Full steam ahead

13 July 2009
I perform well under pressure, always have done. When I have to work to a deadline or have a lot of things to do I get more done than when I can take my time and finish when it feels right. I prefer not to work like that now because I find that focusing on my tasks and taking my time with them is more enjoyable and makes me calmer, but when there's a lot of complex work to be done, if I'm under pressure, I will get more done. All through the year we've been working to deadlines for events and outings, and there has been work, lots of work, every week. The last of the big things happened yesterday. Kerry, my younger son, stayed here over the weekend and will travel to New York today. He stays there for a few days and then goes to Toronto where he'll work for a few months. Later in the year, he'll take a road trip with some friends to Las Vegas and then go to Brazil. It was good for me having him here. He relaxed, talked, organised and packed and I realised how matured and prepared he is for this trip. When he drove out the driveway with Hanno yesterday afternoon on his way to his brother's, I felt as if the last of the big events was over. I breathed a sigh of relief.

But, there is always something lurking in the wings. On Friday, the book proposal came back from my agent. Now it's full steam ahead to finish the proposal, and then complete the book. It's becoming a bit of a saga but now I feel I have a clear space, both in reality and in my head, so I can give it all the time it needs. I want to make it the best it can be, I want it to help those who buy it and I want to be proud of what I put into it.

I finished my first Burke's Backyard article on the weekend and sent that off. I feel really good about writing for that magazine and I hope to add something to their mix. That article will be in their Spring/September edition.

Hanno and I took our god daughter, Casey, out for lunch on Friday. Casey was hit by a drunk driver a couple of years ago and she's now in a wheelchair. She is 25 years old. The place we went for lunch was having a Christmas in July celebration when we got there and it reminded me to blog about a home made Christmas. I wrote about this last year and think it would be a good idea if we all thought about our Christmas lists now so we can get ourselves organised and start making our gifts. I will be doing some knitting and sewing and there may be a couple of plants in nice pots. I'll work out a list during the next week so I know exactly what I have to do and will, hopefully, be on target and not rushing at the last minute. This can be such an enjoyable task but it can be spoiled by having to rush, or worst still, not getting the gifts made and having to buy at the last minute. I love receiving home made gifts. I love giving them even more. I know that thought, time and loving effort have gone into those gifts and feel a close bond to those I give and receive home made gifts from. I may be wrong but I think home made gifts will be big this year.

So although this will be a busy week for me, it will be busy in a different way. I am looking forward to the next few months. I am usually fulfilled by my work and I hope the time and mental energy I put into my writing over the coming months results in something special.

I have had a few emails recently asking me to write about various things and I wondered if might be a good idea to throw that open to you to compile a list of what you'd like me to write about. We'll set aside a week for readers requests when I'll write about the top five subjects. So if you have any ideas, let me know and if it's a popular idea, it might be in the top five.

I hope you have a wonderful week full of rewarding work and quiet time when you can relax and enjoy your family and home.


  1. Hello! I so enjoy your blog! I would love to see an article about specific ideas for homemade gifts and gift baskets. My daughter has already finished one knitted scarf for Christmas and I would like to do some homemade gifts this year.

  2. I've already begun to compile my Christmas list, and not what I would like! I've started to list all the things that I can make to give as gifts. I've also already made a start on some crocheted bookmarks that I plan to enclose with Christmas cards to my nearest and dearest. I've got all but one of the main birthdays out of the way now this year, so I can be full steam ahead for Christmas crocheting, knitting, beading etc etc. I'm glad someone else is suggesting starting so early as well. I'm always having to rush things in the last week, so I'm determined to get started this much earlier this year, and save myself the December stress!

  3. I enjoyed reading about your week ahead. You've inspired me to start making my own dish cloths. I once knew how to knit enough to make small scarves and patches so a dish cloth will be possible. If I can perfect it, I plan to make them as holiday gifts.

    I have been thinking a lot about what life would be like if a disaster took out the Internet and made it difficult to access information about homesteading. I would love to see a review of books about homesteading, books worth owning.

    Enjoy your week.

  4. I would be very much interested in gift baskets. Especially ideas for the elderly. Thanks, Pat

  5. I would love to see your Christmas list. Is that possible? Do you buy anything at the store for gifts or just make them all.

  6. I second Samvach's post. I have been working on scarves for my men and a quilt for my daughter in law. I would also like to make some baskets just to have on hand for gifts that come up at the last minute. Knitted things would be good. Also, things from the kitchen other than baked goods. I saw a recipe for chocolate syrup which looked good. I am now looking for bottles to give it in.

    Ideas of baskets of a few small things would be good also.

    Thanks for asking.

  7. Full steam ahead... well monday hasn't started yet, here, but you just inspired me to start full steam tomorrow!! And... to get a good night rest right now!

    This week all my children are at sailing school, which means that I have an empty house, for 1 week. I plan to clean up the whole house, get rid of the things we don't need and re-style were neccesary.

    In Holland it is common to have a big clean-over once a year. Do you have that too? Maybe you have some tips how to organise this because for a working mother it is not always easy to find the time AND to get everything done.

  8. I started Christmas shopping December 26th. I have just 2 people left to buy for and some homemade stuff to finish up.

  9. I have been working on ideas for Christmas gifts too. I found a few ideas/projects in magazines earlier this year that I have saved to make - some sewing & quilting, some knitting. The adults in my family draw names so that makes it easier. I have been slowly gathering & purchasing the supplies, spreading the expense out helps my budget.

    I enjoy the timely posts on your blog, too!

  10. I love Christmas and usually prepare early. I even bought the crepe paper to start making the handmade bon bons I make every year but it has sat in the cupboard... You have inspired me to get started and I'll make the first set this afternoon! This means I will have the time to take some photos as I go for a 'How to make bon bons' post. Hand made gifts are a wonderful idea, they just need a little 'jazzing up' to make them extra special for Christmas... perhaps some ideas for wrapping up those dishcloths using recycled materials and alternative gift ideas for children.... its layby time at the big stores and big, expensive plastic toys are crowding the aisles, so perhaps some ideas are needed now, for alternatives for those who might be tempted to start putting stuff on lay by... I have just given myself another idea for a post.... thanks Rhonda!... but I would love to read of others' ideas! Let's inspire one another!

  11. I love your blog - you seem to have such relevant topics!

    I have thought of two things:

    I would love to discuss how to set up my household to have a weekly schedule/routine that reminds me to tackle certain jobs around the house. I always seem to forget something or never get around to doing other things. Also a yearly/half yearly routine to remind me to do things like cleaning out the pantry etc. A year can go so fast!!!!!

    Also, everyone talks of five year goals etc...... i have no real goals at all and float. I would like to set some goals or even know how to set some goals and stick to them!

    cheers! Nicole

  12. I started knitting and crocheting gifts for Christmas back in January. We have quite a few people to buy for but last Christmas I decided that everyone on the list is getting homemade gifts.

    I am approximately 3/4 done. I have made quilted pillow sets, dishcloths, hats, scarves, mittens, afghans, slippers, teacup pincushions, ornaments, purses, quilts, homemade laundry soap, homemade bath salts, handmade jewellery, crocheted hair scrunchies, napkins and placemats, fingerless mittens and rag rugs (area rugs) and each gift is going to be wrapped in a handmade re-usable grocery bag that I am also making.

    I am glad that I decided to take this route this year. I will be able to enjoy December and not have to rush around worrying about gifts.

    For those who like the idea of gift baskets... here is a link that might be helpful.


    Love your blog Rhonda! Have a great evening. :)


  13. I like the idea of planning/preparing for Christmas giving in July. It certainly takes the pressure off of last minute decisions.
    One way I do that is by scouring yard sales over the summer months looking for medium sized baskets, glass jars, vintage plates and bowls, and pretty linen napkins.
    I love to make homemade food gifts for holiday giving (also other times of the year - new mothers, get well goodies, etc) and often use these yard sale finds to compliment my gifts.
    It's fun to put some yummy homemade muffins or cookies on a vintage plate, or line a basket with a vintage cloth filled with a couple mini bread loaves and homemade jam.
    Often I use my craft supplies of ribbon, buttons, and cardstock to make decorative tags for the gift baskets/plates. The sweet little touches really show you care enough to make the gift special for the recipient.

  14. Good afternoon Rhonda. You've had a busy time of late but you seem to be thriving on it, I hope things continue to go well.

    Midday Monday the kitchen usually smells pretty good around here -- today it's a loaf of bread, a batch each of lemon-poppy seed biscuits and chocolate chip cookies.

    The week's meals are planned, there is soap hardening off in the laundry, a Christmas in July is planned for our staff here on Saturday week...I'm feeling pretty happy, thanks for your inspiration. :)

    Thanks also for the reminder about Christmas gifts. I usually get caught short time-wise with handmade things, this year I'll plan the spring/summer vegetables and the Christmas list at the same time.

  15. Hi Rhonda

    I'm very excited to hear that your book is another step closer to realisation. I find myself looking up various things on your blog all the time so it will be great to have all the info in one place. I'm pleased to hear that you are now writing for Burkes Backyard too - hopefully others will start making a little change or two and start down the green simple frugal path as well.

    After reading your blog for a month or so I started making our own bread and now 18 months later I find myself with worms, compost, veggie garden and we are just about to purchase some chooks (I'm excited but a little scared as well as I know next to nothing about them!).

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and taking the time to write each day. Your little blog is making big changes to the way people live and think.

  16. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I would love some advice on how to get rid of clutter. I homeschool, and my children are all very arty and so there is lots of paper and creations all over the house and I'm a neat person, but I hate to throw any of it out, but I don't know what to do with it all - so I'd love to read about home organization and systems and things like that. Also, organizing sewing materials and space. I know that's a bit vague, but anything along those lines would be great. I want a tidy house, but one which reflects the creative side of us too, but still keeps fairly clutter-free.
    Hope you're having a good day.
    Rachel L

  17. I would like to see you write about time management - both daily and weekly. I know you have written before about how you do things, not on a schedule, but as they need done, but you seem to get so much done, I'd like to know if you have a loose framework you use, or a list of what you want to accomplish. If left to my own devices, I have a tendancy to just sew all day and not do those necessary things it takes to run a smooth and relaxed household (like marketing, laundry, etc.!) Could you perhaps write a column on how you manage your time?

    I have a home sewing business to bring in some needed extra income and I'd like to have a little more discipline about working at it on a regular basis. I can find all kinds of things to do in the garden, the kitchen, etc. and I find myself procrastinating when it comes to designing or sewing my children's clothing creations. I'd appreciate any input.

  18. Thanks again for a beautiful idea. I'd love anything you want to write about, honestly! I would however, enjoy reading a bit more about organising family life, because our family grows to 4 plus a german sheperd in november, and I have NO idea of what I'm in for with a three yrold and a newborn!

    I'd love to be more homemade, but I keep reminding myself that it is 'one step at a time' and not like the moon landings' one giant leap for mankind.

  19. Ideas for homemade teenage christmas gifts would be wonderful as I have a teenage nephew and niece, also any ideas for homemade gifts for young children. As I am not a knitter are there any ideas/patterns for homesewn dish cloths or do these just not stand up to the rigours? I usually make a new ornament for the christmas tree each year so maybe that is an idea for a christmas gift for someone crafty.

    Thank you Rhonda for your lovely blog, I enjoy reading it each day.


  20. I'm planning on making little nephews & nieces each a cape for Christmas - I bought the fabric on sale months ago, and have two cut out ready to sew up sometime soon. Simple dress ups like capes are always popular with littlies.

    Another simple gift I have planned is chocolate covered spoons - dip spoons into melted chocolate a few times & let it set. Wrap a few of them up with some coffee. The idea is that a spoon is used to stir coffee (or hot chocolate I guess) & the chocolate melts of the spoon into their drink.

    This last idea is something we did a few years ago, Im throwing it in as an idea for others to use if they want - we planted a styrofoam box (free from the greengrocer) with a mix of lettuce seeds (a mesclun style mix), cared for it for a few weeks & then gifted an older relative with a box of salad greens she could cut & come again to eat her way through.

  21. Hi again,
    I just read this in one of our online newspapers. I thought you might be interested in it. I loved this quote:
    "And doing it really beautifully rather than ... me running around my house with the vacuum cleaner screaming at the dog."
    It's about a cake decorating class in Sydney and the return of domesticity in Australian women. While it's not quite the quality or depth of your blog, it was interesting to read after you wrote about things like this being in the media. Here's the link:

    Rachel L

  22. I would like to know about goals--1 yr, 5 yr, 10 yr in regards to changing over to a more sustainable life: solar panels, rain water collection, etc...I find all of these things to be expensive to start and I'm wondering how to begin planning for it all. Thanks for asking!

  23. Rhonda
    I think it would be a good idea to write a question and answer post, especially since you get so many comments that it would be impossible to answer all of them on each post.

  24. Ooooh I would love it if you wrote about gardening, home-made products, and money-saving ideas! :D Also canning and preserving food. So many books have the recipes, but don't explain the reasons or the process very well. Fresh ideas would be great! :D I'm looking forward to your book coming out; is it available in Canada? :D
    Been thinking about Christmas this year- homemade cards are first on the list! I was thinking of make matching quilts for my mom, sister, and me- so we'll all have the same one! Thanks for a great post!

  25. Hi Rhonda,

    With one little one (age 22 months) and another on the way in September, I don't know how many homemade gifts I will get made for this year's Christmas. The most I can hope to do is to try to make stockings for our family this year.

    I always appreciate and would love to see more of your thoughts and reflections on homemaking and domesticity in general. Where I live (San Francisco Bay Area) it always seems odd to people that I stay at home with my child instead of working and sending him to daycare, and that I enjoy homemaking and everything associated with it. Your posts on why homemaking matters are one of the few encouragements I get.

  26. I would love to see a list of homemade christmas ideas. I feel like I gave mostly knitted items last year and I would like to do something new, but something that everyone would be glad to have.
    Thanks for all of your helpful information!


  27. I'd like to second Nina's suggestion about recommended books on homesteading.
    I had noticed, from a photo, that you had the Encyclopedia of Country Living. Perhaps reviews on that book and similar, please?

  28. Thank you for another good idea.
    It's been a long time since I crafted and I don't have much free time; but there's also another aspect that stops me from making my gifts - I feel that the people I know (especially family members -but I'm not the only one that feels this way) expect something expensive for the holidays... This sounds really terrible, I'm sorry to say it. I don't know if this has to do with our culture (I live in Portugal.
    To my friends and neighbours I usually cook something: a jam, a cake, biscuits and feel really happy doing so. My friends even give me back the jam jars so that I can use them again... One of my friends expects a green cleaning kit (homemade of course.
    I would be very happy to start making my own soap and give it to others.
    Do other readers feel like they are expected to give something more expensive and store bought?
    How could I change this?

  29. I am cleaning up/cleaning out my home since DH and several children are out of town (not together - children are at camp and DH is out of town working) so I can focus my energies on what I like to do which is craft, garden, sew, weave, knit, etc. I am planning on making my Christmas and birthday lists for the next year and make what I can for those on my list (DS #3 is getting a real watch for his 12th birthday, but it is a planned purchase). Thanks for the inspiration on a semi daily basis.

  30. I would love some homemade gift ideas for children, there seem to ba so many of those little rascals running around my life at the moment! Expecially ages 5-10, that seems like the most difficult age to me.

  31. Good idea to start a christmas list now. I usually don't start until much later and end up rushing off to buy things as I don't leave myself the time to make them. Last year though I did make a few presents.

    I'd love a post about cooking garden produce, there aren't mnay recipies in any of my books for some of the more uncommon veggies, eg, pawpaw, kale, mustard green, pomelos

  32. I too would love to see a review of homesteading books worth owning. Also maybe about being thrifty.

  33. I am really really looking forward to your book. It'll be nice to have something from you that I can read in bed!!!

  34. I have thought about making table runners for some of my family this Christmas. I'd love some ideas for homemade gifts for men - women are much easier to make for. Teresa x

  35. That's really wonderful news about your book!

    I guess I'd like more information on how you manage to do so much on your homestead with just the two of you. There always seems so much to do inside and out around here. We bought a fixer upper so even though we've lived here for years there are still things in the house that need fixing as money becomes available and then there all the outdoor things, veggie garden, figuring out what to do with what we don't eat, planning what to grow...you know! It just seems like there's never really enough time or manpower to do everything!


  36. I really enjoy your blog, Rhonda, and am moving closer to simplifying our lifestyle as our kids are gradually moving out of the house and on with their lives.
    I'm looking forward to your book, and I refer to your blog quite frequently. Perhaps my family is tired of hearing me say, "well, Down-To-Earth says..." haha!


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