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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I chose a Steiner (Waldorf) school for my children – a UK parent’s perspective – highlights and misconceptions

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I am writing this because I don’t think enough parents have heard of or understand what Steiner (Waldorf) education is.  I thought it was time to shed some light on the subject because I believe it is a viable alternative to mainstream education and could benefit many children whom the current state system is failing. There are many misconceptions in the mainstream about Steiner education, so I also want to go about setting the record straight.

Let me say a little about our journey...

I have two daughters at a UK Steiner School and we have been involved in Waldorf education for nine years, since starting in the Parent and Child group when my eldest was two years old.

From an early age, I was aware that my daughters needed a different setting from the typically loud and chaotic toddler groups. I myself didn’t feel at home in the busy, noisy environment either, so I looked around for an alternative; somewhere quiet and safe for my children and somewhere to meet like-minded conscious parents. I was blessed to come upon a local Steiner School, who run a weekly Parent and Child group. As soon as we arrived, I knew I’d made the right decision. The mornings had a lovely rhythm: with free play, parent craft time (what a luxury!), baking bread, outdoor play, circle time and a shared lunch (which parents contribute an item to and always results in a feast!) There was an atmosphere of respect, anticipation, and joyful contribution and the space was wonderfully held by the Parent and Child facilitator. During this time I discovered a lot about Steiner education and realised it would be a good fit for my children. I already felt that an early start at school would “wake” my sweet dreamy children “up” before they were ready for it and knowing that most other countries do not start school until their seventh year, I felt confident that Kindergarten was the answer. I was not disappointed.

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My youngest daughter on her last day of Kindergarten with a hobby horse she made herself!

The Kindergarten years are the Wonder Years. The children slowly unfold at their own pace, unhurried and protected from the faster pace of life outside the school. They are free to make discoveries, to play, to imagine and create, without the pressures of academic achievement. Children are only assessed for their readiness for school in their seventh year (6-7yrs).

I fail to understand why the UK Government, contrary to the educational reports they receive on child development, insist it is in children’s best interests to start academic learning as soon as possible. They are even trying to push it into preschools! There is a feeling that children need to get ahead and this can foster early competitiveness in children or feelings of inadequacy,  particularly in younger, more dreamy children who are simply not ready for a school structure or academic learning at a young age. These feelings can remain for their whole educational journey if not handled skilfully by the teaching staff.

I have heard from both family members and friends how the daily pressures of homework, high expectations, not to mention SATS, have left their children feeling stressed, anxious and even depressed by the time they enter secondary school. Of course there are children that breeze through it all, but many children suffer big knocks to their confidence and many more feel demotivated at an early age. It saddens me that so many children are becoming a casualty of this misguided system.

Studies have shown that an early start can actually discourage a love of learning after a few years. There is absolutely no proof that an early start has a positive effect on learning outcomes. The UK has not improved its position in global education rankings, compared with several countries in Asia, Germany. Scandinavia and Finland, all of whose children start school at six or seven years.

In many countries, Steiner education is a State funded alternative to the mainstream education and it has produced many highly esteemed professionals. In this country, we have not reached this point yet, although there are currently a few Steiner Academies in Frome, Hereford, Bristol and Exeter.

I have heard that there have been further cuts to the Arts in schools. How sad that there is less and less of a place for creativity in schools. We are so much more than just our brains and not everyone will excel academically.  In Steiner schools, song, movement and art are integral to their learning, with teachers encouraging the children to produce beautiful work to feel proud of.

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Getting ready for our annual Christmas Fayre

Anyway back to our story…

As I mentioned, my children are very sensitive and don’t thrive in large groups: they feel invisible and quickly lose heart. I felt that mainstream education would do them no good because their needs wouldn’t be met in such large classes. The Steiner school class size is much smaller, with a maximum of 22 pupils and often smaller classes, and an emphasis on getting to know each individual child. The child feels seen and heard. It is a great gift, especially for a quieter child. My daughters have been allowed the time to develop in confidence and to learn at a pace that suits them. They are still enjoying a relatively stress-free childhood. I have seen my once shy and retiring children grow from strength to strength in confidence and ability. My children are now very confident speakers in their class, something I feel sure would not have happened if I had followed the mainstream option.  I fully believe that this type of education should be a model for the future.

Mainstream education tackles subjects like politics, sex education, environmental concerns and other subjects I feel are inappropriate at primary school age. Children can lose their innocence and belief that the world is good far too early on and some children can feel overburdened with worry when they are powerless to change anything. In contrast, such subject matter is introduced in Waldorf education when the right level of maturity is reached to receive it.

In Class 1 (6-7yrs), the child is in a reception-like environment with an emphasis on setting boundaries for behaviour in a school classroom and introducing the child to life in the main school. There is still much wonder and fairy tales form an integral part of the curriculum. Letters and numbers are introduced creatively as a prelude to writing and mathematics. The children are assessed individually so all their needs can be met, whether they are early readers or still need time. The child will still only initially attend one long day until 3.20pm. By the end of Class 1, they attend two long days. This increases every year until Class 4 when they attend every day until 3.20pm. In many countries, such as Germany and Finland (who are globally ahead academically) half days are still very common.

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A beautiful picture drawn by a class teacher in Class 1

Ideally the child will be with their class teacher from Class 1-8 (6-14yrs), so there is continuity of care and the teacher gets to know the child deeply. The child as a whole is educated, not just the brain, but the body, heart, mind and spirit. There are no screens or textbooks. Instead the child creates his/her own subject books, called the Main Lesson book. These are a real feast for the eyes and soul. Below are examples of a few pictures from my eldest daughter’s main lesson book. So inspiring, I find!

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Part of the Geometry main lesson. If you are going to do something, make it beautiful!

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In my eldest daughters class (Class 5) this year, the children are studying Ancient Civilisations, Local Geography, Geometry and Botany. There have been wonderful local geography project presentations, a superbly crafted class play of “the Adventures of Odysseus” and the children are currently working on a self guided Botany project. In the class the children support each other’s efforts. Other subjects in Class 5 include languages, as well as Ancient Greek , handwork, clay work, sports and a special kind of dance movement devised by Steiner called Eurhythmy. Below are a few samples of this year’s work. 

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A Local Geography presentation on the Lake District.

Each summer, the children go on a class trip to reflect what they have learnt in their curriculum that year and the stage in their development. The children in Class 5, at 11 years old, are considered to be at the peak of their strength (before they enter puberty), so in their final year in the Lower school, they will compete in a special Olympics held at the Michael Hall Steiner School in Forest Row, where they will meet up with other children of their age from Steiner schools across England and from abroad. The children will undertake a three day hike, camping along the way, to reach Michael Hall and will spend several days there preparing for the Olympics. There is a tremendous sense of achievement by the end of the week. The children are feeling excited and proud of their place in the school.

My youngest, at eight, will be staying away for one night at a youth hostel with her class. She started school after she was seven as she wasn’t emotionally ready at six and I am so glad she waited as she is doing brilliantly and has fully embraced school life. They are in their second year of Handwork and she has been bringing back gorgeous knitted toys including this kitty and a piglet that our puppy has taken a liking to! 

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In this day and age, we are in such a hurry to “grow our children up”. We, as adults, surely know that there is no going back to the innocent days of our childhood; with no responsibilities, time on our hands and not a care in the world.  I feel we need to protect our children’s childhoods from the pressures of adult life as long as possible, especially in primary school.

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We all love our children and for many,  mainstream education fits the bill and children do well there, but I fully believe that at least 20% would do better elsewhere. There has been a 40% rise in Home Education because schools are failing many of our children. I believe Steiner schools are a viable alternative for many families, where parents would rather be working than teaching their children, but I think that not enough people know there is another way.

I have seen children breathe a sigh of relief when they enter a Steiner school after leaving mainstream education, once they have adjusted to the different way we do things. Finally a place where they can be themselves, be recognised and are allowed and supported to grow into the independent, confident people they can be, given the time and support they need.

To summarise, some of the Highlights of Steiner education for me are :

  • The creative curriculum – each year of the Steiner curriculum is designed to reflect where the child is in terms of their development. There are no text books: the teacher imparts all the information and the children create their own beautifully illustrated books by their own hand. They use good quality materials to achieve a high standard of work that they can feel proud of. Music, movement, art and handwork are an integral part of the curriculum and allow a holistic educational approach; educating the child’s mind, body and spirit. I can’t think of anything children need more in this day and age.
  • Recall – The class will spend a little time every morning going over what they learnt in the previous school day, having slept on it. This helps them to integrate their knowledge before moving on to the next topic.
  • Continuity – the teacher ideally stays with the class for seven years (6-14yrs) so there is continuity of care and the teacher knows his/her pupils deeply. This is not always possible in every case, but new teachers will work closely with a departing teacher to ensure that the children’s needs are still met. There is certainly greater continuity than in the mainstream, which I appreciate for my children, who do not do well with too much change.
  • Smaller class size – class size is no more than 24 pupils and often less, so each child feels seen and the teacher has a chance to know them deeply, not just based on academic performance.
  • Individual attention – often more reserved children in larger schools feel invisible, not heard and not able to access what other louder, more confident children can.  At a Steiner school, each individual child matters and the teacher will go to lengths to help the child to feel like a valuable part of the class. There is a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. There are also regular Parents Evenings and easy access to the teacher to voice concerns.
  • Later academic study  – children are considered ready for academic study from the time they start to lose their teeth. This is usually from 6 years. There is no pressure to comply with a fixed learning curve and each child will learn to read and write at their own pace with the encouragement of the class teacher. If a child is a late reader, as my eldest was, they still very much participate in the class and do not feel less than the others. There is learning support if necessary.
  • A cooperative attitude –  the children are expected and encouraged to behave respectfully towards each other and collaborative work is important. It is incredibly inspiring and heart warming to see how supportive the children are of each other’s work in the classroom.  It has certainly not been my personal experience of school life!
  • A community school – My daughters know most of the children’s names in the school. The children feel held and safe in a community of pupils, staff and parents. As they say ” It takes a village to raise a child”. This is the closest I have found to this. Parents are invited to be involved in school fundraising and caring for the school, including cleaning the classroom once a term, which is a lovely opportunity to care for your child’s learning environment and gives the parent an insight into what goes on in the classroom. There is even a school shop, selling healthy foods, run by parent and teacher volunteers which is a hub of the community.
  • Handwork Lessons are a wonderful opportunity to learn various skills. The first two years are devoted to learning knitting and the children make themselves a selection of gorgeous knitted toys of which they can be proud. The children learn crotchet in Class 3 and Cross stitch in Class 4. In Class 5 they return to knitting, making socks and my eldest is now knitting gloves. Here are a few examples of her work. What a wonderful achievement. 

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A cross stitch pin cushion made in Class 4 following a painting of their own design

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Cross stitch Christmas cards made in Class 4

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Knitted socks in Class 5

  • Yearly Class Plays – every year each Class performs a play for the rest of the school and their parents, which ties in with one of their Main Lesson subjects. The play forms part of their Main Lesson for half a term and the children work hard together; painting scenery, making props and some costumes and advertising their play.  This year, my eldest (in Class 5) performed a play of “the Adventures of Odysseus” to tie in with her studies of Ancient Civilisations and learning Ancient Greek.

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My youngest (in Class 2), performed a play about St Francis of Assisi to tie in with her studies of the Saints. They were both superb and the children felt they were part of something very special.

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School festivals – festivals are such a lovely way to mark the the passing of the year and reflect on seasonal changes. They range from special assemblies around Easter and Christmas, to Maypole dancing and jumping over a little fire at Midsummer.

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Lantern walks in November, as the light dwindles, are another highlight of the Early Years calendar and continue for a few years in the main school.

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The Festivals are particularly beautiful in the Kindergarten years when parents are able to participate in the festivities. The children are all very much involved.  

 

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My youngest daughter serving strawberries and cream at the Early Years ‘Strawberry Fayre’ festival  in her last year in Kindergarten 

So those are the highlights, now to tackle some of the Misconceptions of what a Steiner school is:

  • “A free for all Attitude”  –  Steiner Education was designed to educate the “whole child” in “freedom”, which has been misconstrued as a ‘free for all attitude’. This is absolutely not how a Steiner schools works. Children know their place and boundaries for behaviour in the classroom are clear, including expectations of respectful behaviour towards classmates and the teachers. The teacher is in charge and the children are led and held by them. Parents are free to speak to the teacher as often as they need to and there is an open line of communication so things can be tackled early on if necessary.
  • ” A load of hippies” –  If being a hippy, means believing in a peaceful, respectful environment for your child, then I’m fine with that! The school has rules and regulations, just like any other school. There is a code for dress and behaviour. It is not a democratic school. The teacher is there to guide and inspire the children to achieve a high standard of work and behaviour.
  • “Children just play” – In Kindergarten much free play is encouraged. There is a rhythm to the Kindergarten morning, with a walk in the park, followed by circle time, free play, the occasional seasonal craft, a snack, tidying up time and outside play, followed by story time. The children are encouraged early on to contribute to the class; by tidying away the playthings, accompanied by a song and they also help lay or clear the table at snack time. They learn a sense of responsibility and their place in the class through contribution. The ages are combined from 4yrs to 6yrs and the younger children learn from the older ones whilst the older ones are happy to inspire the younger ones by their example. It works very well.  There is no academic work at all. Instead the children have time to evolve as human beings, through their play: Play is considered “a child’s work”.

From school age, play is reserved for the playground and children are expected  to care for the classroom as part of their daily routine. There are movement games but this is all structured by the teacher. 

  • No discipline – this again is not the case at all. Teachers are very much in charge. Parents can approach teachers to speak about their children in detail and children can voice concerns, but ultimately the teacher is in charge and the children can relax and get on with their work. It is a school after all!
  • Not academic/scientific – the Steiner curriculum differs from that of mainstream education and this continues into the Upper school, where pupils will also study for GCSE’s. Although children do not study the three sciences separately,  the curriculum includes science from Class  6 onwards and several children from our school have gone on to study engineering and excel in their fields of interest. Sixth form colleges welcome Steiner pupils because of the broad curriculum and the children’s thirst for knowledge.  

I am so grateful that I was guided to the school so early on in my children’s lives, but it is never too late to give your child the kind of education that meets their need for a creative curriculum, that lets them grow and learn at a pace that suits them, without being overloaded with targets, SATS, homework, because after a long day at school, shouldn’t a child have some free time to download what they have learnt!?

So many of us were impoverished in the way we were taught as children. I for one, would have loved to have been Steiner educated. Being sensitive, creative and an observer, the competitive environment of a Public school killed my joy of learning: It was all about outcomes and exams. I withdrew and although I have come out whole, with very good grades,  it did nothing to build my confidence or self esteem to tackle the big wide world.

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My eldest selling her handmade gifts at the school Christmas Fayre. 

The way the world is going today, we need to find more ways to support the creative thinkers, the entrepreneurs, the inventors as we will need them even more for our future survival.

 

Big catch up…

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It is now almost two weeks since my children returned to school, after a three week Easter break. I can’t believe I haven’t written here for well over a month! 😦 There just hasn’t been a spare moment to dedicate to the luxury of writing here. Any spare time has been dedicated to essay writing and I have had other pressing matters to occupy my time and headspace too….

But finally, here I am and it’s so good to be back 🙂 I am going to write a single post about the past month, because time is short these days and I don’t know when I will write again. I do hope to get back to posting weekly and even finishing off my US travel posts (!) but right now I am doing a lot of writing for different reasons, so we shall see… I live in hope! Anyway, in the unforgettable words of  “the Sound of Music!”

 Let’s start at the very beginning…

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughters were both in a play in the final week of last term. In Steiner (Waldorf) schools, each class puts on a play every year and they form part of their main lesson for half a term. The children learn their lines remarkably quickly and it is a wonderful achievement that they can be proud of.

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My eldest, who at 11 years is in fifth grade, has been learning about Ancient Civilisations this year (amongst other things) and the class has also been taught some ancient Greek, so it was decided that they would put on a play of ” The Adventures of Odysseus.”

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There was chanting in ancient Greek and great passion and action. The play was really well put together and the scenery was painted and designed by the class. Such an achievement. A boy in the upper classes even did the lighting so there was plenty of atmosphere too.

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The children really did themselves proud and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  They put on three shows: one for the lower and middle school; one for the parents and one for the upper school, with some of the middle school children choosing to see it again!

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My daughter used to be very shy and only wanted small parts in plays, but she has been growing in confidence every year and asked for a bigger part this time. She did a marvellous job, speaking clearly and with feeling. I was so proud of her. Steiner (Waldorf) schools are such a great environment for bringing out the best in a child. I am a passionate advocate for this type of education.

My youngest daughter, who at eight years old is in the second grade, has been learning about the Saints this year. The class put on a play about St Francis of Assisi. The children did two performances: one for the classes and one for the parents and took on two different roles, one in each performance. My daughter was due to be a baker in the performance we were watching, but at the last minute she had to take on the role of a Nun, as one of the children was ill and they all had to swap around .

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Luckily the children all know each other’s lines (more or less) so she did really well. I was very impressed by the way she stepped in. She is also quite shy at times, but she didn’t want to let anyone down. It was a wonderful play with proper scenery, costumes and good humour.

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Easter came right after we broke up from school, which felt rather strange as there was no time for Easter crafts beforehand.

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We did do a little egg blowing and decorating one afternoon as the girls insisted on it but we were all out of breath after one egg, so we left it at that !!

We stayed at home for the whole holiday, which is quite unlike us as we love to travel and see new sights and sounds, but it felt like the sensible option; having a young puppy and wanting to get her settled. We saw plenty of friends over the three weeks.

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 and had a sleepover party with a friend each, including a fun trip to the circus.

We have also spent time getting to know Millie better. She has doubled in size and is such a sweetheart and so friendly with people and dogs. We feel truely blessed. She is happy as long as there is a soft spot to rest, including cushions fallen under the table, a bundle of wet laundry or a pile of leaves. These are all a perfect resting spot! 🙂

She is surprisingly fast and loves nothing better than running on the cliffs with the children or going for country walks. Some have been very muddy, bless her heart!

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As for Easter, we had a lovely quiet weekend, just the four of us. The Easter hare paid us a visit and the children were delighted to find this little rabbit statue left as a surprise. 🙂

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There wasn’t much time for present making, but my daughters still managed to make each other a gift in secret. My eldest sewed her sister two skirts for her toys, using this pretty fabric.

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My youngest was very specific about what she wanted to make for her sister, so with my help she created a little garden for two felt rabbits and some needle felted Easter Eggs. She made it all by herself, except for my cutting out the felt and sewing the grass to the base on Easter Saturday evening (!) due to time constraints. The vision was entirely hers 🙂 Her sister was truely delighted and enchanted by it!

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They also made us a few very simple ornaments for the Easter tree.

And of course there were cards for us and for the Easter hare 🙂

Considering they only started their work on Good Friday, I was really impressed by their efforts and determination!

Unfortunately due to my studies and other matters, I did not find a spare moment, (where I had the time or energy) to make my daughters anything 😦 I did give both girls a meditation shawl as they have long wrapped themselves in mine when they feel tired or unwell and I always fill their papier mache eggs with a few goodies, which they appreciate.

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It was a joy to finally decorate the Nature Table for spring and bring out fresh green cloths and soft yellows to reflect the colours in the outside world. I was also pleased to be reacquainted with the flower children I made last year  🙂

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We also made our usual carob sweets in Easter moulds

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and coverered date truffles  with dyed coconut shavings.

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We used:

  • A teaspoon of spirulina powder mixed with a little water for the GREEN
  • A teaspoon of turmeric powder mixed with a little water for the YELLOW
  • Hand squeezed grated carrot for the ORANGEY/YELLOW
  • Hand squeezed grated beetroot for the PINK – a messy job indeed!
  • Squashed frozen blackberry juice for the PURPLE

We needed very little of the ingredients to achieve the desired colour. Once we were happy with the colour, I placed the shavings in our dehydrator for a couple of hours to dry them.  A low oven would also work.

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After rolling the date truffles in the coloured shavings, we stored the rest in a jar so we can ‘jazz up’ Daddy’s birthday cake this week 🙂 A healthy option to sugary sprinkles and fun to make besides!

Apart from Easter things, we have been on several lovely walks.

Spring is finally in the air, although today is freezing!

The sight of the new buds, the catkins, the carpets of wood anenomes, the wild primroses, celandines and violets filled our hearts with joy. It has been a long bleak winter – the flowers are such a welcome sight!

We have been renewing our love for the Herb Fairies series, now that all the fresh herbs and flowers have returned for inspiration 🙂

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We picked some violets on one of our walks and have pressed them, drawn them and done some colouring in. We also made some pretty ice cubes (for a party we are having this weekend), and stirred up some violet and dandelion honey, that the girls have been enjoying this week.

 We have a full week coming up; with my husband’s birthday on Wednesday, the children need to finish their costumes for a Children’s Parade on Saturday, after which they will have friends over for a sleepover and if that’s not enough (!), we are hosting a party for Daddy on Sunday! Yes lots to do and to look forward to 🙂

I am sorry for the long absence. I hope to be back soon! I have missed it far too much to stay away so long again 🙂 This space reminds me of all that is good in my life and that joy can be as simple as a walk in nature, a cuddle with a puppy or sweet times spent with my family or friends. And with that I leave you with a lovely photo of my youngest and Millie on a recent hot and sunny day 🙂

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PS: For friends who visit regularly, I passed my exams really well! So pleased and kind of surprised, (considering how little time I managed to revise for). I must know more than I give myself credit for 🙂

Winter takes another flight and we take the leap….

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Once again, I didn’t manage to carve out any time for writing in the past couple of weeks. At the beginning of the year, I was full of ideas about blog posts I wanted to write and I promised myself that I would finally finish my last two travel posts  (yes, I do still plan to write them!), but thusfar none of this has materialised. 😦 It is just the way life has panned out this year….

We are slowly recovering from another bout of coughs and colds. The bugs are tending to linger on rather this year. I had hoped that the very cold spell we had would have killed all the bugs off, but they seem very persistent. My eldest still has a fever on and off, poor love.

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After enjoying some wonderfully warm spring days and feeling spring energy stirring within us, winter has taken another flight. It has been snowing over the past couple of days and is still bitterly cold. We even made a little snow lady, Erica 🙂

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My eldest reminded me that it was sunny on Candlemas (Groundhog) day, so it’s not really surprising! 🙂

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The snow hasn’t been deep, but it’s been compact enough to go sledging a couple of times. The Friday before last, my eldest and I went to the local park with our sledge after school on the off chance that the conditions would be suitable and luckily we were pleasantly surpised. We have a nice wooden German sledge that hasn’t seen much use, so it was a pleasure to take it out for a spin. 🙂 There were only a couple of families out as it was dinner time and getting dark, so by the time we left, we had the slope to ourselves. It was great to do something fun with my eldest, just the two of us. Lately we have rarely had the opportunity and I know it benefits us both.

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The week before last was quite eventful:

On Friday, we celebrated our wedding anniversary – 18 years – my, how did that happen?! Although we were both full of cold, we spent a lovely day together; looking at campervans :-), eating (tasty spicy foods), drinking (shots of lemon and ginger – very potent!) and mooching around town. It was just so nice to talk and be together. We haven’t managed to keep up our fortnightly dates for a while due to illness and other circumstances, so it was precious time spent together. We are hoping to get back on track with our dates as it is important to have fun together.

On Sunday, it was Mother’s Day. None of us was feeling ‘on form’, but my husband and daughters still made an effort to spoil me; with cards and a couple of sweet presents. I was very touched.

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I love my new cheery teapot for loose leaf tea and my new cup with its rounded sides – so wonderful to cradle in my hands. 🙂

 

My youngest made me this heart at school : she sanded the wood, hammered in the small nails and wove her chosen thread colours around the heart. A labour of love 🙂 My eldest has yet to finish her gift she says.

Speaking of an eventful week, on Saturday, we picked up our new puppy Millie!

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We have discussed at length over the years whether a dog would fit in our life or not and after much debate and discussion, we decided it was now or never. Our daughters are old enough now to be involved and help with a puppy and still have many more years at home to enjoy with her.  We made it one of our New Year’s Resolutions! Funnily enough, we have since discovered it is the Chinese “Year of the Dog”, so it feels even more apt that this is the year we took the leap! 🙂

We picked her out from her litter the Saturday before and the girls spent the week busily preparing for her arrival!

 

She is a Cavapoo; a mix between a miniature poodle and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We did a lot of research before reaching a decision, because we wanted to be sure we found a compatible dog for our guinea pigs; without a prey instinct and a dog that didn’t need excessive amounts of exercise and was easy to train!

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She is nearly 11 week and is a real sweetheart. We are smitten! The first few days, she slept a lot and didn’t eat much. We think she was missing her family of origin, but she is much more active and playful now. Unfortunately she had an upset tummy the whole week, so I took her to the vet on Friday to be checked out. He gave her an antibiotic injection and some probiotic medicine and we hope to see some improvement soon. She found visiting the vet thrilling; meeting other dogs and being doted on by animal lovers. Everyone commented on her sweet temperament, for which we are most grateful.

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When we go out, we have been carrying her in my big knitting basket or in a baby sling as she is still too young to be put on the ground outside. She has been enjoying the view and being close.

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She has also travelled on the buses, been cuddled and doted on by numerous children at the school gates and even enjoyed a quick trip to the supermarket the other day, when our cupboards were bare!

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I have been trying to study inbetween attending to her. Luckily Millie still enjoys frequent naps!

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She will nap wherever she finds a cosy body! 🙂

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It had been so cold, we had to invest in a little jacket for her, as she is going to work with my husband three days a week and he works outdoors. The girls tried some dolly jumpers on her too, which are still rather large! At that point I started to fantasise about the jumpers I could knit for her next winter (hee hee!)

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She has even had her first taste of snow and seemed unphased by it.

 

I hope I haven’t gone overboard with the photos! I have really noticed how even the (seemily) hardest characters seem to soften when they meet a puppy. It is a real leveller and in so a real gift.

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In other news, my eldest, who is in the Fifth Grade of a Waldorf (Steiner) school, finished a Geography project on The Lake District. Each child had to choose a region of England to write a detailed project on. Their project needed to be beautifully illustrated and they had to design a poster and construct a model of the area. My daughter made a papier mache model with my husband.

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They presented the project to their class and once again, individually, to the parents  one evening last week. We spent 7 minutes talking with each child about their chosen project and sampling food from the area, that the children had brought in. My daughter made some Grasmere Gingerbread, with crystallized ginger and brought in some Kendal Mint Cake to share. It was a really fun evening and all the children talked confidently about their subject.

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I really appreciate how my sensitive children are building their confidence in this setting and how Steiner education encourages the children to be supportive of each other’s work. I was petrified of presenting anything as a child and still am, even as an adult (!), but my daughter took it in her stride and was more than happy to talk to the parents in this intimate, relaxed atmosphere. It was so lovely to see and it feels good to know she is in the right place.

And now we know so much about the region, we really must try to visit at some point this year – maybe with our campervan-to-be?! 😉

And last, but not least, my youngest finished her third knitting project: a little kitty 🙂

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And that’s the round up for the past couple of weeks. As for me, I am currently  making a couple of simple monk’s outfits and adjusting a Greek dress for both my daughters’ plays next week.

I haven’t been making much for pleasure, but I am planning to get back on track as I am feeling like creativity is rather missing from my life right now and things don’t feel in balance in that way.

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I hope you are finding plenty of time for creativity and are keeping well and warm!

Joining Crafting On at Frontier Dreams.

 

 

Warmth in the cold

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Finally, I am finding a pocket of time in which to write. It feels like ages, since I was last here and I must say I have missed it. As I wrote in my last post, we have been suffering from illness over here. As soon as I recovered – literally the day after I felt my energies return slowly, my husband went down with a heavy virus, from which he is only just recovering, almost three weeks later 😦 so all of February has passed in a bit of a blur….

Today is the second day of March and we have snow!!!

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It is so absolutely thrilling for us, having resigned ourselves to another winter without. What a gift! My daughters have been running outside first thing in the morning, to play in the snow and although there hasn’t been deep snow, they have enjoyed making snow angels, building miniature snow bears 🙂 and drawing a snowman on the snow covered pond…and throwing snowballs of course 🙂

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They had an afternoon off school and went sledging with Daddy (while I was at college). We have certainly been enjoying the snow covered world in all its beauty and wonder.

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Only the other day, as we walked around our local park, we felt that spring was in the air; the birds were very vocal,  the daffodils were out and the sun felt warm on our skin. I wondered about setting the Nature Table up for spring, but luckily didn’t have the time, as finally our winter scene has come to fruition. 🙂

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We may even have more snow tonight. Hurrah!

So let’s see what we have been up to in the last few weeks…hmmn…

We had our half term break after my husband came down with illness, which was lucky, in a way, as we didn’t have to rush off anywhere early in the morning and I was still not totally recovered energy-wise. We had a lovely break really: slow days, lots of cooking, making and baking and seeing friends.

After three weeks of illness and also missing Candlemas, I thought it was important to spend lots of time doing nice things together; to reconnect and to find the joy in family life again. We finally rolled some beeswax candles, that I had ordered for Candlemas and my daughters decorated them with beeswax hearts that they stamped out of these thin beeswax sheets.

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On Valentines, we went overboard with hearts, pinks and reds!

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For breakfast, we made pancakes and heart shaped waffles with fried apples and cinnamon which we all enjoyed.

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We also did a lot of baking – jam tarts, ginger biscuits…

and heart shaped rolls for dinner with pink (beetroot) soup!

I noticed that the girls really appreciated all these touches and they were very much involved in the making of all these edibles. I also made our favourite carob sweets, this time adding a cranberry to the middle and some chopped nuts, which made them extra special, we thought.

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I love these happy photos – the girls insisted on wearing the heart ‘crowns’ that we made with friends many moons ago (basically felt hearts, threaded onto red yarn).

We made each other gifts for Valentines.  My husband was in bed all day, but we opened his presents for him and put them, and his cards, by the window in the hope that it would make him feel loved.

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Below are the presents my eldest made us. My youngest made her sister the heart with the penguin on it,  so we all got a heart! There was a distinct dolphin theme for Daddy 🙂

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Here are my presents 🙂 Can you tell the girls know I love purple?! 😉

I  managed to knit up a couple of quick hearts for my daughters in the two nights beforehand. I didn’t have time or the headspace for anything more creative. They are pleased with them, which is all that matters!

My daughters also made cards for all the animals, including our guinea pig Bubble and our hen Delilah who died last year. Delilah’s has been laminated and is by her grave.

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Gosh just noticed how creased the tablecloth looks here – eek! 

The hens also have theirs laminated to hang by their coop!

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They still have their Christmas lights and baubles up too! Bless them they are so cold out in the snow, they have stopped eating and are just huddled up together looking miserable 😦 Any tips are very welcome.

My daughters have been playing lots and there were various scenes set up all over the house and garden! Things were feeling a bit chaotic, so I had a big tidy up today to create some order again. When the girls came home after school, they remarked on how much better it felt – like a clean slate.

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They have also been drawing lots and just being creative, which is always nice to see.

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We saw friends in the afternoons on quite a few occasions over half term, which was lovely, after having been stuck at home and reclusive for a few weeks. The girls enjoyed some dressing up with a friend in a local museum. 🙂

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Last week was a busy one for me, with lots of study and trying to sort our car out (the insurers wanted to write it off because of the cost of repairing it, but I have now found a local garage that will do the repairs mid March, with second hand doors, so hopefully that is now sorted.  It does annoy me how easily they write a perfectly decent car off  though….)

After the girls returned to school on Tuesday, I only had four days in which to study ten subjects in preparation for a mid-term exam – Cytology, the Skeletal System, the Muscular System, the Respiratory System, Cardiology, the Blood, the Digestive System and Digestive Pathologies, the Lymphatic system and Skin and the Endocrine System… you get the picture!!! Quite a bit!! I had hoped to have the weekend for further study, but my husband had not recovered yet, so I only managed a couple of hours each day really. This sort of intense study doesn’t suit me at all. I had another intense study session on Monday and my head was buzzing with all the information I had studied, so I had an early night and felt all I could do was trust and hope….

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The next day, it had snowed overnight and the world looked so peaceful and pretty, Unfortunately that didn’t mean peaceful traffic and there was a fair bit of tension involved in getting to the exam in one piece with the icy roads!! The UK is never prepared for snow!!

I think the exam went o.k, considering the fact I didn’t have enough time to study everything, with illness and half term and family life. I certainly had to reduce my expectations of doing well!!!

Afterwards, I took a walk outside to try to calm my system down and was so happy to hear the crunch of snow underfoot and to feel the crisp fresh air on my face.

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I missed out on sledging, but I enjoyed a walk around the college campus to take in the beauty of it all and breathe in deeply. I experienced a sense of deep peace, which I have not felt for a while. What a gift.

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Wishing you all a peaceful, gentle time, whatever the weather!

 

 

Knitting and recovery

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It has been a funny couple of weeks for us here; with illnesses, a car crash and my computer being hacked 😦 My daughters are back at school now, but I am still feeling really weak and depleted, despite dosing myself up on lots of goodness.

My youngest daughter was the first to get sick, with a high temperature, tummy aches and headaches a couple of weeks ago. She was off school for a week; resting, watching favourite films and a spot of knitting once she felt a bit better.

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A dear friend of ours is due a ‘surprise’ baby in March and she has asked if friends would like to contribute a knitted or crocheted square (or two) towards the baby’s blanket. We love our friend and her family very much, so my daughters were very keen to knit a couple of squares each. 🙂

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I also knitted a couple of squares, so we have a quite a selection of squares to add to the blanket. All that love! 🙂 I was looking for a heart design pattern to copy for mine, but couldn’t seem to track any down, so made it up myself using seed stitch. They are a bit quirky, but hopefully the heart stands out a bit!?

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I have also asked around in our friendship circle for other offerings and the squares are all so different,  but I think my friend plans to crotchet them together using white/cream yarn so it should all come together nicely. There will be so much love in that blanket to wrap her baby girl in. 🙂

Before I became unwell, I knitted all the pieces for a teddy, for my friends baby, like the teddies I knitted my own girls for Christmas.  I will wait until I feel better to sew them up, to make sure I do the teddy justice!

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Apart from knitting and helping to gather squares from other friends and ourselves towards the blanket, I am also making my friend a “birthing” anklet.

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These were mine 🙂

I think I found the idea in a book whilst pregnant with my eldest and just loved it. Basically, I asked all my friends, near and far, to contribute a bead (or two) towards the anklet and I threaded the  beads onto wire or cotton and wore it whilst in labour. I made one for each of my daughter’s births and it was so strengthening to know that all my lovely women friends were with me. So I wanted to do the same for my friend. I have asked the friends we have in common and she is also gathering a few from other friends and her daughters too (who are 13 and 11), so we should have a lovely collection soon. Here are some of the beads so far.

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My eldest pointed out that the long shell looked rather like an angel’s wing 🙂

Anyway, back to our two week saga…. 😉 On the Friday before last, I was driving my eldest to school, when we were involved in a car crash. A car came out from a side road as we were driving along and crashed straight into the two side doors, spinning our car around with the impact. 😦 Luckily, neither of us was driving at great speed, but it was a shock for us nonetheless and we didn’t end up going  to school that day. Instead we went to a cafe to recover and drink sweet tea. The car will go into the repair shop tomorrow. It looks quite a state. But we were uninjured, apart from a few aches and pains, so that’s all that matters really.

I think the shock of the accident brought on the virus in my eldest daughter and I, because we were soon feeling unwell. My daughter had very similar symptoms to her sister, whereas I started with a cold. I still had lectures to attend so soldiered on through them, but feel I probably overdid it,  as a week later, I am still feeling  weak and unable to concentrate on my studies. Instead, I find myself sitting on the sofa, watching lecture videos and doing some mindless knitting.

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Knitting has been the order of the day in the past week it seems. I saw this fab hat pattern at the Crafting On Link up last week and loved the way it looked. Luckily I had the perfect pink yarn on hand, so in a few hours, the job was done. Very gratifying 🙂 It used just under one 50g skein of yarn and is really cosy. I gave my youngest the Wurm hat I was making in pink and purple, so I am pleased to have my own pink hat at last 🙂 I don’t have any photos of me in it as I am not up to taking photos right now!

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I also continued work on the scrap blanket that I started some time ago. It has doubled in size, just by me sitting watching my lecture videos and is now nice and cosy over my knees as I knit 🙂

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It is nearly wide enough for me to have it as a blanket if I use it lengthwise, so I may decide to do that, so it is finished sooner rather than later, but on the other hand, it is making a nice soothing project, so perhaps I will leave it in the basket for another time when I can’t concentrate on anything else. It feels good to have something to show for my time, I must say!

My husband kindly brought some daffodils back home to cheer us up, which of course they did. These small thoughtful gestures mean a lot.

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I am not a very good patient, thinking that I am letting people down, but when I do try to help out, I end up dropping things or making mistakes. Ho hum…clearly I need to be more patient!  Of course, this too shall pass….

In the meantime, whilst sitting on the sofa, I can enjoy the twinkling lights of our Nature table 🙂

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I shall stop now as I feel exhausted, but it was lovely to spend a little time with you 🙂

Sharing at Frontier Dreams Crafting On