8 September 2008

Family funeral

Image from Carl Larsen gallery

The days away from my blog have been full of family. My sister Tricia flew up from Sydney on Thursday, we drove to Toowoomba for our aunt's funeral on Friday, while Hanno stayed here with Alice and the chooks. It was fun driving along the back roads with Tricia, we got lost a few times, but not badly lost, and it all added to the experience. The funeral was lovely, a celebration and remembrance of Joy's life with her close family there. I look along a small posy of violets I am growing here that I grew from my mother's garden. My mother Jean and Joy were very close sisters so I know my mum would have liked her flowers there on Joy's casket. My mother died in 1993.

After the funeral we had afternoon tea with the family at a cafe close by. I had only met one of my cousin's Susie's children before so it was good to meet the other two, Angie and Tom. Both Tricia and I were surprised that Tom looks a lot like our grandfather. Tom is a musician and is one of Triple J's unearthed artists. If you go to that link, you'll be able to hear his wonderful song, Hold me Down. Angie was interested in how Hanno and I live so I invited her to come visit us.

Late in the afternoon, Tricia and I headed off to Shane's to stay the night. He lives about a half and hour's drive from Toowoomba, but of course we got lost again and it took us longer to get there. But we had a good night's sleep, a short time with Shane and Sarndra, and we were off again the following morning. We took the back roads again, just stopping for a cup of tea along the way, and arrived home at lunchtime on Saturday. Yesterday my cousin Susie and her husband Nick came over for lunch.

Tricia flies home today, although she will come to work with me this morning while Hanno takes Alice to the vet. She was attacked by a dog when she was walking with Hanno a couple of days ago and now the bite is infected. Poor Alice, she's been through a lot lately. Hopefully we can get her well again and things will settle down for all of us. Oh, I meant to take a photo of Tricia, Susie and I yesterday but forgot all about it. :- (

My sincere thanks to all of you who left a comment about Joy. She was a significant part of my life and my mother's life and I appreciate you sharing the grief we felt and knowing how important she was to us.

I'm back at work today and tomorrow and hopefully things will be back to normal in our little home. I'm well behind on a number of things but I'm sure I'll catch up soon. I've been thinking of Christmas gifts over the past week or so. I doubt I'll have time to do much in the way of sewing or knitting for Christmas this year but I wonder what everyone else is doing. Have you planned your gift list? What will be homemade this year? Even though I won't be joining you in the making of gifts, I'd like to help you organise yourself in some way. Please let me know what you're making, or do a post about your gifts and I will link to it in the next week or so. Hopefully we get some ideas happening for those who haven't given this much thought yet. If Sharon has some time, she might find us some good links for handmade Christmas gifts.

There is no doubt about it, if you're making some gifts this year, now is the time to start. Give yourself plenty of time because we all know how rushed it is as soon as December starts. And don't forget to give me your links and ideas and hopefully they will help the newcomers to the wonderful art of homemade gifts get started.



  1. Life is sure interesting if you are open to chance. I visited my country buddy's blog Alife Full of Blessings and saw a feed from your blog about a family funeral and since that's all I've done for two years (my husband suddenly and assorted others, most recently Earl, my daughter in law's uncle) I clicked and was taken through the magic of the internet to your post about a family funeral in Toowoommba. That is a place name I don't hear much in Honey Brook, PA USA but it is special to me because that is where my mother's family is from.

    Toowoomba was a part of the magical musical list of place names that I heard as a child when family would come to visit us here in the states.

    So, I guess I was brought to your blog to say please heal from your loss, with the kindest thoughts from someone across the world.

  2. You have all been through alot in the last few months. I have been starting to think about some home made xmas presants and was thinking about making so small xmas cakes and making them in muffin tins and sealing them in a gift box and then closer to xmas making some shortbread and homemade fudge.

  3. I'm so glad you're back safe. Family funerals can be a lovely time to touch home base again.

    I've been thinking about Christmas and have introduced to the girls the idea of making this time less commercial for all of us. In the past I've made four bathrobes for all the daughters, sock monkeys galore, knitting needle cases, jewelry bags, aprons, woven scarves, shawls. I always do think I have more time than I do and end up scurrying through the dark December days finishing up like a mad woman. Neighbors and friends will get preserves and breads. I will enjoy hearing what others are up to.

  4. Glad you are home safe.. and even though not the best of circumstances you spent some time with family and I am sure there was a lot of fond memories shared.

    Christmas.. I have been thinking that this week also.. with 15 grandchildren to make gifts for I thought I had better get to planning, plus with 8 grands birthdays in Oct and Nov, I need to plan and execute my ideas!!

  5. I plan on making several gifts for Christmas as I usually do. BUT... I am now making things for a craft festival at the end of the month.
    I hope to make some of the small quilted table squares I have here for my MIL and grandmother and sister.
    I hope to have more come together soon, but it all depends on how this festival goes.
    Have a lovely day, and you have been in my thoughts often Rhonda Jean. ((hugs))

  6. I guess I should start thinking about what gifts I'll be making this year! I thought I'd make some table runners and maybe a lap quilt or two, but I really haven't decided. Normally I bake alot of things to give.

    Sorry to hear about about Alice! I hope she recovers quickly and things get back to normal for all
    of you.


  7. Hi Rhonda Jean, a bitter/sweet time for you, I'm sorry.
    In the past I have always made Christmas presents, though now I have a job (hosptial tea lady -best job ever)I will actually get to buy gifts, a novelty for me. Naturally they will have to be thoughtfull and frugal, wile "m typing this, i think I will buy towels and applique names on them.
    Any way a few years ago, i bought op shop liquer glasses, filled them with beautiful pink salt, decorated them and gave them as Christmas Lunch/dinner gifts. People really liked them, they were pretty, and the salt beautiful.
    I love getting ready for Christmas.
    Have a good day, Love Jacky

  8. We decided a few months back to only give handmade gifts to each other this Christmas, and also to cut out (nicely!) the people we give to only because they give us something. I'll be emailing all our family this week and requesting them NOT to give us anything. That should be interesting!

    I've been knitting dishcloths lately and will be making some soap in the next few weeks. Those will make up a few gifts for close friends and some family. Other than those, I'm still looking for gifts to make for a few people.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to write your blog, you have had lots to deal with. And now you talk about Christmas which I really do not make a big fuss about these days but I look forward to reading any sugestions that you have. Take care and I hope that Alice is well soon.

  10. Hi Rhonda,
    Sorry to hear of your loss. I'v found that car trips with my sister are always enjoyable. Inevitably, we get lost every time but it makes us laugh.
    I like Melindas idea of only giving handmade gifts within the family. My boyfriend and I are trying to live as frugally as possible and feel silly with some of the gifts we give when my sister has gone out and spent heaps on a gift. This way we'll all be on a level playing field ;)
    Thanks for always providing such food for thought Rhonda I'v missed reading about you over the last couple of days.
    take care

  11. Good Morning Rhonda

    So glad you are back safe and well and although a sad time you were able to celebrate your aunts life.

    I enjoyed making my sewing set for the swap that I am going to make more for friends. I also started knitting dishcloths and washcloths.
    Last year I made jars of Christmas cookie mix for my work friends. Will make these again for my kitting group. Little desk calendars for all the family. Hankies for my husband. Darling Granddaughter has asked for nighties for her teddy. Bulbs in pretty pots, usually daffs or snowdrops.
    Thinking also about shoppers and aprons.

    Pippa x

  12. Welcome back Rhonda, You've been in my thoughts over the last few days. Glad you are safe home.

    re home made gifts, I'll be sending some of mine to Australia, so I need to get moving on those especially; I'll be very interested to hear what others are doing. Just a couple of ideas I've had so far - for my granddaughter (a real Daddy's girl!)I'm making a 'My Dad' photo album and for my daughter (who was so very close to my late father) I'm making a 'My Grampy' album. I have some beautiful photos to scrap for each of them and I know they'll both be pleased. For my son in law I've bought a 2nd-hand (70's)photo cube and I'll scrap some photos for that, he can stand it on his desk at work. I'll be hoping for more ideas from other down-to-earthers!
    Love to Alice, hope she is feeling well soon :)

  13. My gifts this year will be home made wheat bags, dishcloths made from your pattern, and home made soap. This will be placed in a box from the $2 shop and the whole thing will cost less than $15.00. I have made the wheat bags and dishcloths, now I will make the soap and let it cure. I will be using your tutorial. you have helped me alot thank you
    angela P

  14. Glad you are back safe and sound...funny I was thinking about
    Christmas this weekend..... I do a lot of baking for the holidays, bars and different cookies .... but any additional ideas would be great....
    also am interested in finding a good recipe for cakes in a jar or can...
    Again... sorry to hear of your loss my thoughts and prayers are with you

  15. Glad you are home safe and sound. I loved the fact that you took a posey for your Aunt. It was very thoughtful.
    My homemade gifts this year will consist of making Jar gifts, like cookies in a jar, potato soup in a jar, cappuchino in a jar etc. I did a post about it on my home for the holidays blog.
    I would like to pick crocheting back up again and make some throw blankets.

  16. Rhonda,

    I am so glad your back:)

    I am working on a small stitching project for my niece and I am hoping to find something to stitch for my dad. I have been having trouble finding things to stitch for the men in my life... any ideas?

    Your in my thoughts,


  17. Dear Rhonda, sorry to hear about your Aunt Joy, my sincere condolences go to you and your family.

    Pippa this is a good site for cookies etc in a jar -

    Also I hope Alice's wound heals quickly. Joy

  18. A sad reason for your family's reunion, but it's good to see you and your sis had some fun as well...I'm sure your aunt approved.

    Seems we're all thinking Christmas...my daughter and grandees are in the US, and while I usually send them all new clothes, and usually books from Amazon, this year will be different, as I'm no longer working, and postage is just too much. Maybe just the books for the kids, as I can get free postage if I spend a cetain amount.

    For my daughter, some knitted dishcloths, and homemade soap, and I've been thinking I'd like to embroider that lovely poem you have on your side bar, Rhonda, and make it into a wall hanging for her...the sentiments describe my daughter very well. She loves and appreciates handmade gifts, and is very anti commercialism.

    .....and I think everyone else will be getting dishcloths and soap too, except my son, who always gets Lego....he's 32!

    Do hope Alice is recovering, poor love.

  19. Good morning Rhonda, it's lovely to see you posting again.

    I'm planning some small knitting projects including soap bags to hang in bathrooms. This year I'll buy the handmade soap but next year I plan to make my own!

    I have four young men on my list who are in their late 20s-30s and I like to give them something small but useful. This year I have decided to nicely desktop publish some recipes I know they'll enjoy,

    Please give Alice a pat from me.

  20. Its good to have you back Rhonda. Family funerals, although sad, can be a great time to catch up with family that you don't often keep in touch with.
    Until my husbands fathers funeral, A didn't keep in touch with his Melbourne cousins much. Although they didnt come for the funeral, an uncle organised a family get together in Hamilton, Victoria and it was lovely to see them and their young children. We had a really good catch up. Often, reminiscing and talking about the dearly departed is a great way to deal with the grief - its amazing how you can find yourself laughing and joking and remembering the good times.

    On to Christmas - I am after an easy home made gift made from fabric of some kind. I am not a good sewer, although I have a machine and can sew straight lines - Lol! I have 4
    older sisters and that is the criteria for our gifts to each other this year. I have a pattern for microwavable heat bags but I think my sisters may already have one of these. Any other suggestions


    Thank you and kind regards,

    Julie, Millicent SA

  21. Hello, Rhonda Jean.
    I found your blog at Path to
    Freedom. Everyday I come to
    your neighborhood and never
    want to leave.
    Since I wasn't getting enough,
    I found the blog archives and
    have started at the beginning.
    Currently, I'm almost through
    July 2007.
    My eyes go blurry, but I press
    Pencil and paper sit in front of
    me while I read and take notes
    and bookmark other blogs that
    you recommend.
    I came across the dishcloth post
    and am excited to start knitting
    those as Christmas gifts . . . in
    September. I have never been that
    far ahead of the game.
    It's my pleasure to call you
    Thanks so much.
    Gerrie in Oregon

  22. Rhonda,
    I'm glad you are home safe and sound. I am so sorry about Alice...I've said a prayer for her.
    Give your girl a little hug from me.
    Blessings to you,

  23. Tom has a wonderful soothing voice, thank you for sharing his link.

    Regarding Christmas Gifts, I have been thinking about them quite a bit lately. While at Walmart I purchased some airplane fabric to put on the top of a bed sheet and will give a fitted sheet along with it. Hubby & I have decided that we won't give gifts to each other, but rather get something we both enjoy - any suggestions? For a very dear friend of mine, Betty, I will be giving a certificate for me to wash her house windows inside and out. For another friend I will be giving her some bowl scrapers, homemade cinnamon rolls in a baking pan, and some knitted wash clothes.

    You have inspired me to begin knitting so I went to Walmart and bought a kit entitle "Teach Yourself How to Knit". My girlfriend, Betty, who crocheted put in for some knitted dishclothes for Christmas.

    I am trying to live my life more simply and to not buy extranganvantly. Hubby and I have credit card debt which we are planning to pay off, not add to. I love to make homemade gifts.

    I have a couple that my husband went to highschool with whom I always make gifts for, but decided not to this year. I have decided that my time is too precious to waste on making gifts for them. They seem to have turned into a gimme couple and don't seem to share - they seem to have changed over the years. I no longer feel a close bond to them. The wife has some mental issues which she does not choose to deal with (I understand mental issues because I have had environmental depression for 41 years and now I have chemical depression, major anxiety, and minor agoraphobia)and my mental health because unhealthy for me so I have to stay away. They husband seems to be very self-centered and I can't deal with it. I told hubby that I would be nice to them and not be rude to them; but I have chosen no longer to have a friendship with them.

    Thank you for all you do on your blog!

    Becky Fischer
    Bakersfield, California, USA

  24. Rhonda, it seems everything's just happening all at once for you... sometimes things are like that. I hope you settle down into some soothing quietness soon.

    We don't have a tradition of seasonal gifts here, but I'm doing some baby crochet for our upcoming little girl! :-)

  25. Good to see you back and I'm really sorry about your aunt, Rhonda.
    You're right about gifts, I should start planning and thinking about it!

    Christine from the NL

  26. Toowoomba - how strange. My NZ 4th? cousin (we share the same g.g. grandmother)lives in Toowoomba and when he and his wife came to stay, they brought us a booklet about the town, so I can visualize it now.

    You will be relieved to have the funeral behind you I am sure, but I hope your happiest memories of your aunt will stay uppermost as you make your Christmas gifts.

    I usually make something special for my great nieces and nephews (on my husband's side of the family). The girls I am fine with - they will be getting rag dolls this Christmas - but am a bit stumped on what to make 5 year old boys this year. Suggestions on a postcard please . . . I want to avoid giving them something "too young" for them.

    I make up preserves (jams, jellies, chutneys), and this year I'm making some sloe gin and mixed fruit brandy for various family members. I love to give the cake or muffins in a jar mixes too. I've made my aunties spiced pads to go beneath hot dishes, embroidered pictures (love doing those), embroidered towels, cushion covers etc in the past too. It helps pass the long dark evenings which are setting in already. Last year I sewed all summer too - making a hand-pieced hexagon quilt for my middle daughter to take up to Uni with her, so she had a reminder of home (and something to snuggle under on cold nights of course).

    Now I have learned to crochet, I intend to make some dishcloths as presents this year, along with some melt-and-pour soaps. Time to start going through my books I think . . .

  27. Welcome back Rhonda, we have missed you. Sorry to hear of the loss of your aunt.

  28. Glad you are home safe and sound. We've noticed recently that the only time we get to meet up with most of our family members has been at funerals. Such a pity, used to be weddings but the next generation is not at the marrying stage yet.

    So sorry to hear Alice was attacked, hope she heals quickly.

    Christmas - yes have been thinking of it. Just posted on my latest crafting endeavours - Lunch sacks done in Christmas fabric to be used as gift bags. They will be filled with scrummy homebaked goodies. The link to the free pattern is on my site.

  29. I have Christmas gifts on my mind as well...I just completed some mobiles made with sea glass I have picked up at beaches in Massachusetts and Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. I found some tiny sea shells to add to the mobile and used fishing line to hand the strands from a driftwood branch.

    I am also making note cards with photos of the various street art I come across in my neighborhood.

    I hope this week is one of reflection and relaxation for you now that you are back home.

  30. Aww man... if it's not one thing, it's another. My grampa died the middle of July, and they finally had the funeral a month later. There certainly is something to be said about closure. But, just THINK of all the happy hugs between your mum and your auntie right now! Sorry to hear about your puppy. I'm sure with a round of antibiotics, she'll be right as rain in no time. Sending hugs across miles and time zones!
    Linda P
    SE WI

  31. As sad as funerals are, for me they are a time to reflect at how life has changed and see how far I've come. Now your mum and auntie can have their time together again.

    I enjoyed the part of your story of you and your sister enjoying the car ride with all its getting off on the beaten path. Reminds me of a few of those with my sister. As my sister died in 1992, the memories are getting quite faint as I was only 18 and she was 21 when she died. She's now been gone longer than I had time to build memories with her.

    Good news for you! I washed my first 2 knitting projects and they held up. I was surprised at how much they shrunk, they are 100% cotton.

  32. I have planned several homemade gifts this year. Since my children are older, I have taken to giving Christmas a theme and build my gifts around that. This year we will be having a pajama party. I have started knitting slipper sock and will be making pillows and Pajama pants. I have also joined with two of my friends and am teaching them how to knit dishcloths. We are thinking about making soap to go with them. So glad to hear that you had a wonderful visit with family while you celebrated your Aunt's life. Karen Gentile

  33. Our family dynamic has changed so much in the last couple of years, so Christmas plans have changed with the times. My dad's girlfriend has had us to dinner for Christmas the last couple of years and I thoroughly enjoy it, because she simply wants to spend the time with us, no gifts, the time makes her happy. This goes along quite nicely with my status of no money! My sisters and their families are growing, so we have all branched off and they spend their time with their kids and grand kids. When we all used to get together it was nice, but it seemed like a competition on who could buy the best gifts. I was uncomfortable with that! So, I think what I will do, is make a few knitted dish cloths and some nice banana bread (I just found a fantastic recipe on the web) to take to my dad for our dinner celebration and have fun visiting!

  34. I always come away from family funerals with mixed memories. Many of the enjoyable visit with family members I don't see very often and bittersweet memories of the one not there.
    I have been reading through your blog the past few days and have made it almost all the way through. It's quite lovely. My husband still works full time and I work from home and we are slowly enriching our lives with simple living. We enjoy cooking so much we would rather eat at home than go out most days. I am becoming somewhat of a leftover wizard turning larger quantities of leftovers into a variety of "new" meals.
    We have just started the second planting of our garden (we're in Texas, so it is our fall planting). I am researching what we can plant throughout the winter. I think cabbage is one of our only options. But, we'll see.
    I mended some clothes yesterday and worked on knitting a dishcloth.
    We've had a few rounds of canning this summer and much freezing of things from our garden and from the farmer's market.
    For Christmas presents we are hoping to send some homemade, canned salsa with homemade chips, and I usually make a variety of yummy sweets that we put together into baskets. I am also working on some small, quilted Christmas themed wallhangings for a few people. I am also considering some potholders made out of some old denim jeans and some knitted dishcloths. I have several friends and a cousin who have gotten married within the past year so I am thinking about a little kitchen basket with some dishcloths, potholders, some recipes, homemade food goodies and some simple embroidered or appliqued kitchen towels. I could even put in some dried herbs from my garden. And now that I've typed that all out, I think I have some Aunties that might enjoy that as well!

  35. Hello There,
    I stumbled across your blog the other day.

    I've started working on Christmas presents during the past couple weeks. So far I've crocheted some simple wool scarves for my older brother and his teenage son. My brother is a avid read and enjoys non-fiction books. I was able to find a wonderful book at the dollar store that I know he'll enjoy (history based book).

    For our Christmas party at work, I will bake a variety of biscotti to package up. Biscotti is easy to make and stores great so it can be made far in advance.

    Most of my friends are trying to declutter so I hope to provide gifts that are useful and will have minimum impact on their living space. Also, I am trying to use materials I already have.

    I've made a list of possible gifts to make. This is a partial listing:
    - bead earrings
    - ceramic pins
    - handbuilt or thrown pottery serving/baking dishes and/or tableware
    - crocheted placemats/table runners out of yardage I tear into strips
    - felted hats / knitted scarves

    I am teaching myself to knit socks in hopes of knitting some of Christmas 2009. My sister is a knitter, so I may put a notebook for her with knitting instructions from free patterns from the internet that can be printed up.

    And of course, there is the baking of cookies, tea breads, and the making of fudge, etc.

    I use to sew alot and still have a big stash of material that I should use up. Suggestions for sewing projects / gift sets:
    - home sewn ironing board cover, retractable clothesline, clothes pins, and a clothes pin bag
    - home sewn shower curtain, and
    - make or purchase plain pillow cases and use decorative stitch to create border on pillow case opening / could do the same on edge of flat sheet to match

    I hope this entry helps those of you that are thinking about Christmas already.

    Kelso, WA

  36. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    So sorry to hear of all the bad news coming your way! Things are very stressful here for the moment. I keep saying "THIS TOO SHALL PASS!"

    I have started making Christmas gifts stitching , pillows, homespun towels,cloth napkins,dolls, In Dec. I make flavored hot choc. mixes, flavored(friendship) tea, Fudge.those sort of gifts.

    I hope things are better for ya'll SOON! ((((HUGS))) Blessins',Lib

  37. In Germany, we are very special with our christmas cookies.
    So every year I give little bags with "Pl├Ątzchen" away as gifts for friends, colleagues and so on.
    (They eat it up and it's clutter-free!)
    For people which I know bake themselves, I make real vanilla-sugar. o.k it's not really "local", but baking friends and family members are always delighted.
    (mix 1 kilo plain sugar with 5 vanilla-thingies (how do you call them?). Cut the vanilla-things in half, scrub the black vanilla out and mix with sugar. Then cut the outer part of the vanilla-thingie in pieces 1 cm long and mix under sugar, too. These vanilla-"shells" have to be removed before actually baking, but gives much extra flavor.
    Then I fill little glass-jars with the stuff.

    I recently discovered your blog. I'm impressed. I'm working towards simple living, too. Bought a bike, extended my garden, began canning...

    Best wishes from Germany,

  38. SouleMama has a free pattern download on her blog for a gratitude wrap, great handmade gift idea, it on the left side under "For You".
    My daughter loves the Little House books, in Little House in the Big Woods Laura gets a rag doll, red mittens and a stick of peppermint candy in ther stocking, I think I'll recreate that for my daughter. Free doll patterns are here http://pennylane.terapad.com/index.cfm?fa=contentGeneric.saqyzybhlqivohbi&pageId=128378
    I think I'll use the one called Emily, a pioneer doll.
    The baby is getting this sweet baby cap, a free pattern here http://grosblog.wordpress.com/2007/05/16/sweet-baby-cap/
    These ornaments are tempting, http://rosylittlethings.typepad.com/posie_gets_cozy/2008/09/ornament-kits-a.html
    So many great possibilities.


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