Simple and Acute Sixteen-pointed Window Star tutorial

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Hi! As anyone who has visited this space will know, my daughters and I love making window star transparencies. We only started making them a couple of years ago and were quite happy with the eight pointed star for a while, but this year we felt like broadening our repertoire 😉 so whilst on holiday we made simple sixteen pointed window stars and a couple of acute sixteen pointed window stars and we love them!

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So I thought I would share a simple tutorial on how we made them. We use kite paper, which is robust transparent paper that lends itself beautifully to the precise folding, The sheets we use come in 16cm x 16cm squares.

To save on paper ( because we prize this paper 🙂 ), we often make small stars, which we find perfectly lovely: We cut the paper in four and then halve it again to create rectangles of 4cm x 2cm. To make larger stars, you can just divide the sheets in half, so the rectangles are 16cm x 8cm

Or if you are using large sheets of transparent paper, cut them into rectangles, making sure the long side is twice as long as the short side.

Simple Sixteen pointed star

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1. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise.

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 2. Open the piece up and fold the four corners to meet the centre line as shown.

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3. Make a second fold towards the middle line on all four sides.

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4. Place some glue on one of the right side bottom corners and stick another piece onto it, laying it along the fold line in the middle and ensuring that the end points meet.  (see below).

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5. Continue this process until the very last piece. This bit is a little fiddly: apply glue to the bottom right side of the piece you are inserting and the bottom right side of the piece to which it will be stuck.

6. Insert the piece carefully; slipping it under one piece and over the other, as shown below.

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(the photos I took fot this step weren’t too clear, so I am using the acute pointed star photos instead as they are clearer). 

Acute Sixteen pointed Window Star

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The first three steps are done as above, but there is one further fold.

After completing Step 3, fold only two of the corners towards the middle line,  making one end more acute, as seen below

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As with the simple star, place glue on the right hand bottom side, where the piece is less acute. The acute part will be on the outside of the star.

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The glueing is the same as with simple pointed star, including the final step.

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And that’s it really. Very simple and so gorgeous, cheering up our windows on our holiday and during the monochrome winter months.

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I hope you too can experience the joy of Window Stars for yourself 🙂

 

February news….

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Several weeks have passed since I last wrote here and it’s mid February now! We were finally blessed with some proper “wintry” days at the beginning of February. Our winter had been particularly mild up until this point, with only a couple of days of frost here and there. My daughters and I continued to fantasise about sledging, snowball fights and catching snow on the tips of our tongues, even though there was no snow or even frost in sight. But finally our wishes became reality…

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when King Winter and Jack Frost performed their magic over a series of cold and frosty mornings and a long awaited snow day, well…morning really….the salty sea air on the South Coast of England doesn’t allow the snow to stay too long!! 😦

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The cold nights allowed us to make Ice Windows/Mandalas. Such an easy and satisfying activity. It works like magic and winter wouldn’t be the same without a few mandalas hung on our pergola 🙂 They look glorious when the sun shines through them.

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Unfortunately the sun didn’t make an appearance on this day.

I wrote details of how to create them here.

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Due to the icy temperatures, my daughters, who are very concerned for the welfare of our now 50 + goldfish (the six we started with last spring went forth and multiplied!!),  made it their job to smash the ice on our pond with a mallet every morning before school, so the fish could breathe. We lost all our goldfish last winter, but so far we can still see them swimming, so are staying hopeful.

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We enjoyed a very early morning of sledging at our local park whilst it was still quiet. In England you can’t rely on the snow staying around, so you have to enjoy it whilst you can!

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Millie, our one year old puppy, enjoyed her first sledging experience 🙂

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It was great fun to play in the snow as a family. Snow definitely brings out the playful side in us all! A small snowman was also built and we enjoyed a quick snowball fight before school 🙂

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We celebrated Candlemas on Saturday 2nd February. It was a gorgeous day. Full sunshine the whole weekend, so perhaps winter will take another flight.

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We didn’t get out much unfortunately as the girls had various activities and parties to go to, so we ended up being  “mama and papa taxi service” for much of the weekend! Ho hum. It can go that way sometimes…

We did manage to carve out a few hours here and there on Saturday to make a few candles. We made stripy candles using odds and ends from various coloured candles we wanted to recycle. I wrote a tutorial here. 

 

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We also made beeswax floating candles; melting different coloured wax in separate tin cans, which we placed in a pan of shallow water. We cut short lengths of wicking to insert into wick holders, the wick holders were placed at the bottom of the moulds and a small amount of wax was poured in to stabilise them. Then the rest was poured in carefully 🙂

 

 

We made yellow star shaped candles for our Candlemas dinner, heart shaped ones for Valentine’s Day and violet-coloured flower candles for our spring celebrations.

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As we gathered together again in the evening, we enjoyed a candlelit meal with the floating candles as our only light. It was very sweet and I know the girls appreciate these touches.

 

It is always rewarding recycling old candles into brand new ones to enjoy over the year to come.  We have plenty more odds and ends of candles in less desirable colours that we will melt in due course to fill terracotta pots with, for our outdoor summer candles.

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As for Valentine’s Day, it was a school day,  so the morning was rather rushed, but we still fit in some sweet card and gift giving. We always go overboard with hearts!!

 

I didn’t have time to make homemade presents this year, but treated my daughters to a little succulent plant each and a little wooden box from a craft shop, which I thought they would enjoy decorating.

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The night before, my youngest made her sister a little booklet with her name on it and my eldest daughter made her sister a quick bear “mask”, to which she added elastic later  in the day 🙂

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Luckily I  managed to made some little carob sweets and heart shaped lollies earlier in the week, so there were some homemade treats. We also made heart shaped biscuits.

 

On Friday, my youngest daughter’s class performed a play that they had been rehearsing for the past half term as part of their main lesson.  In the third grade in Waldorf schools, amongst many other things, the children study Old Testament stories. The children performed a play about Moses in Egypt and Midian. They designed the posters that hung around the school, painted the set and helped make some of the costumes. It was a wonderful production.

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My daughter only had a small role, but performed it with much feeling.

 

As for my own craft news, I finished the sweater I was making.

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I am really pleased with it and it makes a lovely layering piece which is just what is needed at this chilly time of year. Layers are the answer! 🙂

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As I mentioned in my previous post, we had a fire at our house in December and I lost a whole basket full of bamboo needles and yarn. The insurance are helping us to replace all our losses, so I treated myself to a lovely bumper selection of needles and yarn and a yarn winder. I have never had one before and it’s a revelation!

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No more begging my children to hold the yarn while I wind it on, or putting it round my legs and getting in a tangle! It really is very exciting, as any knitter would understand 🙂

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I also purchased this pack of bamboo circular needles which is my favourite upgrade. I had lots of circular needles in my basket, but nowhere to store them neatly with all the long wires. This is brilliant! The needles screw onto various lengths of wire and work so smoothly and the storage is super tidy – hurrah!

I have started work on a child’s version of the Idlewood pullover for my youngest daughter in a nice bright royal blue.

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I made one  for myself last year and she has been asking for one ever since. Finally, the weather is cool and it feels right to make another. It is a lovely quick easy knit. I just need to figure out the sizing as it is designed for adults.

Apart from this, I spotted the pattern below whilst browsing ravelry and my children loved the look of it, so I am planning to make them both hats with colourful buttons 🙂 I happily take requests from my girls, especially as my eldest is quite possibly outgrowing home knits at twelve. Sob!

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I have plans to make a few things for myself afterwards and have found three patterns I like and purchased new yarn for them. So, lots of crafty goodness to look forward to! 🙂

 

I lost a lot of yarn in the fire, so it is lovely to have a new bundle of hope. 🙂

And that’s my round up of the past few weeks. We are off on holiday for a week tomorrow so decorating work can continue at our house whilst we are away. It will be lovely to be back to normal at home soon.

I hope your winter days are gentle, creative, fun and peaceful. 

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The Olympics Games – A Fifth Grade Waldorf milestone.

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At the end of the Fifth Grade, when a child is of secondary school age, it is a tradition amongst Waldorf schools to hold an athletics event, that they call the Olympics, based very loosely on the original Olympic Games held in Ancient Greece. In the fifth grade curriculum, pupils study Ancient Greek and Ancient Civilisations, so by the end of the school year they are very familiar with Ancient Greece.

Waldorf schools consider children of 11 years (grade 5 age), to be at the height of their strength and stamina, before the onset of puberty, and what better way to celebrate this time than this unique athletics event.

My daughter’s school went one step further and turned the whole preceding week into a feat of determination and stamina, when they undertook to hike the 24 mile plus distance between their school and the host school.

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Here they are being waved off and cheered on by the whole school 

Leaving on a hot Monday in late June, they walked eight hours a day, for three days, cross country, in the relentless heat. Every night they camped somewhere different.

Parents were tasked to set up and take down the camp daily and were responsible for catering, shopping, walking and all the preparations. It was a big job, but absolutely worth it: the teacher and children so appreciated arriving at a well set up camp and immediately being able to relax, cool down and play after their long walk. They most certainly deserved it!  I hear there were plenty of water fights! 🙂

We were so impressed by this small class of nine’s determination and fighting spirit to complete the walk without complaint and to enter into the spirit of the event.

They arrived at the host school, to a “Welcome”banner and many of children from other schools, who had just arrived by bus, were in awe of their achievement, before any of the athletic training had even started!

This particular Olympics was held at a large Waldorf school with extensive grounds. There were over twenty different schools taking part, from England and abroad, including Poland, Bulgaria and Germany and all were camping on the school grounds in preparation for the event.  I estimate around 350 pupils or so.

My daughter’s class had spent many months last year training; with morning runs around a track in the park and practising a variety of Olympic sports, including javelin, discus, high and long jump and wrestling, so they were well prepared for the next three days.

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There were two days of training before the actual event, where the children from the different schools were divided up into groups, representing Ancient Greek Cities. It  was an opportunity for children to get to know other Waldorf schooled children. Each City was led by an Archon, who was typically a fifth grade teacher, and had a different ribbon colour. Ribbons were tied to a long pole that the Archon held, so that the groups knew where to assemble. My daughter was in “Marathon” which had a light blue colour. She was happy with that, loving blue as she does 🙂

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It was such an inspiring event, I just had to share it with you and I must say I am enjoying reliving it myself! 🙂  Unfortunately I lost my camera battery the day before the event and didn’t have the time to purchase another. Luckily after trying all kinds of options, I was able to borrow a friend’s camera for the event. The photos aren’t as clear as I would have liked, so I apologise in advance for some of the fuzzier photos, but I wasn’t used to the camera and there was a lot of movement! I wouldn’t have missed recording this milestone event in my daughter’s life, for the world. It really is such a glorious way to mark the end of the primary school years and this memory will last the children lifetime, of that I am sure.  I certainly still carry the memory in my heart with such pride. 🙂

The families were able to camp onsite overnight on the Friday, but away from the pupils. This was just as well as we had to rise early on Saturday!

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By 7.45am we were all gathered for the Opening Ceremony. It started with a steady drum beat echoing through the arena, followed by a torchlit procession of children (one child chosen from each City). The other children followed in their “Cities”, all dressed in white tunics with bare feet, as they would have been in Ancient Olympia.

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Each child wore a belt that they had made themselves (parents had made the simple tunics). My daughter had embroidered some Ancient Greek writing on hers. I don’t think it was anything too meaningful though!!

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The big torch was lit and the Games could begin.

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The first event was the “Marathon”, which was a mile long run around the grounds, finishing on the running track. My daughter loves to run and is the fastest in her class, over long distances, which she is proud of. Due to every child running the race, she found herself quite far back at the beginner’s line and it was difficult for her to push forward until part way through the race, but she did herself proud, being one of the first girls to reach the finish line and beat a lot of boys in the process- an important detail!! 😉 She is only a slight thing but built for speed, with fierce determination. She certainly doesn’t get her athleticism from me – I was always last to be picked for sports!

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Then there was a sprint, called “The Dash”, where the children raced 70m, ran round a javelin, and raced back. This was divided into girls and boys races.

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High jump and long jump followed. The children could choose between these.  My daughter chose the long jump and each child was allowed three attempts.

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The queues were long, but the excitement was papable and every child was applauded for their efforts.

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Wrestling was next. My daughter didn’t want to participate, but we watched her classmates. The wrestling is done standing up in a circle. The aim is to push your opponent out of the circle, whilst palm to palm. No other part of the body is to touch the other. It was a very civilized sort of wrestling!!

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Then came the javelin or discus. These events went on simultaneously, so the  children had to choose between them. My daughter chose the javelin, as she said she didn’t want to offer up the discus to Zeus!!! 🙂 They were once again allowed three attempts.

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There was a “mini marathon” in between that my daughter didn’t participate in, which was a 400m race I think. She and her classmates enjoyed wandering around and enjoying refreshments instead.

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The message was clear: the event was not about winning; it was about participation and doing the best of one’s own ability. The children were each praised for their own individual efforts: the grace of their running; the focus in their wrestling; the steadiness of their hand in their throwing; their determination and skill. It was a very encouraging event.

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Lastly there was a relay race, which everyone took part in, running 80m each. Luckily my daughter took part in an early race as the heat was really getting to us and I was suffering from bad hayfever due to being in a freshly mown field all day long!

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After the final race, there was a very moving closing ceremony.

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The children sat in their ‘Cities’, in a circle around the central Olympic torch. The Archons called each child up individually and gave them a medal with a ribbon in their ‘City’ colour and praised them for their acheivements on the day and told each child what they had appreciated about their individual performance and efforts in the previous two days.

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Some children were given slips of paper with these written down. My daughter’s group didn’t receive one and she has forgotten what was said to her because of all the excitement. I remember hearing grace, focus and determination, which I would definitely say apply to her! It was very moving and meaningful. Apart from tears of emotion, my eyes were unfortunately streaming with hayfever and the heat of the big torch close by, that I could barely see any of this or even find my way back to our camp without help!! 😦

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There was a lot to celebrate, not least our lovely, supportive School Community 🙂

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I love how Waldorf education celebrates the seasons, yearly festivals, important  milestones and The Individual. There is so much reverence and meaningful attention to detail. I feel this sends an important message to the Children of the Future; that their contribution is recognised and valued and that the Earth and it’s gifts are to be treasured and protected.

Anyone who has visited this blog will know I am a passionate advocate of Waldorf (Steiner) education. For those that want to know more, I wrote this post.

In the past I have written about the wonderful celebrations in the Kindergarten years, including the beautiful Kindergarten birthday celebration and the very moving Kindergarten leaving festival – see here and here.

In previous years, I have written about the meaning of some of the festivals we celebrate at school and how we honour them at home. These include: Candlemas  (2nd Feb), Valentine’s Day (14th Feb), EasterMay Day festival (beginning of May),Whitsun festival (end of May), Midsummer and St John’s (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September), Martinmas (11th Nov) and Advent (four weeks leading up to Christmas). Hope you find some food for thought here for creating your own seasonal festivals. 🙂

***May your life be filled with awe, reverence and celebration – of Mother Earth and of the gift of Life! ***

 

 

 

Surrender – lessons in letting go

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I am slowly learning to let go…to accept things as they are….to trust in Divine Order…to surrender….

There are circumstances in life that can be trying. I find that fighting them or resisting them can be exhausting and cause more suffering than the actual circumstance itself.  I have been on a spiritual path for several years, but it has taken me a long time to reach this understanding and to be able to use the trials of life as “spiritual practise”.

To trust that everything is unfolding as it should be – that there is Universal Order, is difficult for us humans to comprehend. We like to control outcomes, to measure, to have scientific proof, but if we could only let go and trust, rather than micro-manage our lives, things would flow easier and the channel to our higher wisdom and the Divine would be more accessible.

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As we trust that a seed will grow into a plant that will nourish us or lift our spirits with joyful colour in the spring and summer months, we must trust that we too are undergoing necessary growth and development through the challenges we meet. If we trust in Divine Order, the struggle goes out of things, we can relax and be open to receive. There is great freedom in this.

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At this time,  both my daughters and my husband are ill in bed with a virus and I am holding the fort with a heavy cold of my own. 😦 All our lovely plans for the weekend had to be cancelled as well as a long awaited meeting with a dear friend after College on Tuesday.
I have been practising patient acceptance for a while now and realise I have a choice – to feel frustration and disappointment at what I could be doing (and to try to do some of it anyway…college work etc); or to surrender fully to this time at home and let go of expectation. In the act of surrender, I am able to be completely present to minister to my children both day and night and to answer their calls for loving care and physical affection at this time of vulnerability.  I am grateful for this time of closeness, when usually the girls are so independent.

Now my daughters’ fevers have passed and they are more alert, we have been watching some cosy old fashioned films together, including our two new favourites: Little Women and National Velvet and we will watch Anne of Green Gables (which we have already read and enjoyed) tomorrow, as these were some of my favourite films from my childhood, that I had yet to introduce my daughters to.

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We have also cuddled up to read some of our favourite winter books, including The Sea Mice and The Stars, enjoying ginger biscuits and spicy apple juice as the Sea Mice do in this wonderful story. 🙂

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I rarely sit down to share a picture book with my eldest daughter anymore, so it is a treat for me!

I have had a chance to do some knitting whilst my daughters rest and am making good progress 🙂

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and even managed to sew two sets of bunting for my sister’s friends in the snippets of time in-between caring for the children. Hurrah!

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The girls have helped to make pom poms for a “snowball” garland in moments when they have felt like sitting up, so we even have something to show for our time spent at home 🙂

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And I have been inspired to write this post slowly…but surely…

It will probably be a couple of days before the girls make a full recovery, but what could feel like an inconvenience has actually been a gift. A gift of the present moment, of connection, of retreat, of hibernation even 🙂

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There is always a gift if we look for it, I find. Happiness does seem to be a choice.

During the months, whilst I have been away from this space, there have been a few challenges in our lives. One of these has been changes in my childrens’ school life:

My eldest daughter’s class size shrunk at the end of last year (when some children left to start their secondary school education in the State system, including a best friend). This resulted in a class merger between her class and the class above – Grade 6/7 – and her class losing their teacher to a younger class 😦 My daughter felt her disappointment fully and whilst I sympathised with her frustration and disappointment, I tried to remain calm and centred so I could be proactive. Some words that resonated with me at this time were:

” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”  Dr R Niebuhr

So I did all that I could to prevent the merger, including rallying parents, helping with marketing efforts to try to attract more students to the school (with Brexit, these are difficult times for attracting new business…), writing copious letters and arranging a string of meetings with members of staff to see if there could be another way forward. I used prayer and meditation to help ground myself, but ultimately I had to accept that the merger would go ahead and that our dream of my eldest daughter staying at her Waldorf school until 16yrs may not come to fruition. I have had to let go and trust in the greater plan, whatever that will be. It will become clearer in time….

At the same time, I was meant to be studying for my Biomedicine exam in June and had to resign myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to study as much as I would have liked, due to prioritising my daughter’s class’s needs. I did what I could with the time at hand and had to trust that if this is my path, I would do o.k. It was another lesson in letting go and trusting in the rightness of things as they are. Fortunately it seems I am on the right path…..

And just this last week we found out that our youngest daughter will also be losing her much adored teacher in May as she returns to her home country.  😦 My daughter spent a whole day sobbing on and off, but has reached a level of acceptance despite her sadness. I think when something cannot be changed, all we can do it accept it. The future remains uncertain, but we are choosing to stay positive and trust that whatever changes come along, we will find a way that works for us.

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I am trusting in the bigger plan and trying not to get too caught up in the detail, whilst still being proactive. This has not been my habit in life thus far. I have been an over thinker and worrier – a family pattern –  but it has got me nowhere, except spiking my cortisol levels and affecting my health and wellbeing. I see that now.

I think trusting in the bigger plan is really helpful in difficult times. And remembering that we have a choice about how we react to things. Our thoughts and attachment to ideals can be our biggest enemy; imprisoning us and making us truly unhappy, if we identify too closely with them.

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The fire at our house that I mentioned in my previous post and the consequences, are another example of something that was beyond our control and where I had a choice about how I could react. I could have been frustrated that it created so much chaos and work and just before Christmas and even let it overshadow our preparations for Christmas, or I could accept what was and work with it.  I chose acceptance because it allowed my energies to be used productively; arranging our Christmas festivities etc. Of course I did feel fully the horror when it happened –  I certainly don’t want to deny my feelings.  But it really has been a revelation to see life’s obstacles as an opportunity to practise patient acceptance rather than resistance.

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a page from the year planner that a kind friend gave me for Christmas 🙂

I have had some health challenges over the past years, which were highlighted last year when I started my studies.  Nothing major, but some chronic short term memory loss, difficulty concentrating and very low energy levels, which were interfering with my ability to study. I have been seeing a healthcare professional since September and following a protocol, including going to bed around 9pm for several months and have been following a restricted diet with numerous supplements to support my recovery. It has meant letting go of seeing friends in the evening, starting new projects and spending time alone with my husband in the evening, but I have had to accept this as part of my recovery and that my body needs a lot of rest and nourishment to be able to restore a balance again after years of neglect. I have put some of my life on hold and trust that if I put the effort in with the protocol, it will be worth it. This certainly has been an act of Surrender on my part as the results did not show for quite some time and I am still in the process of recovering and will probably be for some time. But I know that if I am to study and do the things that I feel a calling to do, I need to be in good shape! So I must patiently accept this time of waiting…I am still studying this year; learning about all the different modalities in brief – Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Chinese Medicine, Nutrition and Iridology. It is fascinating!  It is supposed to be a lighter year in terms of study requirements, but there is still an exam at the end. I haven’t found time to study yet, with one thing or another, but am once again trying to relax and trust that I will be granted enough time to study so that I can pass the exam in June.

It is a great comfort trusting all will be well. In fact, one of my favourite simple mantras for uncertain times is:

“All is well,  all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well”

I put it to a little tune and sing it to myself to soothe myself and to silence the worried voices. It really helps.

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The agapanthus decided to bloom again in January 🙂

I could see all these challenges as a catalogue of frustrating circumstances that are ruining my peace of mind or getting in the way of my life’s purpose, or I can see them as an opportunity to practise surrender again and again. This does not mean denying frustration. Frustration at change or dismay/deep upset at bad news is totally understandable and a normal reaction to something that puts our life, as we know it, on hold or changes it irrevocably. It is necessary to feel our feelings fully, but ultimately we need to move beyond that to acceptance and surrendering to what is and move forward from that perspective. Surrendering may not change the circumstances, but it is a way to freedom and peace of mind.

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Because of the fire, we have a much reduced winter Nature Table scene, but King Winter had to make an appearance 🙂  

I attend a monthly Spiritual Philosophy group, in which we always do a guided meditation/visualisation. It is my absolute favourite part of the session as I spend time with my guardian angel. So much comes to light in these sessions, it is incredible. Last Thursday, we were encouraged to go sledging and we would meet our guardian at the bottom of the slope. I usually sledge with my feet as brakes when I don’t know the terrain or if it is a fast ride – I am cautious in that way – but as this wasn’t “real life”, I decided to take the brakes off and fly down the slope. Wow! My heart was so light and I felt so deliciously free, just imagining it. I can see this as a metaphor for life. If we put the brakes on (and try to control events), we are interrupting the natural flow of life and the joy of being in the moment. Life can pass us by and the opportunities that could arise often don’t when we are in a state of resistance. My guardian as usual had some wise words to impart, advising me that I already know what to do…I do think the answers are within us, the clarity that we seek, but we so often cloud things over with our overthinking, using our precious energy to try to control outcomes.

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So I am trying to make a point of noticing when I tense up and if my shoulders and jaw become tight (when I am resisting something or holding on too tightly to an ideal outcome) and consciously making an effort to let go.

Another mantra that a friend and counsellor gave me that I have put to a simple tune and sing when I feel the need is:

“ As I let go, I heal on every level”

I would highly recommend it. It literally dissolves my stress. My shoulders lower and I know letting go is the answer.

When I attended an Artist’s Way group some years ago, on the first session, we were asked to write three goals for the course down. We were given a few arts and craft materials and five minutes to do it in! Here is mine:

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To let creativity and ideas flow, we must let go and trust. In so doing we are opening the channels to Divine inspiration and what’s not to enjoy in this freedom! 🙂

These are of course just examples of my own recent personal challenges. The world is full of much greater challenges on a larger scale, but perhaps practising  meeting our own personal challenges with equinamity and acceptance is a good start. Many things are not within our personal control, so we do need to learn to live with uncertainty every day and accept it as part of life. But we do have some control over our inner terrain, our thoughts and reactions and we can practise choosing  peace and harmony.

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This has become an epic post, written over many days!!!  I felt I wanted to share my feelings on this subject as I know we all go through trials and challenges, some that in retrospect may seem trivial and some that shake the foundations of our life as we know it. We all need to have a toolbox of aids to get us through these times. Above all else, I think Faith is the most important; be it Faith in our ability to handle things; Faith that things are as they should be; Faith in Universal Order and of course Faith in the Divine.  Faith is such a comfort and so strengthening.

Wishing you all a good dose of Faith in your lives xx

I leave you with one more mantra that I have put to a tune and sing often. So joyful!

My love is vaster than a mountain,
My peace is a deep as the sea
My joy is like a radiant sun,
My spirit is strong and free”

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Calm after the storm – A New Year’s Retreat

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As I am writing, I am struck by the beautiful sunset outside the window. The bare branches of trees stretch up to the colour drenched sky and I am filled with awe at the glory of nature and the rich colour palette bestowed upon us at (what we imagine to be) the bleakest time of the year.

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The New Year has just begun and as ever it feels full of hope and promise. Our family of four and Millie (our puppy) are on a week long break from the busyness of everyday life – to retreat a little (hibernation is always my winter wish...), to play, to rest, to create, to enjoy nature and each other.

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In this quiet space, we are making the time to renew our loving intentions towards each other and the world and resolving to let go of what no longer serves us. It is a gift.

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The children are currently in the pool with my husband; jumping, diving, full of joy. Water really is their favourite medium for play – my eldest daughter says she feels light and full of energy, which she does not feel upon the earth, except when playing in very natural surroundings. They are so delighted that we have a pool here and visit it twice daily. Their eyes are wide with big beaming smiles as they duck and dive through the water and I know we are offering them a real gift of slowing down and being in the moment, just now. We are still in England (which is unlike us in January when we tend to seek the winter sun), but with a swimming pool on the grounds, everyone is happy.

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And I am finding the time to write again, to craft and have long leisurely lie ins. Bliss.

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It really is blessing to have this time together to regroup.

In the middle of December we had a house fire in our home. We typically do a star path on our Nature Table over Advent. You can see details at the end of this post. We place four small beeswax candles, held in star shaped cardboard holders on the table along the star path and light a candle (or two, three, four, depending on the Advent week) every evening whilst we sing and move Mary along the path to Bethlehem. We have been doing this for years and always blow the candle out right away after the song so that the candles do not grow too small before Mary reaches the stable. For some unknown reason; be it tiredness, carelessness, distraction, we are not sure, my daughters and I left two of the candles on and unattended and went to bed 😦 Luckily we have a smoke alarm, which alerted us all to the fire. The candles had burnt down and set the cloth on fire and the fire had moved swiftly to the television (which is hidden behind another cloth we use as “the sky” of our Nature Table), so by the time I got downstairs at around 11pm, the television was ablaze. My husband was at the back of the house unaware of what was going on, but acted quickly to stop the fire spreading to the electrics and curtains by throwing all manner of damp towels and clothes onto the fire and removing the television. He also tried to remove a burning basket of knitting wool and bamboo needles, but the smoke got too thick and the basket was too hot, so he had to leave it, but luckily it was away from the electrics and other potential fire hazards.  Three fire engines arrived and quickly put out the fire and blew the smoke out of the house with minimal mess. One of our neighbours was also a great help; giving us warm clothes and a duvet for the girls and our dog Millie, to snuggle under whilst they stayed in the car, parked some distance away at their request. The other neighbours slept through it all!! It was really horrifying at the time to see the lounge ablaze, but the thick dark smoke was the main issue as we couldn’t see properly and had to leave the building for health reasaons. Luckily all is  well and the main damage is limited to the lounge and hall where the walls need cleaning and redecorating. The wooden floor also needs replacing and some of the soft furnishings/rugs, but nothing irreplaceable really.

I lost a whole knitting basket full of wool and my favourite bamboo needles and a few items of clothes that my husband threw on the fire, but all in all, it could have been so much worse and I feel we were protected somehow.

It was an accident and where in the past, I may have berated myself about neglecting to blow the candles out, I have chosen instead to be gentle on myself, to focus on being thankful and feeling blessed that nothing worse happened. We are all fine after all, including the guinea pigs, who we had to leave in the house, so all is well. We were also able to have a wonderful Christmas celebration at home, despite the lounge being out of bounds. The insurance company has been nothing but understanding and generous in replacing our goods so far.

I was mid knitting the girls some Hogwarts jumpers – in Gryffindor and Slytherin colours – and wasn’t sure if I would finish in time, but was remaining hopeful and focused! The fire singed the jumpers in several places and due to time constraints, I asked if they might be able to replace them with “the real thing”. They were happy to help and two days before Christmas, they arrived, to the girls delight and my relief!! It felt like a little Christmas miracle 🙂

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and here they are in their whole ensemble – courtesy of Father Christmas, the insurance company and kind relatives 🙂

So currently whilst we are away, cleaning work is being undertaken at home to remove the soot from the walls and shelves throughout the house, including those black webs we noticed developing after the fire , which we were told were soot webs, not cobwebs!! The place certainly looked dressed for Hallowe’en for the first few days and smelled like a bonfire! 😦

It was difficult to sleep in a house that smelled of acrid smoke, but with the help of a couple of air purifiers, the odour did dissipate after a while and we could sleep peacefully again. We regrouped reasonably quickly as Christmas was fast approaching – the show must go on and all that! 😉 In the week before Christmas we were able to host some visiting friends from the States for an afternoon of catching up and games. They gave us our new favourite game Eleminis – which we have enjoyed it on a daily basis since then 🙂 It is rather competitive but a lot of fun!!

On the 21st December we hosted a gathering of some of my “crafty” girlfriends and their children.

The children took turns decorating the two gingerbread houses that my friend Sofia and I had baked (one very late night) a couple of nights before and we ate, drank and made merry; singing all the Christmas songs we knew, with a variety of simple instruments as accompaniment. It really lifted the vibration of the house, which had been feeling rather sorry for itself. A loving hug of friendship for our home and us.

Luckily, we hadn’t had time to put our tree up in the lounge before the fire, so it didn’t smell of smoke and we enjoyed decorating it in the back extension, where we planned to have all our celebrations.

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We also put another smaller “children’s tree” (with mainly homemade decorations) up in the playroom.

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It felt healing to decorate the tree together and set our intention for a beautiful Christmas. We added a few new decorations that my daughters had made at school.

It felt cosy, and with the lounge closed off, we had a lovely celebration and probably one of our loveliest, quietest Christmases, just us four, for several days. We also had a couple of nice days out with friends

and we rang in the New Year with a favourite friend of ours at home

A fun game of charades!!  🙂

So really, although things looked rather bleak for a couple of days, there is so much to be thankful for and we have felt blessed by the many messages of support, friendship, kind offers of help and love. My husband and I even managed to go on a “date” on the 28th December when the girls went to friends’ houses – another Christmas miracle!! 😉

We missed some of our crafting time before Christmas due to the chaos at home, so we have been making up for it now on our break 🙂 The girls and I have enjoyed making some lovely window stars to adorn the windows of our holiday cottage.

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We made some sixteen pointed stars this time as well as our favourite eight pointed stars. The sixteen pointed stars look almost floral to us, we think, especially the greens and reds.

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I love the acute pointed star I made – it looks like a radiant sun, something that is often missing at this time of year! We love creating a warm, homely atmosphere wherever we go and adding our own touches 🙂

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We also made a few pipe cleaner snowflakes.

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I bought these shiny white pipe cleaners earlier in December with no real plan. I just liked them. It dawned on me they might make nice snowflakes and I am rather pleased with how they turned out.

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We twisted four lengths of pipecleaner around an axis to create eight spokes and cut small lengths to twist around each spoke. A fast and easy craft!

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We also cut out handprints of the girls hands – a yearly activity to mark how they much they have grown ( my youngest daughter had a big growth spurt over the summer and is almost catching up with her older sister!). This year they decoupaged their hand prints on cardboard (other years there has been felt, gold card, henna’d hands and hands used on a “family tree” painting.

My daughters also wanted to make their own Advent Calendars for next December.

My eldest decided upon a Hogwarts theme, as she discovered the Harry Potter books series this year and is captivated by the magic of it all.

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My youngest says her Advent Calendar will be for us – mummy and daddy – It is so adorable – we all love it!

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They are using water colours – a present from Father Christmas that come in a handy small tin where each section screws onto the next, so super portable.

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and Lyra Super Ferby pencils – like they use at their Waldorf school – for the detail. I think this is going to be an ongoing project through January as they are only doing a little at a time.

As for me, as well as losing the girl’s sweater knitting to the fire, I also lost another work in progress. that I was making for myself 😦  I urgently felt the need to make a fresh start. Luckily I had some 4mm circular needles left (my only remaining needles – sob!!) and some yarn I kept in the studio, so I have started knitting this sweater – again for me! 🙂 and I must say knitting is such healing work – creating something new stitch by stitch.

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We have also spent time contemplating the The Madonna Sequence each evening as we did last year, as the girls were keen to mark the twelve Holy Nights in some way and we used these Angel cards as a fun way to predict the twelve months ahead, with the girls drawing pictures corresponding with the month or the cards message.

I did my own special inner work, using Lynn Jericho’s Inner Christmas. Lynn, an anthroposophist,  has been sending Inner Christmas messages for the twelve Holy nights for a number of years, but this is the first year I have participated. This year, the contemplations centred around the 12 Inner Freedoms. Each day we received an email with some questions to work with/contemplate, centred around the twelve freedoms: freedom to expand, contract, centre and flow; freedom from ideals, oughts, fears and doubts and freedom of surprise, grief, love and questions. It was very freeing and thought provoking to work with these questions. I have been journalling every morning and meditating on the questions and would highly recommend this Inner work at a time when we are naturally more inward looking and  “when the veils lift that hide the spiritual world from our ordinary consciousness… and allow us to see with inspired clarity” (L Jericho).

Well, I’ve been away from this space for a very long time. I doubted I would return to my writing here, because once I was out of my weekly habit of writing, it was quite easy to let it go, as life felt full enough as it was. I even stopped taking photos for a month when my camera broke 😦

The New Year has arrived and with it, a new calling to write again, to share and record our family life, to express gratitude, for it is only a moment in time, being a mother to younger children. In the two years I have written here, a lot has happened and my daughters have changed so much. My eldest daughter is now 12 and although she still believes in magic, it is only a matter of time before her feet are firmly on the ground and cynicism and skepticism creep in; the Age of not Believing (Sherman Brothers ) and I won’t be able to share this part of our family life any more. So I will begin again and try to fill in the gaps as best I can.  Beginning is half the battle sometimes, don’t you think?

At a friend’s suggestion, each of us is writing down something for which we are grateful or something we enjoyed each day of 2019. My youngest and I want to put the messages in a jar and my eldest and my husband are going to write a list. 🙂 We routinely do this verbally at the end of the day anyway, but I think writing things down will be a more tangible reminder. It is especially a gift for the melancholic temperament (quite a few of us here!) to look back at how much goodness there is in our lives, when we may sometimes doubt it.

We will be returning home tomorrow and and luckily the bulk of the cleaning in our house has been done whilst we are away. Nothing irreplaceable has been lost so we really do count ourselves lucky. Onwards and upwards 🙂

Wishing you a peaceful and joyful start to the New Year 2019. May it be a blessed year for you all. 

 

 

 

Autumn Books for children

amothershares

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It’s starting to feel really autumnal now, so it’s time to cosy up at home with some lovely autumn books 🙂 We have just spent a lovely afternoon with our autumn books today, so I thought it was time to share what our favourites are.

We have picture books for every season and festival, which we enjoy rediscovering at the beginning of each season. It really is a joy to reacquaint ourselves with our seasonal favourites – everything feels fresh, yet familiar. When the season is over, I store them away with our nature table things in a big plastic box in the eaves.

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Some of the Elsa Beskow and Sibillye von Olfers are kept on a shelf in the lounge in our reading corner. I love them so much, I can’t store them away for a whole year! And besides I am quite aware that my daughters will outgrow them…

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Celebrating…

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It was my husband’s 50th Birthday last week. We decorated the Birthday table as we always do and made every attempt to spoil Daddy with flowers and presents to make his day special.

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The girls each made Daddy a present in the couple of nights beforehand, whilst I read them a bedtime story. We are currently reading Little Farm in the Ozarks which we are loving. It is about the childhood of Rose Wilder, the daughter of Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder. We can’t get enough of these books. Thank goodness there are so many!

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An appliqued bookmark and a ‘Happy Birthday’ picture to use again and again

Unfortunately it rained the entire Birthday, so we couldn’t go for any nice long walks. Instead, we went out for a lovely lunch and it was so good to spend time together. In the evening there was cake. It wasn’t a great success and I had to do some errr “glueing” but the cream cheese frosting, sprinkles and strawberries came to the rescue:-) A little rustic, but it tasted fine.

I hope my husband felt we made his day special. My youngest daughter even contributed some of her own money (she doesn’t have much as we don’t give pocket money) to buy him some delicious truffles as Daddy loves them so much 🙂

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We continued the celebrations over the weekend with a party on Sunday, but before this my husband and daughters took part in our City’s annual Children’s Parade on Saturday. Each school was allocated a painting to interpret into costume. I didn’t see the painting, but I believe it was Indian inspired. The girls dressed as Indian-style bulls in oranges and reds. There was drumming and all the children had a hand held instrument.

 

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My daughters made their own heads, with some guidance from one of the very talented mothers at the school. I think they came out beautifully.

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There were also yellow birds, mermaids and peacocks and of course the most amazing main structure. How to envisage creating these structures out of willow, just baffles me. I am so impressed by the creatives who can do this.

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After the parade, both daughters had a friend each over for a play and sleepover.

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My, how grown up they all look in this picture….

There was a circus just up the road, with special deals, so I decided to treat the girls to another trip. We are always amazed by the circus performers – the feats that they can do blow our minds and inspire us! Nothing beats live performances 🙂

Afterwards, the girls spent some time practising various feats on the swing set, blowing bubbles and doing quick changes like the acts we saw, as well as spraying the audience!

Later they decided to make each other presents in secret. The older girls started it, by making little friendship necklaces for themselves and the other two,

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and then they all decided to surprise each other with more presents. It was very sweet and they were all very motivated. Unfortunately the laminator became temperamental so some of their work got rather scrunched up 😦 Here is a small selection…

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The next day, it was time to prepare for my husband’s party that afternoon. We had fun decorating the house and garden for the party. My daughters helped to make long swathes of paper chains to decorate our family room (in case it rained, we were determined to have a party atmosphere inside!)

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Luckily the sun shone for us all weekend, so we could spend time outside and enjoy the garden, celebrating my husband’s 50 years on the Earth.

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One of my husband’s friends is a singer and my husband loves to sing, so they both sang a few Frank Sinatra numbers using a microphone. It was all very civilised and I think the neighbours enjoyed themselves too! 😉 The children decided to climb on the roof at this point! It almost felt like we were at a festival!! 🙂

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It was “bring a dish” sort of party and I organised for friends to help with the food, drinks and bbq so my husband could really relax. The food was amazing and there was so much goodwill, it was lovely.

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   I was a bit late taking this photo! ….

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One of our friends kindly made the cake, as I didn’t want to chance it after my struggles with cake making earlier in the week! 😦 The children did the decorating 🙂

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We had some friends stay over and enjoyed a lovely sunny day with them on Bank Holiday Monday; eating all the delicious left over food – it was still a feast! Millie was in her element all weekend, with all the socialising and friends 🙂 She was exhausted  by the end of the weekend. Here she is cuddling up with my youngest daughter’s latest knitted creation from school 🙂 So sweet.

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It was such an enjoyable, sociable, fun weekend. Now for a nice quiet week. Inbreaths and outbreaths – this is where we find our balance.