Weekly update

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June Lovely June
    Now beautifies the ground
     The song of the cuckoo
        In the green woods resounds.

I can’t believe we are already in mid-June! June is my favourite month –  and not just because it is my birthday month 😉 We are at the peak of the year with the Summer Solstice (longest day) tomorrow on the 21st June. I love the long days; they feel so full of potential and the light and warmth brings people out of their homes and out of themselves. All around us in nature and in the garden there has been so much growth in the last couple of weeks. But at this time of year, I also find myself struggling to focus, to get things done. This is one of the challenges for me at this time of year. I feel all over the place… I think they call it ‘Midsummer madness’ 😉 Being born on Midsummer’s eve, it’s not surprising I’m a bit susceptible to a bit of that!!

Anyway, the time is whizzing away and it’s less than a month until we take our big trip to the States. We are getting excited, but still have much to arrange beforehand and lots to do in the next month as the school year draws to an end. Hopefully I will regain some focus soon!!!

Some sad news:

Our dear hen Delilah, who had been sick for over a week died on Friday night. She became weaker day by day and couldn’t even find the energy to eat her favourite foods. At the end she could no longer stand or hold herself up, so we had to prop her up against cushions so she could be upright. It was such a sad sight. We gave her all the love and care we could and put her out on the lawn every day in the guinea pig enclosure to nibble on the grass and for some fresh air.

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We separated her from the other hens permanently once we saw that they were being unkind to her because of her weakness; pecking her and I even saw one hen stand on her to get past. It was awful to see so I removed her immediately. It certainly showed “survival of the fittest” in action 😦 I continued to give her water by pipette, but sadly she didn’t make it. We wonder if the fact that she started laying eggs again was too much for her system after her previous shock? We shall never know…

My daughters were saddened but also relieved for her as she was clearly dying for several days. My eldest who is so scared of death, took Delilah’s death better than we expected as she could see what a release it was for her and how that is the natural course of things sometimes.

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On Saturday, we buried her under our little cherry tree. My daughters collected flowers to put in with her and my husband covered her in pretty crepe paper. My eldest also quickly decorated a stone to be laid on top (to stop animals digging her up). It was a very sweet send off and of course I hummed a little of the Tom Jones song “Delilah” 🙂

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I had a dream that night that she was happy. I expect she is now  🙂

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Onto other news. My eldest daughter left for her class camp yesterday.

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They are away for four days and three nights camping, with lots of walking planned and a whole day of kayaking, canoeing and raft building. My husband is joining them this evening to cook the evening meal and stay over and I will join them tomorrow for a long walk – looking at local geography – and ending with a cream tea.  I am looking forward to it.  I have never been able to join my eldest daughter’s class on their trips due to my youngest only going Kindergarten half days. As she now does two longer school days, I can sneak off for the day and join my eldest – hurrah!

I managed to finish my daughter’s sweater/cardigan  in primrose yellow. I did a lot of knitting in the days leading up to the camp 🙂

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I don’t have a photo of her wearing it yet, but will share it when I do. It was a lovely knit and the yarn from Yarn stories is gorgeously soft, I will definitely be treating myself to some more. I made a few mistakes in my hurry to get it done, but my daughter is very pleased with how it looks and that’s all that counts, right?

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I have almost finished the Geranium dress for my eldest. I just need to sew the buttons on and attach the pockets. I promised her it would be done by the time she returns from camp, so I have a couple of nights to finish it in (the days are accounted for). Hopefully my youngest will go to bed earlier than last night. It is so hot, she can’t settle. I fell asleep with her at 9.30pm and didn’t wake up til 4am! I guess I am still recovering from a couple of week of broken sleep with the girls having nightmares and then having worms (they wake up screaming around 11pm-1am without fail…I hear some children don’t seem to be that bothered, but my children are so in tune with their bodies, it really disturbs them). Fingers crossed!

We enjoyed a peaceful Father’s Day on Sunday. We didn’t really do much. Once again, as on Mother’s Day, we had to go out on an errand to get some bedding for the animals, so we combined that with lunch out and a few games of cards. We are really enjoying playing rat-a-tat-cat . It is quite competitive and lots of fun! We are all good loosers, thank goodness!

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The girls made Daddy some paper bunting and some paper flowers. They found the idea in one of the spring editions of the lovely magazine LandLove.

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And that’s my news for the last week. I will be back with more soon 🙂

Happy Summer Solstice!

 

Sharing at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

Advantages of reading late for a highly sensitive child – my thoughts.

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There is so much talk in our educational system about reading and writing and performing ever earlier. Children are considered behind if they cannot read by six and are made to feel lacking as early as four years of age. In Steiner Waldorf education this is not the case and children of seven are only just learning their letters and numbers. This is also the case in many other European countries where formal schooling begins at seven when the first seven years of early childhood are completed.

Before seven years, the child’s only work should ideally be to play unless the child him/herself shows an interest in intellectual learning.

I have been thinking about why my eldest daughter still doesn’t read or write fluently at ten and a half.  Every now and then I wonder if I should have her tested for dyslexia. It runs in the family – my father was most probably dyslexic and my sister and all her children have it.

But something in me says wait.

She has a great sense of balance, picks things up easily if they interest her, has a great memory, can read music and has no trouble picking up an instrument and finding tunes. She is so bright and able in so many areas, I have come to the conclusion that she may be delaying learning to read as a form of protection.

When we learn to read, a whole new world of learning opens to us. We can take ourselves out of our own lives and escape into a book, we can inform ourselves and we become independent in a new way. But once we can read, it is difficult to switch off from the steady stream of information coming towards us. Everywhere we look, there are words – billboards, adverts, magazines, newspapers with horrific headlines and once we can read our brain wants to make sense of everything we see – there is no filter. Our childhood innocence can be taken from us.

I remember when my children were much younger and we lived in our former house, that I dreaded the day when they would be able to read the headlines on the sandwich board outside our local newsagent which we always passed on our way to the park. There was always something horrifying to report – these things sadly sell papers. Luckily, where we live now, this isn’t an issue and the girls still can’t read or have chosen not to.

My youngest at eight has no interest in learning to read either. Several children in her class almost taught themselves and many still cannot read as there is no pressure to do so in Waldorf education for some years and even then, children can learn about interesting topics without actually reading themselves . There isn’t an overemphasis on reading and writing the way there is in mainstream schools; it is just part of what they do.

It is only since the third grade (at 9 years) that parents have been encouraged to read 10 minutes a day at home with their children. During the the nine year change my daughter did not have any inclination to learn to read. She made slow progress and her energies were mainly tied up in her emotional life. Since turning ten, I can see she has made considerable progress in her reading and is more interested in writing, but she is still very unlikely to take up a book to read by herself.

I think she is protecting herself from what is out there – by not reading she is delaying finding out about things for which she is not emotionally ready and cannot understand or make sense of.  I think her sister will follow in the same way.

I feel so grateful that we are in a school where my highly sensitive chidlren can make their individual progress without pressure or being made to feel stupid.

My children love to play imaginatively and be active outdoors. They do not yet have the impulse to sit and read or escape into a book. Of course we sit and read together and my youngest will spend time looking at picture books. We love books here, so I do feel sure that one day my eldest will feel the pull  to read books on her own. When the time is right, I believe it will flow easily.

I loved reading as a child and was encouraged intellectually. It is hard for me to trust sometimes but I remind myself that sometimes we can only embrace something when we are truely ready for it. I will patiently wait for that day and in the meantime encourage her in our ten minute evening reading sessions.

” You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink” 

I wrote this for parents whose children may also be late readers but are bright, imaginative and creative and most likely highly sensitive. Keep encouraging them and trusting. With love. 

 

Elderflower season

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The elderflower season is upon us! To me, the arrival of the elderflower heralds the beginning of the summer months; bringing with it memories of warm, relaxing days, drinking elderflower spritzers, eating sun ripened strawberries and watching tennis at Wimbledon…

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I just love the frothy whiteness of the blossom at this time of the year – it really is a joy to behold.  I have been picking several umbels each time I go for a walk and have been busy making elderflower cordial, cold water infusions and drying the flowers for tea. What a foraging treat!

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Elderflowers have some wonderful properties: they are both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so can help alleviate the symptoms of colds, flus and other viruses. They can also help with the symptomatic relief of allergies and boost the immune system. I always use the berries in the autumn to make tinctures and syrups for winter illnesses. Last year the berries were quite scarce, so I had to used dried berries. I am hoping that the abundance of flowers this season will lead to a bumper berry harvest in the autumn. Fingers crossed!  In the meantime I will enjoy the gift of the fragrant elderflower.

Ideally elderflowers should be picked in the morning on a bright sunny day. The flowers should be nice and white and open with no browning and should be picked from an area away from traffic as they, like all natural things, absorb pollution. Only take a few flowers from each tree so there are still plenty of berries for autumn foraging and to feed the birds in the autumn and winter.

I tend to suffer from hayfever around this time of year, so I thought I would dry some elderflowers to drink in tea when I experience hayfever symptoms as I heard it can help.  I laid them on a baking tray in an airing cupboard (so in a dry place out of direct sunlight) but you can also lay them on cardboard or anything like that. They should dry within a week. I removed the stalks and  am storing them in an airtight container for future use.

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I have also made a couple of bottles worth of elderflower syrup for us to enjoy. I tried making a sugar-free elderflower cordial last year, using dates, in two different ways, but we didn’t really like the results very much. One was very fermented and no doubt healthy, but it didn’t get drunk so no one gleaned the health benefits!! So this year I decided we would use sugar.

The cordial I made is a modification of two different recipes. One had far too much sugar in it for my liking and the other assumed you boil the water and sugar first and pour it over the elderflowers, which I hadn’t done.  It has worked out well I think. There is still plenty of sugar in it so it should keep well, but it’s probably not very immune boosting! 🙂

The main thing is that we are enjoying it – and drinking in all that lovely sunshine!

Anyway, this is how I made it:

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  • Cover the elderflowers and lemons with water and soak for 24 hours (or a little longer if you forget about it!)
  • Sieve the water solution into a measuring jug, discarding the flowers and stems. Pour it into a big pan, keeping track of the quantity of liquid you are using.
  • Add 250g sugar per litre of water – I added 500g to my 2 litres of water
  • Bring the sugar solution to the boil and simmer on a low heat for twenty minutes.
  • Pour into clean, sterilised glass bottles using a funnel.

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Enjoy!

Not long after making this cordial,  I went to a party and drank an elderflower infusion, which is essentially elderflowers covered in water and left to infuse overnight. The flowers and stems are removed in the morning. What remains is water infused with the delicate sweet flavour of elderflowers. It is a light, fragrant drink and sugar free!

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Being sugar free, it doesn’t keep long like the elderflower cordial, but I have been making infusions every couple of days as I really enjoy them and am sure they make an immune boosting treat! 🙂

Oh I do love foraging – nature provides us with everything we need;  if only we knew how to recognise and use the herbs and plants that grow so generously by the wayside like our ancestors would have done. I intend to find out more 🙂

On another note, whilst I am writing about summer beverages….

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We  have been enjoying fresh mint tea from the copious supply of mint in our garden and on hot days, we have been drinking iced water with cooling mint and lemon slices. So refreshing! Our mint attracts a particular moth that tends to lay its eggs on the mint. Last year the mint was doing so well but by July and August, it had been bitten to shreds and looked a sorry sight 😦 I fear the same is going to happen this year as there are dozens of mint moths on it at all times.

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I have collected some sprigs to dry indoors, to store for mint tea and flavourings

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but for now we are making sure we enjoy it in all kinds of salads and drinks before it is no more. I am not sure how to prevent the moths from laying eggs. If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear from you!

I hope you too are enjoying all the delights of the season. 

 

Unsettling

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We have been having strong winds here in England these last few days. I have just returned from an evening walk and found my local park in chaos in places: branches have been ripped from trees and leaves lie strewn across the lawns. It feels more like autumn than summer, as I feel the crunch of dried leaves underfoot 😦

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The peas and beans have also suffered in our garden as their supports have been pulled out of the ground and many tall perennials look worse for wear too 😦

And the wind is still blowing…It is having an unsettling effect on us all; the children have struggled to settle at night and I have felt all at sea somehow (lack of sleep isn’t helping…)

To add to the unsettled feeling, our hen Delilah, who was doing so well after her troubles late last year, has become unwell. She has been losing weight recently and her feathers have lost their lustre. Yesterday she was barely moving and looking very sorry for herself. I took her to the farm again where we bought her to have her looked at, but the chap there didn’t seem to hold out much hope 😦 Another lady, who overheard our conversation, advised us to feed her cat food or scrambled eggs and to add some apple cider vinegar (with the mother) to her water for her gut health. I haven’t been able to locate any, but I do have freshly ‘brewed’ Kombucha in the fridge which tastes like apple cider vinegar and is good for gut health, so I gave her a little of that in her water.

I read somewhere online that watermelon is a popular choice, especially if the hens aren’t drinking so we gave her some of that. She certainly seems to be enjoying it, but mainly she has been resting.  I have had her on my lap a few times, crooning “Delilah”  to her – I have been a big Tom Jones fan all my life 🙂 – and other soothing tunes. I have always sung to our hens, funnily enough. It just feels right somehow!

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She is currently indoors in the guinea pig hutch so we can keep an eye on her. Poor dear, she really isn’t well, but we will continue to hope and pray for her recovery and above all that she does not suffer. In the meantime we are giving her lots of love and care.

Any ideas from fellow chicken keepers to help our hen would be very welcome.

Hmmnnn…yes it all feels rather unsettled here tonight…..

And to add to the unsettled feeling, the country goes to the polls tomorrow….

At uncertain times like this, it helps me to turn my attention to my breath; the one thing that is steady, reliable and always there and I choose to focus on beauty and abundance where it is to be found. It is everywhere if you look for it.

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The first ripe strawberries

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The generous quantities of elderflowers this year

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And summer storms do produce the most beautiful rainbows 🙂

Of course storms are just part of the weatherfront in nature and in the landscape of our lives. This too shall pass and the sun will shine again.

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I try to remember that none of this is in my control anyway and the best thing I can do is let go and trust. All is as it should be. 

Whitsun half term break

 

The weather is wild out there as I sit in the comfort of my living room writing this. The rain is lashing against the window panes and the wind is howling round our house, chasing stray items around the garden and leaves have been torn from the trees.

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It has been wild all night so we have had broken sleep and lots of anxiety from my eldest, who is suffering from a whole host of fears at the moment. The weather is really reflecting how she is feeling this morning – rather stormy and restless. poor love 😦

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Here she is in a sunnier moment, dear sweet girl 🙂

The children are returning to school today all dressed in white for their Whitsun assembly. The Whitsun message is so welcome right now, with much in the World feeling so unsettled and divided. If only we could understand each other fully, really speak each others language and perceive how each other experiences the World, we would find so much more empathy and peace; both at home and in the World. So much heartbreak and discontent comes from feeling separate and misunderstood. If we cling to our persona, our class, our political allegiance, our national pride, our religion, our generation, our culture, our upbringing or our opinions, whatever they may be, it segregates and distances us from others human beings. This distance can create fear; of the unknown (culture, religion…) and fear ultimately keeps us separate.

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We are all precious children of God, the Universe, the World, no matter what our belief systems are and we all wish to be happy and free from suffering. If only we were to understand each other better, we would no doubt realise we are all the same underneath.

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Hmnn…not what I was planning to say (!) but I guess the Whitsun message has been on my mind lately. I wrote about it a bit here last year

Back to half term!! We had a lovely ten day break from school and were blessed with some warm, sunny days. We celebrated my youngest daughter’s Birthday at the beginning of the week and spent some lovely fun afternoons with friends.

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The children enjoyed having lots of time for free play : in the school holidays, I try to protect our mornings for home time. In the afternoons we are free to see friends or go out on errands. I must admit we spent several days in our pyjamas until midday!!

The girls really appreciated some less structured time at home. They have given all their toys a new lease of life this week 🙂

They have been dressing up,

playing out on the street

being creative

and throwing water over each other to cool down!

and generally having a marvellous time together. I am so pleased they are such good friends – may it always be thus.

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On Friday, we went for a walk with good friends to forage for elderflowers. They seem to be prolific this year. We easily managed to fill a big bag and there were plenty for both our families.

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I made elderflower cordial with most of the flowers and am drying a few umbels for elderflower tea.

It was so lovely to be out in nature with friends.

The children are so much freer with all that space around them and spent a lot of time running through the fields.

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On the weekend we went to Alfriston Clergy House with my mother.

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This medieval thatched cottage was the first property acquired by the newly formed National Trust in 1896.

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It was dilapidated at the time, but has been since been restored to how it once would have been.

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It has a beautiful cottage style garden, complete with a productive vegetable garden

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and a wonderful orchard to play in.

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We found an apple press secreted under one of the apple trees.

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It was an enjoyable visit and good to spend time with Oma (German for grandmother) who came to visit us this weekend.

As for me, it is my first day alone after ten days with the children, so I am playing catch up. As far as making goes, I have started work on my eldest daughter’s sweater in sunshine yellow.

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It is knitting up well so far, except for a small mistake on the ribbing that my daughter doesn’t seem to mind. Phew!

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She has also chosen material so I can make her a Geranium dress like her sisters. I hope to be cutting that out shortly. My daughter is going on a class trip in a couple of weeks time and I would like these to be finished by then (even if they are impractical to take with her!!) It’s always good to have a deadline I find. I will probably also finish her Infinity Cowl to keep her warm on cooler evenings camping. I just want to wrap her up in homemade goodness, so she can feel how loved and protected she is.

I have been reducing my photos in size so they don’t take up so much memory space, but I don’t feel the clarity is quite the same. I wonder if anyone has any suggestions about this? How do you load your photos onto your blog? (if you have one!) I would be grateful of any advice. 

Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

Birthday continued…

We continued our Birthday celebrations for C on Tuesday with a little craft party. C wasn’t sure she even wanted a party initially as she is so shy at parties, however she changed her mind once she had a theme in mind, but she only wanted to share it with two friends. We spent some time over the weekend cutting out the craft materials and the girls made a spring coloured paper chain on Tuesday morning to hang by our big door to create a bit more party atmosphere 🙂

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My daughter wanted a ‘cat’ themed craft party, so as I mentioned before, I made the girls wild cat costumes to wear.

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The tail attaches to the skirt with a press stud at the waist band and the ears are also detachable (I used velcro), so the girls can wear the hairbands and skirts other times too. It was fun making the outfits, but the ears were very last minute, so I think I could have improved on them! The girls were happy with them though, so that’s all that matters really 🙂

C’s friends also came dressed up as tigers and leopards so that was a good match.

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We have had craft parties for years now as my daughters appreciate a quiet party (saying that my eldest daughter’s Hallowe’en birthday party last year was far from quiet!! She is growing up…). I have so many craft materials from years gone by including these multipurpose pens for painting on wood, pottery etc, so it was rather effortless to put the party together.

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First they decorated cats,

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then they decorated cat masks

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and finally they decorated some sweet bird houses I found at an arts and craft shops for very little money.

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The girls were so engrossed in their decorating, there was a hush for much of the time as they concentrated on their creations!

But they did take a break in between to run around,  twirl around with bubbles and chat with the guinea pigs 🙂

Of course there was more cake, courtesy of Daddy again.

My daughter loved her party and the girls are still enjoying wearing their cat masks!

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Birthday time

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I have missed writing here these past couple of weeks, but other matters have absorbed my spare moments and I have had some pressing issues about resizing my photos so they don’t take up so much memory space on my blog. Being not very computer savvy, I have been loading photos from my camera straight onto my blog without downsizing them (I didn’t realise you had to…) so my memory cache for photos is almost full!! 😦 It has taken me a while to sort it out, but I am back with more photos now 🙂 I am still looking for a better solution long term as I don’t have that much memory left, despite the kind folks at WordPress giving me a chunk more. Any suggestions would be most welcome!!! 

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Looking back at the photos I have taken over the past couple of weeks, I think it best to write two or three posts, but first things first: we celebrated my youngest daughter’s eighth Birthday on Monday. Eight!!!
How did she get so big?! It feels like only yesterday that I held her in my arms for the first time after a wonderfully quick and peaceful home birth, gazing into her big beautiful eyes and remarking on how very gorgeous she was. Our little girl – a blessing, as all babies are. And here we are eight years on – she has long limbs, knows her own mind, is gentle and kind and has a marvellous sense of humour. She is still as gorgeous as ever; with her big green eyes, long dark eyelashes and her cheeky smile (if only she would clip her long fringe to the side so we can see her in her fullness…). I have so many mixed feelings about my daughters growing up: pride at seeing them become their own people, intermingled with sorrow at the passing of the years. One year on, I think this space is becoming a wonderful record of these precious years of early and middle childhood. I have been thinking about the purpose of my blog; why I cherish spending time here. Of course I like to share what I have learnt and connect with others, but it is also a keepsake for me; somewhere to store our memories and a place to record my gratitude for the life I am living; as a homemaker, mother and trusted guardian of two precious individuals. It is a deep privilege to walk this path with them for the years that they need me and I hope this diary of sorts will bring back fond memories in the years to come.

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Anyway, I digress. Back to the C’s Birthday…..

The weekend before my daughter’s Birthday was full or making, last minute tidying up and Birthday and party preparations (we held a small craft party on Tuesday for two school friends).

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There were a few late nights, but it was worth it of course 🙂

I shared how we celebrated C’s 7th Birthday and party here and how we celebrate Birthdays in general here, so I won’t go into any depth this time, as our Birthday procedure is the same every time without fail. The girls have even started laying a flower path from our bedroom to the Birthday table for my husband and I on our Birthdays too so we can experience the wonder of it all 🙂

So, the Birthday began EARLY!! (5.30am, although I persuaded my daughter to rest until 7am – not an easy ask!!!)

There were eight strips of crepe paper hanging from the Birthday Girl’s door and a path of colourful paper flowers leading down to the birthday table.  Daddy laid the path this year and my daughter remarked on how the path had only started at the door rather than at her bedside as I had done in previous years – the details are so imprinted on their memories!! 🙂

My daughter was delighted with all her presents

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She loved the Geranium dress that I made for her and the miniature version I made for her Waldorf doll.

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I only remembered at 4pm the evening before that I hadn’t made anything matching for her doll this year – I usually make matching skirts – so I quickly reduced the 8 year old bodice pattern by 47% on the photocopier and somehow – miracle of miracles!! – the bodice fitted our doll perfectly!! I didn’t have time for the flutter sleeves or the fabric lining in the bodice, but I did manage to tidy things up with some light purple bias binding around the neckline and armholes and I improvised with the skirt, using the material I had left. It all came together really easily – for which I am SO grateful, as my daughter was visibly delighted that her doll had a matching dress on. Phew!

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My daughter was also happy with her new crayon roll. I made the larger version with a button closure at her request.

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She was also thrilled with her new bed and bedding for her doll. She and her sister now plan to finish their doll quilts this half term break.

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I finished her sweater in time. It was still in the garden blocking on Sunday, secreted away under our wisteria  with a small dress that my eldest had knitted for her birthday surprise bunny.

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My eldest daughter was struggling for inspiration this year. She started a cross stitch project, but then changed her mind. Luckily a lovely new Mum at school showed me a knitting pattern for these cute tiny bunnies she was knitting her daughter (Thanks Carol!) and H was instantly smitten with the idea of making her sister a bunny with a couple of knitted dresses. She only started working on it a week ago, so we only had three secret knitting sessions to make it in – twice in cafes, where my daughter knitted and I read her Paddington Bear stories,

(look at those cute knitted tea cosies!) 

and once at home on Sunday morning, whilst Daddy and my youngest were food shopping for the party. Although the project was small, compared with last years teddy bear, it was no less well received by my youngest.

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She loves her bunny ‘Poppy’ and has been bringing her out on all our recent trips, dressing her up and putting her into her little bed at night. So sweet.

Apart from those home made gifts, we treated her to these lovely Medici books

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and a Hans Christian Anderson Fairy tale book.

We had a slow, gentle day as we were all rather tired from the excitement and late nights in the run up to C’s Birthday. We had pancakes for breakfast and the girls played for a while with C’s new Sylvanian Families Bakery – something she has had her heart set on for a long time.  We decided it best to leave the house for a couple of hours as rain was forecast for the afternoon, so we went to a farm for a picnic lunch and a tour of the animals there. The girls brought their dolls and had lots of fun giving each other piggy backs! 🙂

Both my daughters love animals and enjoyed the experience.

Then we went back home for tea and delicious Daddy-made Victoria Sandwich Birthday cake.

My daughter requested we go out to our local pub for our evening meal, which was fun and relaxing and a perfect end to a lovely celebration.

C was delighted with the day and felt special thoughout, which is how it should be!