A peaceful day

Phillipians 4:4-8

For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light. Psalm 36:9

Rabbit! Rabbit!

Posted by Jeanne

Even Mr. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, has confessed to a friend that he says 'Rabbits' on the first of every month—and, what is more, he would not think of omitting the utterance on any account.
The Nottingham Evening Post 27th November, 1935
When I was a very little boy I was advised to always murmur 'White rabbits' on the first of every month if I wanted to be lucky. From sheer force of unreasoning habit I do it still—when I think of it. I know it to be preposterously ludicrous, but that does not deter me.
Sir Herbert Russell, On Superstition. Life's Fancies and Fantasies 1925

It always gives me a great deal of satisfaction if I remember to say, "Rabbit! Rabbit," on the first day of the month. I'm not superstitious - never have been, but somehow I still like to think that if I remember to say the magical words, the month will be a happy one. I don't know anybody else that follows the old tradition, although google tells me I'm in good company - which is somewhat of a relief. It's nice to know that I'm not entirely nutty, even if I do try and sort of turn the words into a rough type of mumbled cough if my Beloved is still in the room. "Cough, cough, ahem, er rabbits, cough."

Trixie Belden awoke slowly, with the sound of a summer rain beating against her window. She half-opened her eyes, stretched her arms above her head, and then, catching sight of a large sign tied to the foot of her bed, yelled out, “Rabbit! Rabbit!” She bounced out of bed and ran out of her room and down the hall. “I’ve finally done it!” she cried ... “Well, ever since I was Bobby’s age I’ve been trying to remember to say ‘Rabbit! Rabbit!’ and make a wish just before going to sleep on the last night of the month. If you say it again in the morning, before you’ve said another word, your wish comes true.” Trixie laughed.
Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Emeralds

This was not a family tradition for me - my first introduction to the idea was in my early teens through my much loved Trixie Belden books. Book 14 (yes, I read them all) begins with an explanation of Rabbit! Rabbit!, and so my method is exactly the same as Trixie's, although it seems there are a lot of variations. Some people say Rabbit; others Rabbits or White Rabbits or Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! Some have variations for the night before - Trixie said Rabbit! Rabbit! there, too, and so did I, only at some stage in the last forty years or so, I've changed from that to saying "Hares". The magic still works, though.

To be absolutely honest, I don't know whether a Rabbit month is luckier than a non-Rabbit one. Once I say the words I tend to forget about it all until the end of the month comes around, and if I forget, well so far life has gone on much as before. But the idea that a ritual like this could actually influence anything isn't the point. The point is that it is fun, and it is one of the many things that makes our family life a delight. I love passing traditions like this onto my daughter. I love creating memories for her of things that make us special and different.

To be honest, I don't think I could give up the habit even if I wanted to. I don't actually plan to say Rabbit! until I remember. And then I do, and I feel inordinately pleased with myself.

So today has been a good month. And February's going to be a very, very good month. I've done my bit, anyhow. How can it not be after that?

Rabbit! Rabbit!

I hope February is great for you, too.



Summer in Australia

Posted by Jeanne

From my commonplace book:

My hair was grey with dust, so I washed all over, arrayed myself in a cool white dress, and throwing myself in a squatter's chair in the veranda, spread my hair over the back of it to dry. Copies of Gordon, Kendall, and Lawson were on my lap, but I was too physically content and comfortable to indulge in even these, my sworn friends and companions. IBsurrendered myself to the mere joy of being alive. How the sunlight blazed and danced in the roadway--the leaves of the gum-trees gleaming in it like a myriad gems! A cloud of white, which I knew to be cockatoos, circled over the distant hilltop. Nearer they wheeled until I could hear their discordant screech. The thermometer on the wall rested at 104 degrees despite the dense shade thrown on the broad old veranda by the foliage of creepers, shrubs, and trees. The gurgling rush of the creek, the scent of the flower-laden garden, and the stamp, stamp of a horse in the orchard as he attempted to rid himself of tormenting flies, filled my senses. The warmth was delightful. Summer is heavenly, I said--life is a joy.

Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career



Painting ain't work

Posted by Jeanne

“Say—I’m going in a swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work—wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it aint. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move. “Like it? Well I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to note the effect —added a touch here and there—criticised the effect again—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

“No—no—I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence—right here on the street, you know—but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.

“No—is that so? Oh come, now—lemme just try. Only just a little—I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly—well Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it—”

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say—I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here—. No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard—”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face but alacrity in his heart.

Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer

Tom didn't want to paint his fence. Aunt Polly told him to do it, but Tom found a way to get his friends to finish it for him. He pretended to be the only one who could do the job as well as his aunt wanted; he pretended to be enjoying it. Then they all wanted a turn. Tom even received payment from them for the 'privilege', in the form of their small treasures. It is perspective that defines something as fun or drudgery.

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.

Jemimah dad has read Tom Sawyer, and it certainly showed today. He made Jemimah find old clothes to wear if she wanted to paint. He told her she couldn't paint in her shoes, so she fashioned some out of plastic shopping bags ( the height of fashion). He told her she couldn't paint without sunscreen, so she found some. He told her she needed to tie her hair back, so she did. By then she was desperate to get out there.

The two of them have been out scrubbing back and painting that fence for much of the afternoon. They're having an absolute ball together, and they're doing a wonderful job covering up the ugly graffiti that the local hoons chose to gift us with over Christmas.

Painting a fence with Daddy is so much better than sitting inside with an iPad, or even reading a book. Theyre outside. They're working together as a team. They're having fun getting a job done well. They're creating whimsical memories of nice times together.

Painting fences, climbing trees, fishing in streams, camping out, running away from grownups, finding buried treasure - they're all adventures of childhood, and they're things we all dream of doing. Which is probably why Tom Sawyer has remained popular for so long. Tom lives life to the full, and he has fun, and never really gets into trouble. Well, I'm kind of glad the things that happened to Tom never happened to me - or to Jemimah - but I guess that's why I liked reading about him doing them while I was snuggled safely in my living room, but you get the idea.

Classics are classics for a reason. Their messages are timeless; the friends contained in their pages are timeless. Tom is Jemimah's friend, but he's also her daddy's. And through the pages of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain has taught us all lessons we need to know. Like how to get your daughter outside to paint the fence with you. And how to make her think that it is not drudgery but fun. And while you're at it, Tom can also teach you how to make her think the idea was hers and not yours. Hah! Booyah! (Jemimah might just have taught me that one.)

Is Tom your kids' friend too?



Who are you, my friend?

Posted by Jeanne


Y'all know I've been in a blogging slump for a while. For a couple of years now, really. I look back at my old posts sometimes, and I'm sorta in awe that I wrote them. I mean they're good - really good. I can't write like that anymore, and that makes me sad.

Nowadays, all I write is boring AO posts, and mostly even those are written so I don't forget something that I think some of you need to know, and because I feel that I should. There is no spark, no joy, no something special. Sometimes I think I should call it a day, but I find it really hard to just stop. I mean, I've made some really wonderful friends blogging, and I'd hate to lose touch with you all. So I keep trying, and I keep failing, and keep trying and keep failing and...well, repeat.

This Christmas I treated myself to Pip Lincolne's ebook, Shake it Up - 30 Days to a Rad, More True-to-You Blog. Pip is one of my blogging heroes. She is always up-beat, always fun, always interesting. When I grow up, I'm going to be Pip. Once I went into her old shop, Meet Me At Mikes, and she was there, and I wanted to tell her how amazing she was, but I was afraid she wouldn't find that cool, and so I didn't, and I've kinda always regretted that. After all, nobody hates being told they're awesome, right? Even an überblogger like Pip.

Over the Christmas holidays, I've been slowly inching my way through the inspiring ideas contained in Pip's book, working on the exercises, and trying to decide exactly what I want the pages of my blog to look like. One of the more interesting tasks was to define my Favourite Reader Profile. She wants to know who you are, or rather, she wants me to know. So for the last few days, I've been thinking about you, and just who you are.

Let me see how close I am.

One thing I know for sure, and that is that you're my dear friend. You're probably a homeschooler, or at the very least, you're homeschool friendly, and you're most likely a Charlotte Mason fan. You may use AO, and you like ideas that make your homeschool day run more smoothly.

You love books and reading, and you want your kids to love them too. You may have a bit of a book problem, and you delight in encouraging me with mine. You love photos of my library shelves, and ideas of books for you and your kids to read. My Japanese literature fetish leaves you scratching your head, but you're willing to give one a try. Your favourite books include 84, Charing Cross Road and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, both of which really fuel your desire for more book titles.

You're either an Aussie, or you like learning what makes my life different from yours. You love living vicariously through my travels, and my insatiable desire to see new lands amuses you. You wish we could travel together.

You don't watch much telly, but you love a good movie. You're a secret Dr Who fan, and you may just have looked forward to December more for the release of the new Star Wars movie than for Christmas. You've seen the movie, and are privately rather disappointed with what you saw. Christmas, on the other hand, was perfect because, you know, Christmas.

You love 70% dark chocolate, peanut butter and a combination of the two. You don't drink much, but are amused by my love of champagne. You join me in a love of good tea and coffee.

You are a Christian, and are interested in what makes my flavour of Reformed faith different from yours. The fact that my church practices exclusive psalmody and doesn't celebrate Christmas intrigues you.

You don't vaccinate your children. That's all I have to say about that.

Actually, I think I have nothing more to say about you, except to reiterate how much I love and care for you. When I write here, I write for you, and I want to write what you want to read.

How did I go? Did I picture you correctly at all? Tell me where I went wrong. I'd love to know you better, and hopefully, if I get I better idea of who you are, I might be able to get a better idea or how to make this blog one that you want to read and I want to write. I'd like that very much.

Oh, and Happy New Year. May God bless and keep you throughout 2016. You are very special to me, dear one. Thank you for being my friend.



One minute's silence

Posted by Jeanne

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.


Did you remember our Diggers this morning? Did you recite the ode, listen to the Last Post and observe a minute's silence?

What did you think about as you stood in quiet contemplation?

You probably thought about the brave young Aussies risking their lives so that we could have peace in our land, but did you also think about the young Turks fighting to save their land from the invaders?

You may have remembered our fallen heroes, but did you remember the Turks who never went home again either? They're buried there together, side by side. Did you think of that when the second hand clicked slowly round?

Did you think about the tragedy and the futility of war, and honour the men in both sides of the conflict, who fought for the land and the people they loved?

One Minute's Silence written by David Metzenthen and illustrated superbly by Michael Camilleri tells the story of a class of young people observing a minute's silence, just like we did, and probably like you did, too. And as they wait, they imagine themselves as soldiers at Gallipoli, and they think about how it would have been.

In one minute’s silence……

you can imagine the grinding in your guts as the ironbark bows of the Australian boats bumped the stony shore of Gallipoli on the twenty-fifth of April, 1915… when twelve thousand wild colonial boys dashed across the shivering Turkish sand in the pale light of a dairy farmer’s dawn lashed with flying lead.

But can you imagine, in one minute’s silence, lines of young Turkish soldiers from distant villages, hearts hammering, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in trenches cut like wounds… firing on the strangers wading through the shallows, intent on streaming into the homeland of the Turkish people.

This is a wonderful book to share with your children as you commemorate Remembrance Day, and observe a minute's silence together.

Today when Jemimah and I stood together we remembered our loved ones who fought for us in the "war to end all wars", the men and women who have fought in other wars, our peacekeeping troops, and their loved ones left at home alone. But we also remembered the soldiers we fought against, and it was powerful.

I think when you read this book, you'll think so too.

Lest We Forget




Once a year foods

Posted by Jeanne

I almost committed the unthinkable yesterday. I went to the pantry to get out the ingredients to bake our annual Guy Fawkes Parkin, only to discover that I had no treacle. None. Worse, I figured that the chances of my local supermarket having a tin of Lyle's Black Treacle to be less than 0.

I think no parkin on Guy Fawkes Night might just constitute reasonable grounds for divorce around here, both from husband and daughter, not to mention the dog, because parkin is a once-a-year-food, and once-a-year-foods absolutely taste better than any other kind. Think Anzac biscuits and mince pies and plum pudding and Easter eggs and mooncakes and even radishes. The radishes we eat on Christmas morning are the sweetest, most delicious radishes evahhhhhhh. A year without these foods is absolutely unthinkable, as is the idea of eating them on any other day. Our family is built on traditions, and most of those traditions revolve around once-a-year-foods. Like parkin.

And I had no treacle.

But my supermarket did!!! (See all those exclamation marks? That's how excited I felt!) Sure, it wasn't Lyle's, and it wasn't quite as black as we're used to, but it was treacle, and it made pretty fine parkin. My marriage is safe for another day.

Please to rememberThe fifth of November,Gunpowder treason and plot;I see no reason Why gunpowder treasonShould ever be forgot...

Parkin is integral to our Guy Fawkes Night, but I don't rightly know why. Hailing originally from Yorkshire, its sticky, treacly gingery deliciousness is perfect for the invariably freezing cold of a Northern English bonfire night, but how it came to be traditional, they don't rightly know. Only it did, and it is.

Guy Fawkes Night, of course, refers to the November 5th commemoration of the 1605 Plot to blow up the House of Lords in London - the Gunpowder Plot. The annual bonfires celebrate the fact that the plot was foiled and King James survived. It used to be an anti-Catholic day, but nowadays it's enjoyed by everyone. The banning of fireworks in Victoria in 1985 sort of sounded the death knell of Guy Fawkes Night in our state, but our family is tough. We can overcome such obstacles. They can't stop us building a bonfire and eating parkin, no sire.

And thanks to our supermarket and the plastic jar of CSR treacle syrup, that is definitely not Lyles, but did the job, we did.

And just like every other once-a-year-food, it tasted divine.

In case you feel a need to hunt down your own tin of Lyle's Black Treacle, in time for next year's bonfire, here's the recipe:

Guy Fawkes Parkin


450g treacle (or a whole tin of Lyle's Black Treacle if you find some)
125g butter
150ml milk
125g soft brown sugar
170g plain flour
1/4 teas salt
1 teas bicarbonate of soda
2 teas ground ginger
1 teas mixed spice
350g quick oats


:: Preheat oven to 160°c
:: Grease two loaf tins 10x25cm and line with baking paper.
:: Sift flour, bicarb soda, salt, ginger, and mixed spice twice, then add oats.
:: Gently heat treacle and butter in saucepan until the butter is melted.

:: Add milk and sugar, and stir until sugar dissolves.

:: Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix until combined.

:: Pour into cake tins and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the parkin is set. It should still be a bit gooey in the centre.

:: Leave to cool, and then eat with custard and ice cream. They say parkin actually improves if stored for a few days before eating. I'm never that organised, ahem clearly, but you can try it if you like.

Here's something delicious to read while you eat:

“When I'm married, may I wear this dress?"
"Of course," said Loveday. "It will need no alteration. It's a perfect fit."
They went downstairs and found that Robin hd already changed into dry clothes and set the table for tea with bread and butter, honey and cream, and golden-brown parkin. The kettle was singing on the hob, the white kitten was purring loudly, and the strange cave-room was glowing and cosy, lit by the leaping flames of the log fire. When she had put the children's wet things to dry, Loveday made the tea in a big brown pot like a beehive, and they sat down and fell hungrily upon the lovely food. Robin, sitting opposite Maria at the oak table spread with its snowy cloth, gazed at her in astounded appreciation of her appearance, but was at first too occupied in eating to say anything about it. However, when he had devoured half a loaf and a lot of parkin he at last gave tongue.
"That's a pretty dress," he said with his mouth full. "It looks like a wedding dress."
"It is a wedding dress," said Maria thickly, for she too was ravenous and was devouring bread and honey at the rate of two bites a slice. "It's my wedding dress. I'm trying it on to see if it fits."
"Are you going to be married?” asked Robin sharply, his munching jaws suddenly still. “Of course,” said Maria, reaching for the cream. “You didn’t expect me to be an old maid, did you?”
“Are you getting married today?” demanded Robin.
But this time Maria’s mouth was so full that she couldn’t answer, and Loveday, who hadn’t had her hunger sharpened by fresh air, danger, and exercise, and was nibbling very daintily at a very thin slice of bread and butter, answered for her.
“Of course she isn’t being married today, Robin. She isn’t old enough to be married yet. But when she is married she will wear that dress.”
“When you do marry, who will you marry?” Robin asked Maria.
Maria swallowed the last of her bread and cream and honey, put her hand on one side and stirred her tea thoughtfully. “I have no quite decided yet,” She said demurely, “but I think I shall marry a boy I knew in London.”
“What?” yelled Robin. “Marry some mincing nincompoop of a Londoner with silk stockings and pomade in his hair and a face like a Cheshire cheese?”
The parkin stuck in his gullet and he choked so violently that Loveday had to pat him on the back and pour him out a fresh cup of tea. When he spoke again his face was absolutely scarlet, not only with the choke but with rage and jealousy and exasperation.
“You dare do such a thing!” he exploded. “You – Maria – you – if you marry a London man I’ll wring his neck!”
“Robin! Robin!” expostulated his mother in horror. “I’ve never seen you in such a temper like this before. I did not know you had got a temper.”
“Well, you know now,” said Robin furiously. “And if she marries that London fellow, I’ll not only wring his neck, I’ll wring everybody’s necks, and I’ll go right away out of the valley, over the hills to the town where my father came from, and I won’t ever come back here again. So there!”
Maria said nothing at all in response to this outburst. She just continued to drink her tea and look more demure than ever. And the more demure she looked the angrier Robin became. His eyes flashed fire, and his chestnut curls seemed standing straight up all over his head with fury. Maria as quite sure that if she had been standing behind him she would have seen the twist of hair in the nape of his neck twitching backwards and forwards like a cat’s tail. She drank her tea with maddening deliberation and spoke at last.
“Why don’t you want me to marry that London boy?” she asked.
Robin brought his fist down on the table with a crash that set all the china leaping. “Because you are going to marry me,” he shouted. “Do you hear, Maria? You are going to marry me.”
“Robin,” said his mother, “that’s not at all the way to propose. You should go down on one knee and do it in a very gentle voice.”
“How can I go down on one knee when I’m in the middle of my tea?” demanded Robin. “And how can I do it in a gentle voice when I feel as though I had a roaring lion inside me?If I didn’t roar, I should burst.”
“You can stop roaring, Robin.” said Maria. “You can stop, because for the sake of peace and quiet I have suddenly made up my mind to marry you.”
Robin’s curls flopped down on his head again and the crimson tide receded from his forehead. “That’s all right then,” he said with a great sigh of relief. “That’s settled. I’ll have some more parkin, please, Mother.”
Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse



Chocolate buttercream frosting

Posted by Jeanne


Yesterday, I made cake. I used our tried and tested chocolate cake recipe, the one that I've used over and over, and that always turns out well. But this time we tried a new icing, and it was just so head-over-heels fantastic that I wanted to share it here with you, just in case you wanted to turn somersaults too. It really is that delicious. Honest.

This is what you'll need:

250 g butter at room temperature, but not melted

3 cups icing sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teas vanilla extract

4 tabs cream

This is what you do:

Cream butter in mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. While this is beating, sift icing sugar and cocoa together, and then add all at once to bowl, mixing on lowest speed (to avoid covering the room with sugary clouds) until combined. Add vanilla and cream, increase speed to medium and whip for three or four minutes until light and fluffy.

Be sure to make enough to taste-test a good dollop, because this icing is so good that you could just about forgo the cake and just eat it straight.

Why adulterated perfection with cake?





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