were invited to participate in the appropriate classes which ran before the service. Those two women are still involved in Christian Ed. at our church and have led or taught our children over the years.

After Sunday school finished we sat in the service behind the new pastor’s family. Chatting to his wife we discovered they had just arrived in town, and were waiting to move into their new house as we were. Seeing that I was eight months pregnant she could also relate to moving with a brand new baby. Our younger daughters, we noticed, were close in age and although the friendship may not have started that day, start it did. From that first meeting has grown a strong friendship between our two daughters and between our two families.

Following church that first Sunday we were invited home for lunch by a couple who, again, are still involved in our church and have become friends of ours. I was telling them last night how much that invitation meant to us, how much we appreciated their hospitality and how their kindness impacted our decision to come back to the church again.

After our son was born we visited the church again and people remembered us and were delighted to meet B. There were two women in particular who were happy to take him off our hands at the potluck luncheon so that we could eat and help the girls. Their help did not stop at holding our baby, later that day they arrived at our door with a rocking chair, as I had told them I had nowhere to sit and feed B. Our friendships with these two couples and several others in our congregation have also become special. It is these couples who sit where grandparents would sit at our girls’ violin recitals. Not once, but over and over, they have come and encouraged the girls and always ask when they will have the next opportunity to do so.

Not only have couples older than us come along side and encouraged and supported us here. We have developed some wonderful friendships with young couples who have come to our home and enjoyed family life with us before they had families of their own. They have loved and invested in our children so much so that our children are as delighted to hear they are coming over as they would be with their peers. Just as they baby sat our children over the years L and A are more than willing to baby sit theirs in the future.

Around our dining room table over the years we have formed some lasting and significant friendships. Not only as we shared meals but also as we studied God’s word. For several years we were part of a small group made up of a couple with grandchildren, a couple with grown children, ourselves with young ones and a couple with no children. People came in and out of the group but the breakdown of ages remained the same. I loved to sit in the group and hear the perspectives, struggles and victories of each different member. We all had something to share and something to learn. These people cared for our family in many ways, from staying to babysit and pray when we took a child to hospital in the night to faithfully praying for years for members of our families who they had never met.

Having left all our family on the other side of the world we are not able to join them for special celebrations. I would love to welcome our parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews into our home for birthday parties and Christmas dinners. Our church family know that and know we miss them. As I thought last night about the Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving dinners we have enjoyed with friends from our church I was overwhelmed by the way families have shared their families with us. We have sat around fires, sung songs, taken sleigh rides, exchanged gifts, hunted for eggs and of course eaten a great amount of wonderful food in homes of people who we are privileged to call friends.

As I think and write about these blessings I realise that there is more to our church than great friends. It is for us a place of learning and growth, a place where each one of us is encouraged and enabled to use their gifts and talents and a place where we are challenged to become more like Christ. Maybe I’ll expand on those thoughts another day. Today I want to thank God for the people he placed in our church over the years, knowing that He would greatly bless our family through them.

Landing day

Seven years ago today we landed in Canada. We left Melbourne in the morning and arrived 24 hours later, but still on the same day, in Ottawa. I was seven and a half months pregnant and so tired that I sat on the floor of the airport in order to be beside the suitcases that we could find while Andrew looked for the one that we couldn’t find. L6 and A4 played around near me.

In the weeks that followed landing day we started a new job, bought a house, bought a car, learned to drive on the other side of the road, moved into the house, welcomed our first guest and had a baby!

Seven years later we are living in the same house and the baby is nearly seven. While there are many similarities between Australia and Canada, there are also distinct differences. Our house here has a basement, which is just as well as we have multiple pairs of skates and skis to store. In winter we try to use the skis on a weekly basis. Summer no longer includes trips to the beach, but we have discovered the joys of cottage life. Our diet includes a little more maple syrup, the occasional poutine, peaches & cream corn, blueberries and pumpkin pie. It is lacking in vegemite, meat pies, timtams and passionfruit.

Our appreciation of the seasons has grown as we long for spring after an endless winter, or watch for the first snow flakes after the leaves have fallen. We compare the colours each fall and count the bags of leaves we rake up. We make the most of our summers, but we love the beauty and sports of winter too. If you haven’t been here and you’d like to experience it for yourself, just let us know.

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(photo: HD)

The Cottage Chronicles (part 4)

As I mentioned a few days ago the club holds many programs and special events for the members. We were able to enjoy several of them while we were there. One night we all boated over for craft night, an event designed for the children. The craft was felt making and although it took quite a while each child ended up with a piece of felt with a coloured design embedded in it. Everyone started with a piece of white wool fleece and laid smaller, coloured pieces of wool fleece over the top making a design. When that was done each design was laid on a bamboo blind and sprinkled with water. Then the muscles had to kick in as the blind with all the individual designs inside was rolled up and pressure was applied by rolling the rolled blind back and forth over and over again. The end result were artistic pieces of felt, some with pictures, some with random colourful designs.

Another day N and I set off in the boat for the Ladies Luncheon, also held at the club house. The theme for this year’s lunch was “Wear what you dare” , find something in your cottage closet! I had grabbed a dress from home, but N had other plans for me: she found, in the closet, something which had belonged to Aunt Doie. We were not quite sure what it was; our guess was a gym suit, so I put my hair in two little pony tails. Once we arrived at the luncheon, Aunt Doie’s friend informed us that it was a “romper” and she could remember Aunt Doie wearing it. (As you can imagine I was the only one at the luncheon in a romper!)

N wore a beautiful Lace covered dress (70s is my guess) picked up at Value Village. I know it wasn’t from cottage closet, but it’s true role was to set off the vintage parasol which was indeed from the cottage and was no doubt used by one of N’s ancestors. It was beautiful, the fabric did contain some little holes but the lace was in perfect condition. N and parasol were in demand for photos once we arrived. The luncheon, by the way, was delicious.

After the exertion of the swim regatta and the requisite drying out afterwards, the girls managed to practise a skit for the annual Skit night at the club. Being the centenary, several families created songs or skits which looked back over the years or forward to the future. The “Lake Band” a group of teen musicians played and screened a video they had made of themselves playing two years earlier. Our four girls prepared a scene from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” for which they have perfected the English accents. It was a very entertaining night. After it was all over one of the “lakers” came up to me and informed me that as my family had all competed in the regatta and then performed at the skit night we really should be given “laker” status! Now all I need is the cottage!?!

Home

I am currently living in my thirteenth home. I find it hard to imagine what it would have been like to live in the same house all my childhood, then move to another and live in that in my adulthood, but I know that is some peoples’ experience. I can’t easily answer “Where is your home town?” or “Where do you call home?”

If a person’s home town is where they were born then mine is a little town on a tiny island in Bass Strait but I was two when I left there so I don’t remember it at all. There is something about being born on a little island that is special though and I am always interested to hear news of King Island.

I don’t think it is the length of time that you live in a place that makes it home, I haven’t lived in any house longer than seven years and lived in one only eight months but they were both home.  It is what goes on in my house that makes it home. It is the conversations, celebrations, the work, the play, the busyness and the quiet. It is the people who make it home.

When I visited my parents’ current home in Australia two years ago it felt like home to me even though I have never lived there. They were there and I was surrounded by things from my childhood, memories of home. I could show my children the biscuit tin(which they would call a cookie tin) from which I was allowed to take two biscuits when I arrived home from school, only one biscuit with icing, one without. I also recognised glasses in the cupboard which I thought very beautiful and elegant as a child because they had gold and frosted patterns on them. They were home to me too, reminders of special occasions when we drank special drinks out of them. I looked at pictures on the walls and could remember them hanging on other walls in our other homes, some of them pictures of our other home towns.

We have in our home the dining table that my grandparents bought when they were married. It is a beautiful table and I love having it, not only because it is a nice piece of furniture but because my grandparents used this table, my dad and his brother grew up eating meals at this table. As a child visiting my grandparents home I sat at the table with the other grandchildren and family for Christmas dinner. It has been part of home for 75 years.

Home is where I spend the large majority of my time. I am a home maker, a home schooler, a stay at home mum. I work at home, teach at home, play at home, keep the home and cherish this home. I am reminded though, that unless the Lord builds the house those that build it labour in vain. This home is both the Lord’s gracious gift to me and His task for me.

Listening and remembering

Music can take you places.
I’m not sure why, but I am having an Aus rock week. Every song I play reminds me of somewhere or some time or someone. The other night I was listening to “Fathers’ Day” by Weddings Parties Anything which makes me think of my cousins, who were big fans. Before that I had some Australian Crawl and then various Cold Chisel songs playing: Saturday Night, Flame trees, Bow River, it was odd to hear them all again. That led me on to Midnight Oil which reminded me of concerts at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with my brother and his uni friends.

Last night it was Hunters and Collectors and Crowded House.

Tonight it is Paul Kelly and songs about places I know.

I know I’m showing my age with that list but that’s fine. We did receive this and this for Christmas so I’m not living in the past all the time.

Lamingtons

As promised B6 and I made an Australian food mentioned in Possum Magic. Lamingtons are blocks of butter cake or sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in coconut. The cake is less likely to crumble if made a day ahead so I did that the night before. Making Lamingtons can be a fairly messy activity. I left B6 whisking the chocolate icing at one stage and came back to find it splattered on the wall. This just reminded me of the Lamington drives I participated in as a teen.

Our youth group did Lamington drives as fundraisers. We would collect orders for boxes of a dozen lamingtons and then gather on a Saturday to spend the day making them. The cake part was purchased from a bakery or supplier, then we mixed up the icing and rolled hundreds of squares of cake in icing, then in coconut. You can imagine what our church hall looked like at the end.

We have shared our lamingtons with a few friends and their responses were enthusiastic. If you would like to make them here is the recipe we followed:

Lamingtons

img_2462crop.jpg 125g (4oz) butter
¾ cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
pinch salt
½ cup milk

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beat well. Fold in sifted dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Spoon into a greased and greased paper lined 18cmx28cm lamington tin (squares tin). Bake in moderate oven 30 to 40 minutes. Allow to stand in the tin for a few minutes before turning out on to cake cooler. It is best to make the cake the day before you want to cut and ice the lamingtons, as fresh cake will usually crumble. Cut the cake into squares about 4x5cm. Dip in chocolate icing, then toss in coconut. Place on grease proof paper while icing sets.

Chocolate icing for lamingtons: Sift 500g icing sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa into a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons melted butter to ½ cup warmed milk. Add sufficient milk mixture to icing sugar mixture to make a smooth consistency; beat well.

img_2465crop.jpgIt is quite a messy process rolling the lamingtons in chocolate icing. We used skewers to hold the pieces of cake and roll them in the icing. We also put our bowl of icing in a larger dish of hot water to keep it from setting too quickly. I didn’t pour all the icing into the bowl at the beginning because after a while it thickens and gets bits of coconut and cake floating in it. At the end you have some chocolate icing with cake and coconut in it so you can’t really use it for anything else. You also have some coconut with globs of icing in it so you can’t really use it for anything else. So you have to just eat it, really, don’t you?

Anzac Biscuits

I was going to post this recipe on Anzac Day but after making then sharing the biscuits at Group of Four this week I received several requests for the recipe straight away. Anzacs are rolled oat biscuits which were renamed Anzacs some time after World War I. Since our family moved to this part of the world we have learned to say “cookies” not “biscuits” but this must never be done in the case of Anzacs. As explained in Wikipedia:

The term ANZAC is protected under Australian law [1] and therefore the word should not be used without permission from the RSL, and its misuse can be legally enforced, particularly for commercial purposes. There is a general exemption granted for Anzac biscuits, as long as they remain basically true to the original recipe and are sold and referred to as Anzac biscuits and never as cookies.

img_2350crop.jpg Anzac Biscuits
4oz butter
1 tbs golden syrup
1 cup coconut
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1½ tsp baking soda
2 tbs boiling water

Combine rolled oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut. Combine butter and golden syrup, stir over gentle heat until melted. Mix soda with boiling water, add to melted butter mixture, stir into dry ingredients. Use dessert spoon to spoon dollops of mixture onto greased oven trays; allow room for spreading. Bake in slow oven (300°F) 20 minutes. Cool on trays.

More on dresses

I mentioned my Aunty Dot the other day as one of the three aunts who taught me to sew.  Aunty Dot had been a home economics teacher but was retired when I knew her. In me she found a willing student. It was in her kitchen that I learned how to make scones, always rubbing in the butter, never melting it. It was in her living room that I learned to sew, beginning with the dolls clothes and accessories I wanted to make . img_2256crop.jpgWe still have some of the clothes I made, under her supervision, for Barbie and Wendy. In amongst the clothes, also are those that she made, many of them works of art. There are reversible dresses, skirts and cloaks for Wendy. Beautifully sewn evening gowns, complete with strings of pearls, lined coats and suits, and frilly nightclothes were created for Barbie. At left are some of the clothes in just as good shape now as they were when I played with them 35 years ago.

She also made some lovely clothes for my mother and me. Yes, I still have some of them too. I don’t hoard everything, but an original item of clothing made out of a beautiful piece of fabric is hard to give away. And you never know, I just might find the right occasion to wear it one day.

Last May my own girls and some of their friends wanted to learn how to sew. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them on Friday afternoons. There were looks of satisfaction on their faces as they completed each step and looks of disappointment when I told them that something needed to be redone. Perhaps I had similar looks on my face when my great aunt showed me how to unpick and try again. Never the less I’m glad she did.