Red Sky at Night - Day and Night

There are some days when Google can't help you. Google can help you make a meal plan, resolve conflict and self diagnose strange skin irritations, but put the words 'day and night quilt block history' into a search engine, and you'll come up with nothing useful. Enter the words "Peace and Plenty" and you'll get a list of pubs and hotels. Enter "Maple Leaf History" and you'll find all you need to know about a Toronto Ice Hockey team. Really? Is it really that hard to find out why and how Canada got their flag, or if the term "Peace and Plenty" originated with Shakespeare? I think it's time to graduate from Google, and find some real books.
In the mean time, I've been brushing up on my broad American History, learning how all those wars came about and how they affected American culture and ideals. Australia is so different. We came from convicts, not idealists or businessmen. We fought faithfully for Britain rather than against her. And we would never, ever make quilts from our flag. But maybe because it doesn't have that funky sense of symmetry like the Union Jack. Or because we didn't win it at huge cost like America.
Anyway, I digress. I digress because instead of finding old quilts made by interesting people, or learning about where quirky block names came from, I'm finding a plethora of information about where I can get a good $10 steak. What have we let the internet become?? I sent a text message to my quilty friend Lucy last night, after I couldn't find anything I was after, and said, "I think it's time we visit America. Want to come?"
I thought this project would be a fun, simple exercise in sewing and story telling. After all, I'd completed a Modern History degree with distinction, while pregnant and with a two year old! Surely I could do this while drinking my morning coffee! But even when Google is my friend, I have more questions. I want clarification. I want to sit in a room with quilt historian Barbara Brackman and pick her brain over a cup of tea. I'm comforting myself with the idea that this is usually how really great things begin. With a small spark, a realisation that it's not so simple, some great frustration, and a huge drive to know more.


With that completely useless introduction, today we're making the Day and Night Block. I found it in one of my old quilt block books, but can't find it online to know what else it might be called and whether that might give us more insight. I'd love to hear from you in the comments if you can enlighten us. But despite not knowing anything about it, I still liked it enough to keep it in. I think it's interesting, don't you?

You will need:

Red: Four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles, four 2.5" squares, and six 3" squares cut in half to make half square triangles.

White: Four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles, four 2.5" squares, and six 3" squares cut in half to make half square triangles.

1. Sew the triangles together, press and trim to 2.5" square like we did last week.

2. Arrange the first quarter of the block like this:

 3. Sew together in rows. (this is the same block, just upside down! :))

4. Sew the rows together.

5. Make three more!

6. Sew them together by joining them in two rows, then sewing the rows together.

It's easy for me to get caught up in the things that aren't turning out the way I hoped. Making this Day & Night block this week, amidst homeschooling, and starting new jobs, and visitors, babysitting my brothers kids and dreaming of the freedom to travel, I've been reading this poem called Evensong by C.S. Lewis. It's a prayer I go back to often when I need reminding that the days are for work and play, and the nights are for sleep, and that as a mere human, if I can't accomplish everything I had in mind, it's not up to me to keep the world turning. I'll share the first verse here and you can look up the rest if you like it. (Google is good for that!)

Now that night is creeping
O’er our travailed senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th’eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

Stitch and sleep well, my friends!

Tree Change

After a long weekend of hours driving, sitting in meetings, broken sleep, I don't usually drag the whole family out for a photo shoot. But today was cloudy. And on cloudy days, you can organise photo shoots around the baby's sleep time, rather than where the sun is. So we all hopped back in the car and drove over to the Fernleigh Track. An old rail corridor come bike path, I've been wanting to take quilt photos here for a while. It's a beautiful, interesting spot, but I'd forgotten how huge that tunnel is, and how the wind funnels through it, making for a dramatic photo shoot!

We spent the weekend in Dubbo, discussing with our friends and family, our big move to Canowindra, NSW next year! I've mentioned before that Tim and I work with Cornerstone Community, a Christian organisation that focuses on community living, mentoring, and simplicity. We'll be moving to one of our training campuses, where students come to study the Bible, Ethics, History; work on the local farms to pay their way, and are mentored one on one.
It's a really exciting move for us for lots of reasons. We'll be living in a big old house with lots of room to create, spread out and invite guests. (Come visit!) My brother and his wife, and their homeschooling family will work there too, and I can't wait for our kids to learn and play together more. Tim and I will both teach. My brain has been waiting for a chance to get back into learning and thinking again! And finally, having grown up on a farm, and now living in a city suburb, my soul loves space and fresh air. While I'll know I'll miss ducking out to the shops at 10pm for milk for tomorrow's coffee, I look forward to living 20 minutes from town, with real quiet and bright stars. I can just borrow milk from my neighbours! Or buy a cow.
So as you can probably tell, I've come home excited and all motivated to make the most of our beautiful city landmarks for quilt photos while we're still here!

This is my Fancy Fox quilt, pattern by Elizabeth Hartman, another 'Graduation Quilt' for a good friend of mine. I knew she liked Denyse Schmidt. Simple, graphic, not too floral. (I love making for people who've hung out in my sewing room a lot!) Foxes are a feral pest here, so I hesitated somewhat, but in the end, those faces that reminded me of computer games from the 90s, won me over. I backed the quilt with Anna Maria Horner's Mary Thistle Voile in Tangerine, and then free-motion-quilted with a long, wavy grass pattern. Free motion quilting is fast becoming one of my favourite things, and I especially love the effect here.

After the photo shoot, we spent time climbing the tunnel, racing through it, singing at the top of our lungs. It felt good to feel like 'us' again, after a weekend in a big group, with lots of babysitters. I often feel guilty for having to drag the whole family out if I don't want photos in my yard. But I think I'll start to pitch them as an important family adventure. For myself and for them.


We had our first ever family holiday in the Snowy Mountains National Park a couple of weeks ago. We normally spend our holidays visiting friends, going to birthday parties or weddings, at family Christmasses. It's taken me seven and a half years to convince my extroverted Tim this is important too. Though, I'm not sure if I convinced him it was fun. :)
We experienced the rugged, dry beauty of the national park for a couple of days before the clouds generously gifted us with snow. I've only spent time in the snow a few times in my life, while living in Eastern Europe, but they hold precious memories for me. I think I came here to the mountains as a kid, but didn't remember the exquisite, unique beauty of our mountains and eucalyptus trees dressed in white. The views, the cold, brisk air and the playfulness it brought out in us, gave me an energy I don't think I've felt since I was 19, living in Poland! I was so, so thankful.

We travelled down to Melbourne to meet Tim's family for a week after this precious time alone. Melbourne is Australia's treasured European city, and I have many friends who've chosen to live there over the years, so I was excited and curious to see it. We stayed in beautiful apartments right in the centre of the city and it was wonderful to see the way my kids connected with Tim's family and to go to the craft fair with my mother in law. I did have fun, and all my photos from that leg of the trip are in my Instagram feed, but the lack of sky or land did make me feel walled in. While all the things we saw were interesting, it wasn't energising in the same way.

Tim and I listened to lots of podcasts during our 2500km of driving. One was on the topic of beauty. It told the story of a school set up somewhere in the States for kids who had fallen out of the mainstream system. The focus of the school was arts. They painted it beautiful colours, always had fresh flowers and gardens, taught music and dance and their students have an 80% college entrance rate! It got us talking about all the things we've thought of doing to our home but have put off. I want to create that kind of energy and light in our house and garden.
Now, if only I could get it to snow here!

Christmas Adventures

 It was only last Christmas that I was reflecting that the Nativity story was one of things not going to plan (or at least, not our plan). An unexpected pregnancy, unexpected travel plans, unexpected accommodation. It gave me hope amidst Tim's unemployment.
I'm writing this post from Glen Innes, a lovely little town in northern country NSW. We 'should' be setting the table at Tim's parents' place, another 6 hours drive north, or drinking cider or making decorations. Instead, we had an unexpected stop over after two flat tyres, the second on a Sunday afternoon after everything was closed.

Miraculously, our spare tyre blew out in the middle of no-where where we happened to have full phone reception.
Miraculously, we had been forced to updated our roadside assistance membership last time Tim travelled and had car troubles. (Miraculously, I had decided to stay home from that trip, our yearly trek to Dubbo to see friends and family, and my folks had agreed to come up and watch the kids while I was in the shop. So we weren't all stuck on the side of the road for hours. Poor Tim though!)

Miraculously, our roadside assistance offered to pay our accommodation for the night, even though they usually don't for our level of membership or for flat tyres.
And last night, I had the best night sleep I've had in weeks.

Tully and Evie thought it was the best Christmas ever, to ride in a big truck and stay in a motel with a TV in their room!
 Before our little adventure in Glen Innes, I was thinking and journalling about my Christmas blog post. Tully lately has been trying so hard to figure out what's real, what exists. He's so sure the Octonauts (an animated TV show about animal marine biologists) really do live under sea, and that one day he will too. But he's not so convinced about snakes. Or dragons. Or The Wiggles. And I've been slow tell him what's 'real' and what's not. Afterall, what four year old doesn't want to believe there are dragons to fight, or ride, or a place waiting for him in a submarine? And while I can tell him about the things I know are real, I'm also so aware that there could be a whole world of unseen things I know only vaguely about. After all, it's been said that at the first Christmas, a bunch of of terrified shepherds witnessed a whole choir of carolling angels.

A few Christmases ago, I wrote a song about a retelling of the Christmas story, hidden at the very end of the Bible. I love it because it reminds me of something Tolkien may have written. Complete with dragons, a mother decorated with the moon and stars, and a great rescue.

Here's my version of it:

Hey woman, clothed in the sun
How do you feel now the battle's begun
The Dragon is angry, flung stars from the sky
Now waits to devour your babe as you cry

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Hey woman, moon at your feet
fly away now out of his reach
the river rises to take you away
mouth open wide, earth swallows its prey

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Hey woman, stars in your hair
What will you do with the child in your care
let him be taken to his throne in the sky
where his blood will hurl the dragon from light

Sleep now, Sun Woman,
Sleep now.
Rest now Sun Woman
The desert awaits you
Woman clothed in the Sun

Wishing you a Christmas, not free from adventures, but safe from dragons and full of miracles,
Jodi. xxx

Edited Christmas Day: We made it last night! Just in time for family festivities!

I left my heart in Eastern Europe

This photo was taken almost 13 years ago. I was just 18, sleep deprived (it was the day after my year 12 formal) and nervous with excitement. A group of five of us had flown to Poland to stay in a 500 year old castle in a tiny, poor village near the German border. We would teach English, hang out with the local kids and families and drink a lot of sweet black tea.

I remember arriving that first night. It was cold and white and mysterious, driving along the little lane to that big old palace. Inside was warm and inviting. I remember feeling surprisingly at home. (Later, when I traveled to other parts of the world, I would expect that same feeling, thinking I was just a born traveler. But it was reserved for that part of the world alone.) We were welcomed in, we were shown around. The castle had been used as a German army base during the war, left in ruins and bought for a steal by Australian missionaries who had cleared, cleaned and rebuilt 3 storeys of rubble into a warm haven for recovering alcoholics, the local poor, the disabled and anyone else who happened to travel through. I wanted to stay forever.

I almost did. At the end of our six week trip, I called my parents to ask them to cancel my ticket. I wasn't coming home. There was a position supervising the resident missionary kids as they completed their homeschooling. Mum and Dad so generously helped cover the cancellation fee and gave me their blessing. We drove the other Aussies back to the airport, waved goodbye and came home. My own little flat on the third floor of an old castle. My first time living out of home.

Immediately I fell in love with the people, the language, the food, the life. I'm sure I was a terrible teacher. I was 18, my oldest student was 14 and became a good friend. I was disorganised, fun, well meaning. They knew how to walk all over me and I let them. But gosh, I loved them. I felt like I was living in some amazing novel.
There was a beautiful Polish family living next door to my apartment. They had a new baby, the youngest of five. And whenever I heard her cry, I would knock on their door and ask if I could cuddle her and we would look out the window and sing. I would enjoy the chatter of her three and six year old siblings. (Later, people would laugh at my 'three years old's accent' when I spoke Polish. Now that I have my own three year old, I laugh at how it must have sounded too!) And then, I started to enjoy the attention of her oldest brother. Tomek.
We dreamed of marrying into this beautiful country, beautiful family, raising Polish children, staying in this fairy tale forever. I called my parents again. Told them I wanted to stay longer. I would come home for Christmas and fly back. To marry, to teach, to drink sweet black tea the rest of my days. This time, my folks were less excited.
Once home, back in the familiar sweltering Christmas heat, they convinced me to stay, to study, to grow up, to wait. I went out to Bourke, in outback Australia, to work on a cotton farm, and study about life and culture and the Bible and decide what I wanted to do with my life. It was there, incidently, that I met Tim, though we wouldn't marry for another five years. Life looked and felt so different back in my own country. I was so different. Tomek and I broke up. And I decided to do youth work in central west NSW. Then I decided to go to uni. Then I decided to marry Tim. And each year a new decision, none regretted, would take me further and further away from that little village.

Just after Tim and I married, I was awarded a scholarship to study Russian in St Petersburg. After almost 3 months in Russia, we travelled through Poland so I could show Tim where I had begun adulthood.

And it all came back. The language, the smells, the taste for tea without milk. I saw Tomek and his family again for the first time in ten years. We spent the day with him and his beautiful wife and son in Prague. I was home again. And again I wanted to stay.

But we didn't. We continued on our travels, came home, stayed at university, had babies. And here I am! Living on the coast in a house in the suburbs, sewing and raising children. I'm so glad I'm here. But I do hope, one day, our decisions will take us there again, for longer than a couple of weeks.
Getting ready for Christmas this year, I wanted to do something that expressed my love for those people and my heart for those who have so much less than I. Each year, The families in the castle and an American church in Germany put together Christmas hampers of food, staples and special luxuries, for the local poor so that they can celebrate a joyful, warm Christmas also. For the month of November, I will be donating 20% of all money from my sales to contribute to these hampers. Now when you buy your special Christmas presents from my store, you'll be giving twice!
You can read more about Elim Christian Center in Poland here. Over a decade later, many of my friends, Polish and Australian, are still there, welcoming all kinds of people, promoting tourism to boost the local economy, training local women to sew the most amazing nativity scenes to sell to bring in an income for their families, providing care in the local orphanage.

I have been astounded at the response to my little Etsy shop in the last two months. Thank you! I look forward to being able to pass on the blessing.