Winter books for children

I thought I would share these again 🙂

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I promised I would share our winter books with you, so here I am finally with a selection of our favourites. As I have mentioned before herehere and here, we love books and love to escape into a beautiful picture book. Our favourite picture books need to be beautifully illustrated, with a wholesome, heart warming story. My daughters particularly like stories about animal friendships and we seem to have a plentiful selection of these amongst our winter selection! The winter books are amongst my favourite of all the seasonal books we have. Perhaps because it is a time when we sit down to read more, or perhaps there is just more sparkle in these books?

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I will once again group the books a little as we have collected quite a few over the years.

Board books for young children:

Winter – Gerda Muller – a simple book…

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On Holiday in Tenerife

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First of all, I would like to wish my lovely visitors a very Happy New Year!

May your year be filled with abundance, adventure and great joy. 

We returned from our trip to Tenerife last Wednesday evening, unpacked and recovered from our travels on Thursday and started back at school on Friday. My daughters, especially the eldest, struggled with the transition back to school. The fact that we have to get up in the dark doesn’t help!

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I thought I would write a little about Tenerife and what we did whilst on holiday.

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. It is a popular destination with holidaymakers, who can rest assured that there is guaranteed warmth and sunshine all year round. The beaches are black sand due to previous volcanic activity on the island. In the centre is the Teide National Park, home to the towering Mount Teide and the volcano Pico Viejo. The centre of the island is arid and less hospitable compared to the fertile coastal regions. We have visited the island on four occasions in the past and have felt drawn back to explore more of it. There is a lot more to discover here than on some of the smaller islands, we have found. It is somewhere you can really imagine enjoying living.

This time we stayed fifteen minutes drive from Puerto de la Cruz which is a popular tourist destination, especially for German holidaymakers (my German mother was in her element!). It is also a popular spot for surfing.

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There is a very pleasant tree lined avenue leading down to the seafront promenade.

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We were surprised to see several apparently wild chickens scratching around the place, including this rather handsome cockerel!

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The promenade is lined with shops and restaurants in front of the larger hotel and appartment blocks

There is also an outdoor pool complex along the promenade called Lago Martianez which my husband and daughters visited one morning. There are several salt water pools in the complex, including a large pool with a ‘volcano’ that erupts periodically. It is right next to the sea, but this area isn’t great for swimming due to the crashing waves, so the pool is a better option. There is plenty of space to lounge around and it must be a great spot in the summer. Unfortunately the water was too cold to really enjoy and we found the sea a lot warmer at this time of year!

Whilst away, I had to study two hours per day to keep on top of all the work I need to do for my course. I usually studied in the morning – when I was still fresh enough to take things in! –  and my husband, children and later my mother, rested, played or spent time reading or listening to books. It rained for a couple of days  which was a bit tricky as we were all confined to the house in the mornings and it wasn’t too big, but The Famous Five adventure stories came to the rescue! 🙂 The girls were totally engrossed in those stories, kindly read to them by their Daddy! It was a shame about the rain – we have never had any whilst on holiday in the Canary Islands before – but the locals were delighted as it hadn’t rained for some time. It was unfortunate that on the five days my mother was on the island, there were only a couple of sunny days 😦

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We still managed to get out and about in the afternoons and enjoyed some time at the beach. We were staying near El Sauzal on the North Coast, but never really explored this area much as the children were keen to go to the beach (in complete contrast to last year’s trip – the swimming lessons must be doing them good!) and the waves at El Sauzal were too much for them. We visited one of the main beaches near Puerto de la Cruz which was great fun; jumping and chasing the waves for hours.

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We also visited a beach on the South Coast on the day we were picking my mother up from the Southern airport (there are two airports). We particularly like this area: It is called El Medano and is a good base for families and younger folk visiting the island. There are quite a few self- catering appartments and lots of eateries and even a vegan restaurant and a health shop 🙂

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It is a popular spot with surfers and we saw a lot of kite surfers out on the ocean, which was a glorious sight. The girls stuck with their rubber rings (purchased at one of the many tourist shops in Puerto Cruz) 🙂

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The southern beaches are open all year round and the sea is very shallow for quite some distance, making them very safe. We were disappointed to find the Northern beaches closed for some periods. We managed to enjoy the beach there on two occasions before we found it closed on our third visit 😦 We even tried a more secluded beach nearby to see if the situation was different there, but Playa de el Socorro  was also taped off.

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Supposedly they frequently do this as the undercurrents are very strong. For us, the sea looked rather tranquil and the girls were disappointed not to be able to go in for a paddle after the rainy days.

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They tried out the exercise equipment on the promenade instead, which was some consolation 🙂 and we went for coffee and cake at our favourite Service Station Cafe  with an amazing  view.

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The cakes were delicious and the thick Spanish hot chocolates (the kind you can eat!) were a real treat and so reasonable too at 12 Euros for all five of us! We found eating out quite affordable, although we mainly cooked at home. My mother is German so “Kaffee und Kuchen” is the order of the day on holiday – we didn’t complain! 😉

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We visited the Botanic Gardens on one occasion, which was a lovely treat. The tropical plants are so at home in this climate. We recognised many of them from the house plants available here in the UK. Lots of the plants were in bloom and the whole place felt lush and vibrant.

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My mother really enjoyed it, until she stumbled on a big root and fell into a bush! but she quickly recovered herself and we all found it fascinating and relaxing to be surrounded by all these exotic plants.

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There are plenty of beautiful vibrant flowers around the coastal areas of the island too: it is a feast for the eyes.

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Poinsettias grow in the wild in Tenerife – I am always delighted to spot them. When I see them growing wild like this it reminds me of the book The Legend of Poinsettia,  which we love.

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We had hoped to see the Three Kings Procession on the 5th January as we did in Fuerteventura last year, but we didn’t manage to get there in time unfortunately.

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It is typical for the ‘Kings’ to process through the streets on the day before Epiphany, waving and throwing sweets to the children. The Kings are the bringers of “Christmas” presents to Spanish children on the 6th January, when they have their family Christmas celebrations. We did manage to watch some of the procession on a TV screen in our restaurant, which was of some consolation to the girls.

It rained all day on the 6th so we just celebrated with a trip out to a cafe for tea and cake 🙂 There is a traditional Three Kings Cake that can be bought at the supermarket (or made of course!) but noone fancied it.

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We also visited the Loro Parque Zoo after enjoying our trip to the Zoo in Fuerteventura . It was also rather expensive, but there were several shows included and it was an enjoyable afternoon out.

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We particularly enjoyed the sea lion show

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and the dolphin show

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They are such bright, friendly animals – we do love them so.  We also saw an Orca show later – once my camera had run out of battery 😦 -which was very impressive – what amazing powerful animals they are. All the animals really trusted their trainers and were very affectionate with them, which was a joy to behold.

As I mentioned, my camera ran out of battery not long into our visit there, which was a shame as our highlight was most definitely the lions. There are two females that are only a year and a half old and are still very playful and a two year old male who is so handsome. They were fascinating to watch and we could see them very close up, which was a treat. Their fenced off area had plenty of interest and enough space to roam around in, I thought.

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My eldest was particularly excited to see the white Bengal tigers. She loves all wild cats.

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They also have a new inside Penguin Grotto, where they even have snow falling from the ‘sky’ and nice cold conditions for the penguins. It looks really magical.
You can stand on a slowly moving conveyor belt and watch as you move along. Quite special. There were also puffins nearby, which are a favourite of mine.

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Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of photos to show all the sights we saw and the photos aren’t that great – I do need to fix my camera but there never seems to be a good time….

We loved the jellyfish acquarium area. The inside is dimly lit but the numerous tanks, containing a vast array of jelly fish, are lit up to show off their amazing features – it was fascinating to see how they breath and move. So graceful. I could have spent a long time there and wish I had some photos to show for it. I was transfixed. Unfortunately my mother struggles to see in the dark and I was  concerned that she might trip up again, so we had to move on.

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We had planned to visit Mount Teide, but due to the weather and my mother’s mobility issues, we decided to leave it.

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There was often a thick mist over the mountain and we heard there was snow up there. We have visited before and enjoyed many a walk around the rugged landscape.

Our holiday home was well situated in a quiet area. Unfortunately, the next door neighbour was having building work done, so it ended up being far from quiet most days  ☹️ which was a pity. Since then, we have had a percentage of the price refunded to us for the inconvenience, which was a kind gesture.

The house itself is situated right in the centre of the property, with a garden surrounding the house on all sides.

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There were plenty of plants and trees and even a lovely playhouse for the children to play in, which was a bonus!

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The girls had fun playing their fantasy games in the house and up in and amongst the two avocado trees!

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We picked a few avocadoes to ripen with some bananas, but only one actually did ripen by the end of our trip. One of my good friends lived in Spain for a couple of years and had an avocado tree. I was always in awe of it. The avocadoes took a while to ripen, but they were so creamy and delicious, I thought we should try it!

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The views of the sunrises and sunsets from our terrace were stunning. We never tired of the sunsets, especially coming closer to 6pm than the early nights here in the UK.

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We mainly spent our evenings playing cards before bedtime with Oma.

Tenerife is a wonderful island to explore. It is great for touring in the car and for a walking holiday – we did a lot more walking on our visits pre-children. The views are breathtaking and it is affordable and always warm. We did not get around as much as we usually do this visit due to rain and my mother’s mobility issues,  but we still really enjoyed our visit.

For those of you who wondered if we did any crafts on holiday, we didn’t do too much as I was either studying or we were out of the house. In the mornings, the girls made steady work on their reindeer. We didn’t manage to get going on them before our trip, but we are pleased with how they turned out. The instructions in the book said to sew them and turn them inside out. I didn’t read it properly so the girls did blanket stitch all round. As they are quite neat with their stitches, it worked out fine, except for the need to add a few extra stitches to the legs and neck once the body was stuffed. I helped them with this as I blamed myself for not reading the instructions properly and so that they weren’t discouraged. Here they are – one is Rudolph 🙂

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The girls did lots of drawing including these angel pictures.

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I always bring plenty of materials with us – paper, scissors, glue, sticky tape, yarn etc so the girls can make all the contraptions and maps that they desire!  Everything always gets lots of use by my ever creative children 😉

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Back at home the Kings are still on the Nature Table and Babuschka has finally reached Bethlehem – my girls insist she reaches baby Jesus on time – although the Legend has her searching forevermore.

I am planning to set the Nature Table up for winter very soon! It’s so mild and wet here – but we will be glad to see snowflakes and a wintry scene inside.

I have hung up the hearts, on which we wrote our favourite things in 2017, at the back door. It is so nice to have some colour at the window. 🙂

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I had better dig out those lovely window stars we made last year and perhaps make a few more since they bring us such joy.

Hope January is treating you well.

Happy New Year!

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We made it on holiday to Tenerife after all! There were a few obstacles as I mentioned last time, not least our eldest having a major panic attack in the car before taking our flight, poor dear love. It was so distressing for us all and with the pressure of getting to the airport on time and feeling exhausted, we didn’t handle it very well.  😦

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Once things had calmed down, we arrived at the airport with only 50 minutes to spare, but the Gods were with us as we moved easily through check in (we were brought to the front of the queue), breezed through security and amazingly didn’t have far to go to our gate  (it usually takes a good 15minutes walk).  The flight itself certainly wasn’t ideal. We had strong head winds so there was some mild turbulence on and off throughout, but our dear girl handled it admirably: she shut it out by closing her eyes during the stronger turbulence and otherwise distracted herself the rest of the time, by playing hangman, guess the animal and other games with us.

We also encountered several hours of turbulence on our return flight from the States which is why I imagine she went into meltdown, that being her last flying experience. I wish I had had the foresight to arrange a Fear of Flying for Children – will do so in 2018 for sure as my husband is fantasising about a journey to see the Northern Lights for his 50th…

We arrived at our villa by 8pm and were delighted to find that it has a lovely view to the sea and plenty of space around it to play and relax in.

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We are feeling very grateful. It was very bleak when we left the UK and the sunshine has cheered us up already.

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For our New Years celebration, we stopped off en route at a petrol station and bought some ‘junk foods’ like crisps and peanuts (special occasion foods for us) as the shops were all closed by the time we arrived. I tried to make the place look a little festive with bits and pieces I had on hand.

 

In the spirit of gratitude for 2017, I had cut some heart shapes out of card and we wrote down at least five things for which we were grateful in 2017. We all wrote on both sides, realising there was so much to be grateful for in the past year. We are all quite practised now at looking for things to be grateful for, I am pleased to say 🙂

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I have hung them from the ceiling using little pegs on a length of red yarn – there is literally nowhere else to hang them from, as everything is rather sleek and new here. They bring a lovely touch of colour to house 🙂

 

We also looked forward to 2018 by sending little walnut boats into a “lake” I set up. A birthday candle is placed in a walnut shell, by melting the wax into the bottom and the boat is placed in the centre of the “lake” with the candle lit. There are four corners, representing Abundance, Adventure, Healing and Love/Romance. and wherever the boat lands, is the area that will see or needs the most development in the coming year. I wrote how we did this in more detail here

Both of my daughters and I landed in the Healing Corner, where we picked up an angel card. Both my eldest and I picked up the Meditation card and my youngest picked up Spiritual Growth. This was very interesting as since Christmas Day, we have been sitting down for 10 minutes each evening together, looking at a picture of the Madonna for a short time and discussing what they would like to happen in the months ahead (each one of the twelve days of Christmas corresponds with one of the twelve months of the next year, so for example we started speaking about May on Christmas Day). We discuss what comes up for them when we think of that particular month and what their wishes are for that month in 2018.

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They come up with lots of interesting ideas. The girls then pick one of these angel cards (the messages are very suited to children) and I read what it says in the little book that accompanies them. Following this, they either draw pictures or write about what the cards ask them to do. For example my eldest daughter has drawn the “You are Special” card twice so far and we have been discussing what her strengths are. My youngest has drawn “Let go of Your Fears” and “Angel Lights” twice each and we have been looking at what she would like to let go of and she has been talking of the purple angel lights she sees, particularly at school, which I didn’t know of!

They were only asking me a couple of days ago if we could continue these meditations after the twelve nights are over, so when the “boats” landed in the area of Healing and we all picked the Meditation/Spiritual Healing cards, it felt like a sign to continue what we are doing as it is doing us good. Regular meditation and quiet contemplation are undoubtedly great healers. I have also been meditating on my own with the healing Madonna sequence each evening and am so relishing in the peaceful time spent in contemplation before bed. I have the lovely Stacey to thank for this suggestion which I found in her very informative Christmas Eve post (I love all her posts!) I am only now really discovering how special the Holy Nights are spiritually. I had some inkling of it before, but I plan to look into it further and look forward to working with them more deeply in the years to come.

My husband landed on  Adventure, with the Angel Card of “Children”, which was also interesting as he was just saying the other day that he feels he wants to work a bit less and make more time for fun, especially now he is reaching his 50’s this year.

We also wrote our wishes for 2018 on pieces of paper and wrapped them in burlap and string and piece of greenery from the garden. We set fire to them on the bbq outside, sending our wishes out to the universe. Besides this, we drew a simple ‘Wishing Circle’ and wrote these wishes down again, as we often forget what we have wished for. We all put down a dog as our wish! Let’s see…. My eldest decorated it so it looked prettier. We have taped it to the only chest of drawers in the house, next to our line of felt booties, which we peg up daily to mark the passing of the twelve days of Christmas.

One more thing we do at some point over the Christmas period, is draw around our daughters’ hands onto card/felt or whatever inspires us that year, to record how they are growing from year to year. This time they drew henna style patterns on their hands (my eldest was studying ancient India this year at school and is fascinated by everything Indian – except the food!). My youngest daughter doesn’t tolerate henna on her skin, so it was her chance to enjoy the experience 🙂

I find New Year’s Eve a very powerful time spiritually to set intentions and feel deeply into what it is I want to achieve in the coming year. I so appreciate the time and opportunity to do this together with my family.

Apart from this meaningful work, my daughters decided to make party streamers and cut up several paper napkins and used lots of cellotape and paper to create this ‘contraption’ (taped to a bucket!)  🙂 At midnight we waved them around like crazy cheerleaders and did a happy dance 🙂 followed by some time out on the terrace viewing the fireworks. We collapsed into bed at 1am exhausted, but happy!

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I shall leave you now until we return from our holiday. My mother is feeling better now and will join us on Thursday and my husband seems to be fine now too – hurrah!

Wishing you all every good wish for a joyful, peaceful and abundant 2018.

Memories of Christmas 2017

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It is the sixth day of Christmas and the New Year is almost upon us so I thought I would pop in to share a few of our Christmas memories from this year.

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We made it to the cinema on the 22nd to see White Christmas and it was a lovely experience for us all. I have never been so immersed in the film (I am usually knitting or multi-tasking in some way!) and I found it very funny and heartwarming. We had a break half way through too so we could stretch our legs and have a drink and munch on the popcorn we had brought with us. T’was fun!

We had friends over later that afternoon so we spent some time baking and making sweet treats on the 21st December, which was enjoyable – both the baking and sampling 🙂

 

The stars and heart biscuits are a German recipe. The Germans I know bake a wide variety of delicious “Plaetzchen” (in their hundreds) during Advent to offer around at their cosy Advent get togethers. I have memories of looking into the biscuit tin with wide eyes, not knowing what to pick first – you are so spoilt for choice! I imagine I took a fair few! 🙂 Many have ground nuts in them, which mine do too, instead of flour which makes them nice and chewy – yum! We also made more carob sweets ( I shared the recipe here) and date truffles (the recipe is here), which were both suitable for our guests who are gluten intolerant/vegan/avoiding sugar.

 

For us, Christmas really starts on Christmas Eve when we attend a Christingle Service at a local church. The service is geared towards children and there is a lovely storyteller who weaves the story of the Nativity beautifully. We never grow tired of it. Each child is allowed to add a figurine to the Nativity scene at the front of the church and they also each received a Christingle. The service always sets a reverent mood which we appreciate.

Of course the children were also eagerly anticipating Father Christmas’s visit. We follow his journey using the Norad Santa Tracker and we always leave him and Rudolph a snack.  Father Christmas has a penchant for Baileys we think 😉 Before bedtime, we spent a little time sitting by the fire singing all the carols we know and other Christmas songs we enjoy before trying to get the girls to bed – hmmn…needless to say they were rather too excited to have an early night!!

We were up bright and early and the girls ran into the lounge with glee to discover that the magic had happened overnight- I just love to see the wonder in their eyes. With my eldest being eleven, I am very conscious that this could well be the last ‘magical’ year for her, but I think she has a strong wish to believe, so you never know….I think I was over twelve….time will tell.

 

The magic also happened on the Nature Table as we welcomed dear baby Jesus to the stable.

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The shepherds (and sheep!) arrived the next day

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and the Kings started their journey to Bethlehem and will arrive at Epiphany.

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We spent a really peaceful Christmas Day in each others company. It was lovely to have a slow day after a busy Advent. We opened presents, had a delicious breakfast made by Daddy and went out to see a brass band perform Christmas songs at a bandstand half an hours drive from where we live. We do this every year for a change of scene and some fresh air and it is a really fun experience as the conductor gets everyone dancing and interracting with the band in various fun ways. We brought along some coffee and Baileys (for the adults) and mulled apple juice for the girls and some home made biscuits of course 🙂

 

Then we came home to eat lunch, followed by several games of charades – we do love a game of charades 🙂 As it grew dark, we went for a walk around our area to look at the Christmas lights, singing a few carols as we walked.

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And later that evening, we cosied up on the sofa to watch a ballet film performance of the The Nutcracker  (from 1993 with Macauley Culkin) on YouTube. We found it a couple of years ago and it is a really lovely film for children to watch at this time of year, especially if they don’t have access to the Ballet locally. My daughters love the costumes and dancing and the choreography and casting is great. Very magical.

As for homemade presents, I actually managed to finish the Teddy Bears on the 23rd December!!! It did surprise me!  It was a close call and I promised myself I wouldn’t be up late on Christmas Eve finishing them off as I was last year, so I was open to finishing them off by the New Year, but somehow it all fell into place. A little Christmas Miracle 😉

My daughters love them so it was worth redoing them from scratch; starting again just over a week before Christmas – eek! Anyway without further ado, Meet Milly and Molly 🙂

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Milly in the green is a little smaller than Molly due to the green yarn knitting up differently, but no matter.

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I added little ribbons to their heads so they appear more feminine. I wasn’t sure about the way they looked initially as I was making them so quickly, but I am happy with them now. The main thing is that the girls are smitten 🙂

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The girls sewed and knitted us some little presents. They didn’t have much time, but we were really pleased with what they made.

 

A double sided gingerbread house for Daddy from our youngest daughter, complete with little gingerbread man and lady and a gingerbread lady for me.

 

Our eldest daughter knitted me a hairband and made Daddy a cute felt snowman.

We also spent Boxing Day by ourselves because the girls wanted to spend the whole day in pyjamas and we realised we were craving this sort of family time. We saw a couple of friends on the 27th and 28th, which was a nice contrast. We also took our friends for a walk in our locality to look at the lights including a model village that some people had set up in their front porch in aid of charity.

 

I must say, those model villages do bring out the childhood wonder in me – I could have gazed at all the detail for hours! 🙂

Well, I had better be going as we might be heading to sunnier climes tomorrow. The trip is in  doubt at the moment, despite being all packed, as my husband might be coming down with something and my mother can’t go as she is ill (we have been on several winter holidays where my husband has been ill for the entire time – poor him 😦 – so we won’t risk it if he isn’t well tomorrow morning….) So I am still unsure where we will see the New Year in. I wrote about how we celebrate New Year’s Eve here incase anyone is looking for some nice ideas of how to make it more meaningful.

Well, I shall leave you now and wish you all a wonderful New Year 2018! May it be a blessed year for you all. 

Linking with Ginx Yarn Monthly Link Party and Crafting on at FrontierDreams.

Advent in our family…

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Are you finding that time is moving too fast this December? Maybe it always does, but this year there seems to be less time somehow. It’s probably due to the fourth Advent Sunday falling on Christmas Eve and there only being three weeks this Advent in which to do all the crafts, reading and baking that we enjoy.  I don’t feel we have done as much as I would have liked to and it’s almost Christmas!! Can it be!?! As I mentioned in my last post, I base our activities around the four weeks of Advent and having one week missing feels like a loss, strange as it may sound! I will have to make up for this in the Twelve Days of Christmas, methinks…

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We have just entered the third week of Advent:

“The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least”

We made some bird food today, combining lard and various seeds and grains and pressing them into festive moulds. We plan to hang them up with red ribbons tomorrow once they have properly set.

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We also strung some popcorn and cranberries onto thread to make the bird feeding station more festive and hopefully the birds might like to have a nibble 🙂

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I have a lovely pattern for making felt reindeer that we would like to try from this inspiring Christmas craft book. I think that’s all we will have time for this week as we all still have some Christmas elving to do too!

Last week, we did a couple of super easy crafts based around plants:

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

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Every Christmas my eldest daughter and I used to make heart shaped ornaments (using cranberries and wire) to hang in the front windows of our previous home, but since moving, we haven’t. As we are properly settled now, we decided that we missed making them, so we made a couple.

 

The girls made some simple pomanders with oranges and cloves, which we have hung up by our back door and make a beautiful addition to our decorations.

 

We also made pretty ornaments for our Christmas tree, using beans, pulses, spices and plenty of glue (!)

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I found the idea in LandLove Magazine and my youngest daughter particularly enjoyed this rather messy, but enjoyable craft. We cut the shapes out of card, punched a hole in the top, so they could be hung up, and glued everything on. My eldest daughter only made one because she really wanted to play by herself, so it was good that my youngest had something to keep her amused for a while and I joined in of course 🙂

 

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My eldest likes to play on her own more now that she is getting older and her sister sometimes feels sad about it….that’s when crafts come in handy! 🙂

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It just happened to be frosty for a couple of nights last week, so we made an ice window. I placed a few flowers and leaves in a bucket of water with some string hanging down into the water and overnight Jack Frost performed his magic 🙂 Sadly they don’t last long here, but we did enjoy the sun shining through it all morning.

We also went on a couple of excursions – Tis the season :-).

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We attended the Glow Wild Festival at Wakehurst Place on Thursday evening. Friends had recommended it to us and we were not disappointed! It was gorgeous! Totally magical, enchanting, wonderful! We arrived at 5pm and you have a half hour slot in which to start the magical journey around the garden.

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Each family receives a lantern at the beginning – the girls chose purple – and you are led around the garden by a myriad of beautiful willow lanterns and sculptures.

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We also walked around a river lit by fiery torches with Indian style music playing in the background. It would have felt like India, but for the cold weather!

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It was an extraordinary sight and must have taken a great deal or time and effort to organise and set up. The photos cannot do it justice, but I wanted to share them anyway.

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The lake was full of glowing water lilies and we cooed at all the animal sculptures.

 

It certainly brought out the child in me – I felt so excited and transported back to childhood wonder. That is something very special 🙂

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Trees and snowflakes were also projected onto the Mansion house -it was so magical!

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And at the end, there was a lovely little spot for sharing hot chocolates, roasted chestnuts and toasting the best marshmallows ever 🙂 A delight for all the senses.

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We loved it so much, we went back with my mother on Saturday to revisit it. I think we shall bring my mother next year as she was visibly impressed and could do with a bit of wonder in her life 🙂

 

On Sunday, we met up with our dear friends at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. We meet up every year on the third weekend of Advent and always enjoy a lovely day out.

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The house was decorated for Christmas and we enjoyed exploring it and imagining how the sociable Mrs Greville would have lived and entertained there.

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The girls especially enjoyed looking at the servants quarters and dressing up 🙂  My youngest particularly loved the housekeeper outfit, complete with key chain! (reminscent of Mrs Medlock’s uniform in The Secret Garden)

 

We were fascinated by the old gadgets including an old Singer sewing machine and the rather antiquated and heavy vacuum cleaner!

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We put up both of our Christmas trees  (we have two artificial trees – one from when the children were little – that is now in our family area at the back with all our home made ornaments on it – and this taller one, which we treated ourselves to last year and is much more realistic. We rarely have a real tree as we often go away before the New Year and it doesn’t seem worth sacrificing a tree for such a short time) and spent some time decorating them and adding the lights (never my favourite part!!!), It feels so festive now with all the twinkling lights filling the house.

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On the Nature Table, things are filling up. Joseph and the donkey have joined Mary. Plants abound and animals are arriving this week and will soon be followed by the shepherds and inn keeper, in time for Christmas Eve.

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My daughters’ Nature Tables in their rooms are also filling up and they delight in the ‘elves’ bringing them a new addition every night.

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On both, Mary looks like she is laying on the donkey – but she is perfectly comfortable I am told! 😉

We are going to have a little pre-Christmas gathering of friends here on Friday afternoon – a mulled apple juice, spicy biscuit kind of thing with womenfolk and their children – craft group members present and past 🙂 Everyone is bringing something, so the catering should be minimal. I feel grateful to have the space to host a gathering of this sort. We shall no doubt make a few biscuits, mince pies and sweet treats 🙂

We are also taking our first trip to the cinema on Friday morning to see White Christmas. My eldest has wanted to go to the cinema for a little while now and I have been finding it difficult to find a film that will suit both my daughters. They watch some DVD’s at home – ones I know will be suitable – but going to see a film in the cinema (where there is no escape from the noise and action) is another thing altogether. My youngest particularly takes things in very deeply and can get nightmares from the wrong sort of film (my eldest was the same, but has outgrown it  somewhat), so I am very wary about taking them to see a film that I don’t know. They know this film well, so I think it will be the best start we can make to our cinema-going. It is a dementia friendly viewing, so we will no doubt be the youngest there, but that suits us fine. We are looking forward to it!

Well that’s my round up of the past week or so. I am still working on the little teddy bears….I decided to remake them from scratch as I wasn’t able to keep a tight enough tension on 2mm needles, but I think I have got the hang of it now (more or less!) I have been enjoying some cosy late-night knitting. watching Christmas DVD’s and they should be ready for the New Year, if not before. Wish me luck!!

Before I go (because I doubt I will make it here before then), I would like to wish you ALL a very Merry Christmas!!! Wishing you a peaceful, joy filled time with a generous sprinkling of magic! 🙂 

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Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

December already!

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It’s Wednesday evening, my daughters have broken up from school and I finally have time to reflect on what we’ve been up to since I last wrote…in November!….Goodness, how can it be that we are already in mid-December! The last week passed in a bit of a blur with a sickness bug affecting all our family in turn. I became sick on Monday (missing my usual spot for writing here) and by the time I was feeling better on Wednesday, my youngest took over and we spent a whole long night in and out of the bathroom 😦 This weekend it was the turn of my eldest. I think we are all on the mend now and are hoping to stay well for the rest of December!!!

Somehow we have still been keeping up with our Advent traditions. This period is so precious to us, we wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂  I wrote at length about these traditions here, but here are a few glimpses:

We have been reading our Christmas books– we found a use for the failed papier mache lantern – it’s now a beautiful bowl to hold our Christmas book ‘lucky dip’ 🙂

All the different ways we mark the passing days of December/Advent.

Mary is travelling on her Star path towards the stable. Due to illness, we have had a few false starts (!) and she has remained on a particular star for a couple of nights…but we help her catch up 🙂 We dim the lights before bedtime, light the candles (according to the weeks of Advent) and sing “Mary’s Starpath” as one of my daughters moves Mary forward to the next star.  It creates such a beautiful reverent mood, I really appreciate it.  As you can see, the path is filling up slowly; with crytals and golden shells (placed in the  first week of Advent) and pinecones, little trees and golden hazelnuts this week. Toadstools are on their way 🙂 These are added by the “elves” overnight, both to our main Nature Table in the lounge and to my daughters’ own Nature Tables in their rooms. The elves have been known to forget (especially when they don’t want to disturb sick children!) but generally they know how important their job is 😉

Steiner attributed each week of Advent to a different Kingdom and I base my Advent activities and additions to the Nature table around this:

The first light of Advent is the light of stones,
Stones that live in crystals, seashells and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind,
The light of hope, that we may learn to love and understand.

This Advent, there are only three weeks in total due to the fourth Sunday in Advent falling on Christmas Eve, so we will start the arrival of the animals to the Nature Table a little earlier so there is enough time to add the humans too!

In the week of stones, I don’t usually do too much craft-wise as the children are still at school and there are a lot of things to organise and events to attend at this time. I do always give the girls a rock to crack (with a hammer) on one of the mornings and they each receive a lovely crystal (I cover the crystal in white clay and leave it to harden).

We sometimes make clay or saltdough ornaments, but due to illness, we had to forgo that this year. No matter…

This week I have a couple of crafts in mind based around plants. I will report back in  my next post. I feel this post is going to be long enough!!!

So to rewind, we had our Gnomes Bonfire on the evening of 30th November to bid farewell to autumn and decay and make way for a peaceful light-filled Advent. We let go of all the dry leaves, acorns and conkers we had collected on our autumn walks and warmed ourselves by the fire accompanied by warm drinks and spicy biscuits 🙂  The girls set the gnomes up and took over  most of the procedure this year. These traditions are so deeply ingrained they always know what to do 🙂

I  felt a strong urge to tidy and clean the house thoroughly in preparation for Advent: It helps to set the mood to one of anticipation when the decks are cleared and the energy is lifted. Things can get quite tired looking at the end of a season, I find.  It is always a joy to set the Nature table up for a new season and there is no season I love more than Advent 🙂

The girls wrote their letters to Father Christmas which the ‘elves’ took during the night. The elves also filled our angel Advent Calendar with ornaments to adorn the bare branches over our Nature Table.

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On the 2nd December we had our school Christmas Fayre. We helped set the Fayre up on Friday and my husband did the cooking, as he has done for many years now.

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The school looked really fabulous, all decked out in homemade goodness. I always feel so proud of our school at this time of year, when everyone pulls together to make it happen.

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We baked some cakes for the cafe as every family does. My daughters were keen to be involved.

I love that my youngest felt she needed to wear high heels for this 🙂

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As I mentioned, my eldest daughter had a stall in the Children’s Market.

She sold most of her doll skirts and paper angels and all of her needle felted baubles and window stars and made a grand total of £75! She paid a percentage to the school, paid me back for the materials and gave her sister some money to treat herself with and there was still £55 left for her. She was delighted as you can imagine. The needle felted Christmas pudding my youngest made was one of the first things to sell, so she is considering making more for next year….plans are afoot already 🙂

St Nicholas paid us a visit on 6th December. The girls put their boots out by the back door and were richly rewarded.

“Our” St Nicholas always brings nuts and clementines and a little present. This year he brought a festive glass and a special coin, which the girls were intrigued by.

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We like to read this book about dear St Nicholas and his helper Ruprecht. It is in German – it’s a shame it isn’t translated yet.

The girls have also been making presents for their teachers and “secret santa” presents for a particular classmate. They both decided to needle felt something as they were already in the rhythm.

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When my youngest started to feel better, but was still too weak to go to school, she sat on the sofa and felted this very cute Christmas elf for her classmate!

Her teacher is receiving another Christmas pudding that she made a little while ago.

For her “secret santa” gift, my eldest needle felted a snowman, with a felt top hat.

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She cut a circle of felt out and cut a smaller circle out of the middle. She used the ring of felt for the brim so it fits snuggly over the snowman’s head and used the  small circle for the top of the hat. I helped her cut out a rectangle to create a tube for the middle section. It came out really well I think.

Both of these were made by attaching two polystyrene balls to each other using a cocktail stick – my eldest daughter’s idea. I do feel proud of how they come up with these lovely ideas. They need very little help and what they make is of a really good standard – I am always impressed.

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My eldest needle felted her teacher a bauble for her Christmas tree and also gave her one of the beautiful paper angels, that her teacher admired when she popped in to see the children’s work at the Fayre. She was pleased.

I am glad my eldest managed to make these on Saturday morning before she became ill as there was no time between then and now, with all the end of term festivities, carol service, plays etc. It has been a full time and is good to have a little outbreath now from all the activity and errands and take our (favourite) place at home; doing crafts;  baking and enjoying lots of cosy reading by the fire. My kind of happy 🙂

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I have been writing my Christmas cards when possible.  Somehow I made an error when I took my letter to the photocopy shop to be copied. I asked for 20 copies of the 4 double sided A4 pages I had written, which would have been 80 pages in all. I agreed a price and the chap said it would take a little while, so I went for a walk. When I returned, I noticed a huge pile of coloured paper collecting on the tray next to the photocopier – he had thought I wanted 80 copies!!! Eeek!! I don’t have 80 friends to send this too – it really is only for my friends abroad. Ooops! What a waste of paper. Of course I paid him as I had agreed the price. I think we shall be using the paper to keep warm this winter 😉

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In between illness, the girls have been helping me with packing presents for a couple of friends abroad and for our relatives.They have been busy little elves with the wrapping paper, cellotape and lots of stickers!! 🙂

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Well that’s some of my news from the last couple of weeks. To finish, I just wanted to share these fab handmade socks that my daughter came home with from school today!

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Rainbow socks – a girl after my own heart 🙂

As for my own makings, things aren’t going too well. I am having second thoughts about the teddy bear making for Christmas. I chose some yarn for the dress and shoes, but knitting it up, it just doesn’t suit the teddy’s colouring 😦 Sob! I have ordered some more yarn to see if I can find a more suitable colourway. Fingers crossed! Not long to go…may have to be a New Year’s present….

Hope you have had a peaceful and joyful Advent so far. Enjoy all that the season has to offer. Many blessings. 

Christmas books for children

amothershares

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, we love books here. We find great comfort in time reading together and love to escape into the wonderful world of a beautifully crafted book. We have a quite a selection of Advent and Christmas books for children ; some we purchased after enjoying them from the library; some we found in charity shops and some we were given. The illustrations are so important to me; that they be beautiful and wholesome. Occasionally a book is such fun, that I let that go, but I do so prefer a picture book with wonderful cosy illustrations.

I will share the titles here, but unfortunately I don’t have enough time to go into great detail about them right now.  More can be found in the reviews that you will find with the link. ( I do not have any affiliate links, but I find amazon…

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