A Waldorf crayon roll tutorial

Yesterday I handed in the seven crayon rolls I have been working on for children in my daughter’s first grade class at our local Steiner (Waldorf) school. I wrapped them up in tissue paper and yarn and labelled them for the individual child.

Today the children received their crayon rolls for the first time, in addition to their first six block crayons (two versions of the three primary colours). Their teacher made it very special for them and later told me the children were as spellbound as if it were Christmas – they were so grateful and happy to have their own shiny new crayons and a lovely new crayon roll to put them in : A great start to their ongoing adventures in colour and drawing. I love how Steiner (Waldorf) education meets the children at every stage of their development. The first grade children at 6-7yrs  are still in the “wonder years” and there is much wonder and beauty in the education during these years ( until the ninth year change) to reflect this.

I thought I would share a step by step tutorial today on how to make these crayon rolls, in the hope that it will be useful  and it’s always good to share 🙂

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Before I begin:  These instructions are for a small crayon roll ( 9 block crayons and 15 stick crayons) and a larger crayon roll ( 12 block crayons and 19 stick crayons). The seams are 1cm unless otherwise stated. I pin and then sew with my machine, but if you are inexperienced with the sewing machine, I would recommend tacking everything as you go before sewing. (It could be very carefully hand sewn, but I imagine machine sewing will improve the durability).

Top tip: Try not to use fabric that has a distinct pattern in one direction only ( like the elephants that I used for my daughter’s crayon roll – they ended up upside down on the inside!)

Materials needed:

  • 40cm of the main fabric and 40cm of the lining fabric.- recommended fabric cotton, upholstery fabric, baby cord. (The lining fabric should ideally be darker as the crayons tend to mark it over time). 
  • 40cm of batting, denim or upholstery type fabric thickness for stiffening.
  • 1 metre length of ribbon
  • Thread to match
  • Dressmakers chalk in a different shade from the fabric for marking.

 

  1. Cut both fabrics to  32cm x 50cm (for a smaller roll) or 32cm x 65cm  (for a larger roll). If you use cotton fabric you can cut and rip – see below. dsc05033dsc05034In that case iron the fabric.DSC05035.JPG
  2. Cut the batting, denim or upholstery fabric out to the same size.DSC05037.JPG
  3. Lay the batting/stiffening fabric down first, followed by the main fabric face up and then the lining fabric face down on top of that.DSC05038.JPG
  4. Pin all the way around to keep things in place ( and/or tack).
  5. Sew the whole way round leaving approx 10cm gap in the middle of one of the shorter sides for the ribbon – there is no need to finish the edges as they will be hidden away inside.dsc05039dsc05040
  6. Cut the corners.dsc05041
  7. Turn the whole thing inside out so the fabric is the right way around – use scissors to get into the corners if necessary.dsc05042DSC04676.JPG
  8. Press the fabric neatly with an iron to get it nice and flat. Tuck the open part in by approx 1cm so the edge is flush with the rest of that side. This is where the ribbon will go. dsc05043
  9. Turn the top of the fabric under by 4cm ( for the block crayons) and turn the bottom of the fabric under by 6cm ( for the stick crayons). Press with an iron and pin in place. dsc05044dsc05045
  10. Fold the ribbon in half. Slip the folded part 2cm inside the crayon roll and fold the open sides in neatly around it. Pin the open side and tack, paying particular attention to keeping the ribbon nice and straight( if your ribbon is patterned, put it in back to back).dsc05047
  11. Edgestitch all around the four sides, catching the ribbon and closing the open side as you go.  I back stitch once over the ribbon to make it extra secure. dsc05049dsc05052dsc05055
  12. Press the whole thing nice and flat before you go on, paying particular attention to the central panel. dsc05056
  13. Now use dressmakers chalk to mark out the sections. Allow 5cm for the block  crayons and 3cm for the stick crayons. (I found it seemed to vary between crayon rolls how many sticks I could get in, so play around with that a bit).dsc05057
  14. Now sew along the chalk lines. Make sure you stitch right over the turned up edge and backstitch a couple of times to secure the ends as it gets a lot of wear and tear. dsc05058dsc05059

And that’s it!  Here is the finished crayon roll!

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Unfortunately the photos are a bit blurry as I took them in the evening and I only have an automatic camera, but I think it’s clear enough. If you have any queries about making the crayon roll, do get in touch. I am happy to help. Enjoy!

Crayon rolls….

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At the beginning of term, I made my youngest daughter a crayon roll for all the lovely stockmar block and stick crayons she will be using over the next three years in her Waldorf classroom. ( My eldest daughter recently found out that they mainly use pencils now that she is in the fourth grade,  so we have plans to make a pencil roll together as a joint project).

For the first half of the year, the first graders will only be using the three primary colours of the block crayons – red, yellow and blue. They will learn to blend them and many magical effects will be achieved. The children are due to receive their very own set this Friday.

Their teacher has requested that the children bring a crayon roll in by Friday to put their new crayons in. So far only three children in my daughter’s class have a crayon roll. We only found out the other day so many parents are feeling unprepared to start making a crayon roll in a hurry or just don’t have the time.  I have offered to make some for a small fee as I am already in the swing of things. I have a large fabric stash that I am dipping into and the children are choosing the fabrics from there. It is actually great to see some of these fabrics being used again ( a lot are remnants from other projects).

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Aprons I made for my daughters for Valentines

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The quilt on my eldest daughter’s bed

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Some simple cushion slip covers I made some years ago.

So far I have seven requests. I am going to busy sewing in the next couple of days! But that’s my favourite kind of busyness. 🙂

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This is my first effort, modelled by some well loved crayons :-). The colour is much brighter but I took the photo this evening. It’s been a long day!

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I took lots of photos whilst making it so will also be sharing a tutorial quite soon.

I am hoping to use the funds to buy myself some nice fabric/yarn supplies – an nice indulgent treat!

Joining Nicole at Frontier Dreams KKCO and Teresa at The Really Crafty Link Party

A simple lined tote bag tutorial

I have been meaning to share some free tutorials for things I make for a while and will share more shortly. Today I thought I would share how to make a simple lined tote bag with an internal pocket, as I have just made one for my daughter’s violin music and accessories.

Before I begin: the seams are 1cm unless otherwise stated. I pin and then sew with my machine, but if you are inexperienced with the sewing machine, I would recommend tacking everything as you go before sewing or hand sewing it neatly.

Materials needed:

  • 50cm of both fabric and lining fabric
  • cotton thread to match
  1. Cut out your material to the size that fits the contents. I cut my material to 42cm x 35cm. Cut the lining fabric to the same size. dsc04899
  2. Cut the material for the straps. My straps measure 50cm x 10cmdsc04903
  3. Cut a square of fabric for the inside pocket 22cm x 22cm.
  4. Place the two pieces of the main fabric on top of each other with rights sides facing and sew a 1cm seam on three sides, leaving the top open.There is no need to finish the edges as they will be hidden away inside the lining. Cut the corners at the bottom. dsc04909
  5. Fold over 1cm on each side of the pocket and iron flat. Then fold over another 1cm on the top edge. Top stitch.dsc04912dsc04914
  6. Place the pocket onto the lining fabric ( Right side up) and pin and edge stitch into place.DSC04915.JPG
  7. Now sew the lining pieces together on three sides as you did with the main fabric. (remembering to sew it right sides facing each other)dsc04916
  8. Press the side seams of the main fabric to the side with an iron and fold over the top edge by 2cm all the way around. Iron flat. DSC04919.JPG
  9. Do the same with the lining fabricDSC04920.JPG
  10. Now turn the main fabric piece the right way round, using scissors to get into the corners if necessary. dsc04911
  11. Pop the lining fabric inside the main fabric and match up the side seams. Pin into place along the top. DSC04921.JPGdsc04922
  12. For the handles, fold them in half lengthwise. Press with an iron and sew a narrow 1/2cm seam along the length.dsc04923
  13. Now turn them right way round, using scissors to get in there if necessary. dsc04924
  14. Press with an iron so that the seam is in the middle and on the inside. dsc04927
  15. Slip the handles 2cm inside the bag on either side and pin into place, remembering to keep the seams on the inside.dsc04929
  16. Edge stitch the whole way around the top of the bag, paying attention to keep the handles in position. I double pin mine, but if you are not too experienced, I would run a row of tacking stitches round the top to hold the whole thing in position, paying particular attention to the handles as the finished result will be better.

Et Voila!

Here is the finished tote with lining and pocket. Of course you could use a matching fabric to the lining for a more discreet pocket. 🙂

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I hope this tutorial is clear. If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to contact me and I will clarify anything that may be unclear.

It is so simple to make,  it can be cut and sewn in a couple of hours. Instant gratification 🙂

 

A music bag in the making

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My youngest daughter has just started violin lessons and her teacher requested she bring a bag to carry her books, rosin and other accessories. I made her older sister one when she played violin and then recorder and now flute ( she is trying various instruments out for size!).

I wanted to use the same fabric as I used for the tote that I made her sister as it has a musical theme, but I have added a different lining fabric so we can distinguish whose is whose ( and I have lots of this fabric left over from another project). I have also sewn a pocket in for flash cards or whatever else she may want to put in there!

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It is an easy sew and I managed to whip one up this morning before her lesson. I  have added a tutorial as I wanted to start offering some free tutorials and thought I should get started. I haven’t really done much other making, just lots of sorting out and admin at home since the girls have gone back to school, so it was nice to have a quick project to get me back into sewing. I have quite a lot of home sewing that I would like to do. Hopefully I will soon get a chance to do some!

Hope you are getting your fix of crafting!  Joining Frontier Dreams  KKCO and The Really Crafty Link Party.

An ‘Expotition’ to the Hundred Acre Wood…

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My girls have been crazy about Winnie the Pooh and friends all summer long since they discovered the Winnie the Pooh  book series in our local library by chance. It totally captivated their imagination and they have been playing Pooh and Piglet ever since. We later borrowed the Winnie the Pooh DVD, which is loosely based on the books and their love for the characters just grew.  Both my daughters love animals and love nothing better than playing with their soft toys or Sylvanian families or petting their guinea pigs, so any story about animals or soft toy animals on adventures is bound to be a winner!

The Winnie the Pooh series was written by the playwright A.A. Milne from 1924- 1928. It started with a collection of poems When we were Young, which were based on observations of his young son Christopher Robin and the story Winnie the Pooh followed a couple of years later. Milne wrote another book of poems When we were Six the following year and Winnie the Pooh and friends returned once more in the book House on Pooh Corner. The stories are about a young boy called Christopher Robin and his soft toy friends, who live and have adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. The stories are sweet, amusing and very innocent and each of the animals has a very distinct character.

The movie is really lovely; very simple and charming and my daughters love it.I always imagine the characters to be English ( they live in an English wood after all!) , so it is rather odd that some of them have American accents, but it doesn’t detract from the sweet, funny storyline.  We don’t watch many films, but once in a while it is nice to sit down with a cosy movie and let your imagination go on a journey.

My daughters have certainly been on many a journey ever since, making “Backson” traps  (this bit comes from the film) and hunting Heffalumps for weeks on end! They never tire of inventing new adventures and our garden and our whole street have become their hunting ground.

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Sometimes they asked me for supplies so that they could keep hunting over lunch time 🙂dsc04429

Their rooms belong to Pooh and Piglet:

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and they have made various contraptions for catching ‘Backsons’ and ‘Heffalumps’, including these rather unusual ‘Backson’ traps in the garden.

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and recently they also set a trap in a wooded area in our local park!

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Unfortunately over the weekend, some ‘naughty’ teenagers took their ‘Backson’ trap down and messed up their fire arrangement, not to mention leaving lots of litter around 😦 so the place has lost some of its enchantment sadly. What a shame as we live so close by,  but we will find another spot further away from the road and try again. Those Backsons and Heffalumps still need catching! 😉

This weekend, we thought it would be nice to treat the girls to a surprise ‘expotition’ to the Hundred Acre Wood aka the Ashdown Forest in Sussex.

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We managed to locate the bridge and throw some Pooh sticks in it

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and we found lots and lots of dens in the wood which we decided belonged to Winnie the Pooh’s friends.

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There was even a small house with Pooh himself inside it  which the girls enjoyed,

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but mainly they loved striding through the woods with their sticks in hand,  imagining how it would be for Christopher Robin and his friends, playing beautifully and imaginatively. It was a joy to behold and my husband and I played along as Owl ( Wol) and Rabbit for a little while.

I love watching my girls playing imaginatively. For a year or so now, they play a lot more in secret than before so I don’t get to see them play as much as I used to. I often watch them from afar, seeing them totally engrossed in their fantasy world. Long may this continue!  I think the fact that we didn’t have a television or let them watch DVDs until two years ago has really helped. They have had to rely on the outside world for their inspiration and their own deep imaginations. We now do watch the occasional film, but I think allowing the child to develop their imagination, free from electronic entertainment, is really helpful in the early years, so they can become very self reliant in their play. That is my experience anyway.

The sign posting wasn’t the best, but it is a wonderful expanse of woodland, a great area to explore, to be part of nature and to enjoy a really good play!

We have finished reading the Winnie the Pooh books, but the story goes on in the girls’ imagination. Happy times!

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Oh sweet purpleness..

Summer is slowly turning to autumn. ‘The Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness, that Keats wrote about in his poem  ‘Ode to Autumn’, is upon us. The morning mist hangs a little longer before the still warm sun burns through and blackberries dot the hedgerows, shining out like little jewels beckoning to be discovered amongst the overgrown brambles and nettles. My heart always soars each year as I see them anew. Treasure! I adore these sweet tasty morsels and the best bit is that they are so abundant and free for all! A real gift from dear Mother Earth.

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Last year I went on a great foraging course in early September and learned a lot about why certain foods are so freely available in nature at this time of year. It is not by chance that there is so much goodness in these autumn berries; they are densely packed with the exact nutrients that we, birds and wild animals need to stay healthy in the colder months ahead. These include: rose hips, hawthorn berries, sloes, elderberries and my favourite blackberries 🙂 . Nuts and seeds provide protein and good fats and the wild greens are full of vitamins and minerals. For the purpose of this post, I am sticking with the purple fruits that I am currently foraging.

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I am keen to pick as many blackberries as I can in the next couple of weeks as they go over quickly; I have frozen three baking sheets full so far. My children try to help, but really all that happens is they end up with berry stained hands and faces 🙂 but it is still fun to go picking together.

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Blackberries freeze wonderfully well and can easily be scooped into storage containers once they are frozen and keep for months – if we are lucky to have that many!  We will  add them to our porridge and use them to make comforting crumbles as the days get cooler. I am adding the really soft ones to my morning Kefir smoothie for a healthy dose of Vitamins C, E, K, A and B, not to mention all the other additional benefits mentioned here.  I try to go out daily to pick them in our locality. We are lucky to live near several parks which are within walking distance. Seeing them never ceases to fill me with childlike wonder. 🙂

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Another purple wonder that I make sure I pick at this time of year is elderberries.

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They grow in large umbrella shaped clusters. The berries are tiny and are only edible when cooked (although my mother says she used to eat them raw occasionally, but I wouldn’t recommend it). The larger stems are thought to contain large amounts of cyanide, so must be discarded, but I think its o.k to leave little bits of stem in if you are making tinctures and syrups as they will be strained off eventually.

I have been making elderberry tincture and syrups for some years now. It is a wonderful winter tonic and has such amazing anti viral properties, so it would be good to take a tincture all winter long as a preventative  – one teaspoonful added to water once a day or three times a day at the first sign of a cold or virus. For our children, we add a teaspoon to boiling water to remove the alcohol and let it cool before drinking.

It is easy to make large quantities of tincture to get us through the winter months. I am planning to make a batch of this simple tincture using the Vodka we bought in France for this purpose – I just need to find enough berries! Many trees in my district seem to have been stripped bare of berries, much to my dismay – the birds must have got there first – but hopefully I will venture a bit further afield later this week and find some more. Fingers crossed!

I am also planning to try this elderberry syrup recipe. I have made it with raw honey before and I recommend you store it in a refrigerator as I have found it turns sour quite easily when just stored in a cool dark cupboard. In the refrigerator it will store over the winter months. The syrup doesn’t last too long here  ( because we get through it quickly, it’s so yummy!), so we only use it when any of us are really sick with a cold or virus. We either administer it by spoon three times a day or add a generous teaspoonful to hot water to make a comforting warm drink with honey and lemon. My German grandmother always added elderberries to her ‘Gruetzen’ which are like warming fruit soups and to her homemade fruit juices.

Once you have picked the elderberries, the berries need to be removed from the stalk using a fork in a downward motion. Some folk freeze the berries complete with the stalk and then remove them from the stalk once they are frozen as it is considered easier, but I don’t find it a problem to remove the berries when they are fresh. It’s a bit messy, so make sure you cover your work surface or work over the sink. Once I have removed the berries from the stalk, I wash the berries in a bowl of water and scoop off the berries that are floating on the top ( they are usually not ripe). Then they are ready to work with.

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I may get some dried organic elderberries if I don’t manage to source enough in nature to supplement what I am missing as I really do swear by the tincture and syrup. They work wonders and can nip a cold in the bud ( along with olive leaf extract and extra doses of Vit C). Give it a try! Another wonderful free gift from Mother Earth.

And as we are on the topic of purple, I have just started the sleeves of this sweater for my youngest daughter. It is knitting up nice and easily and I love the colour and feel of the yarn, which makes the knit even sweeter.

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And to add to the purpleness of it all, the Michaelmas daisies in our garden are all out early this year. 🙂

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Purple is my favourite colour and the abundance of purple right now is making me smile. I hope you are enjoying all the bounty of the season and Keeping Calm and Crafting On too.

 

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A Geocaching adventure

This weekend we met a friend and her son for a walk and she suggested we go Geocaching. It sounded like fun and my friend has done it many times, so we set off into the woods  on a little adventure.

Geocaching is a worldwide phenomenon and wherever you are in the world, even locally to you, there are bound to be a series of geocaches waiting to be discovered. I believe you need an iPhone or Android phone to load the App onto and you need to be able to pick up a gps signal, but otherwise it is free to use. I am personally not a great fan of children using mobile phones or gadgets ( I am quite electro sensitive myself and my children are generally very sensitive), so I don’t think we will be doing this regularly, but my friend’s young son is quite experienced with the phone and enthusiastically showed my daughters how to find the geocache sites.

Each time you are given the distance to the next cache and there is a compass to show you the direction. I am not too sure if we were using it perfectly as we went in the wrong direction a couple of times 🙂 but we soon discovered that the distance from the geocache was increasing and turned around. There is also a small clue to identify the cache site,  for example: ‘a gate to a meadow’.

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The cache is usually in a little plastic box , hidden from sight so only  someone in the know would find it. The idea is to write your name in the log book and the date you visited and then also to log it online.

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There are often useful facts inside the box and some geocachers leave little souvenirs, such as trinkets, toys etc.

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Ideally, you are meant to be very discreet when you have found the cache so no-one else knows what you are doing. We did our best 🙂 .

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Some caches were relatively easy to find, whilst others were quite a challenge.  We found them all eventually and rewarded ourselves with a well deserved ice-cream at the end of it all!

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We really enjoyed our Geocaching adventure; the time flew by and the children were very engaged in finding the caches. I do think that you could miss out a bit on appreciating your surroundings when you so goal orientated and distracted by the phone, but I would recommend it if your children find walking a chore and you would like to do more adventurous, longer walks.

There is whole world of geocaches out there! 🙂

First day of school – new beginnings

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My youngest daughter started school today. It is the end of an era for me as I watch my youngest child take another little step (one of the many small steps she will tread) on the path to independence and eventual adulthood. She was very emotional when we arrived at  school as there were so many people milling around and it all felt very alien and grown up somehow – she is still unsure if she really wants to grow up! ( I wonder if this is a youngest child thing?) but luckily her lovely Kindergarten teacher was there to rescue her and bring her and her many belongings into the classroom. I said my farewells outside and turned to go, tears in my eyes of pride, intermingled with sadness at the passing of the years.

I know she is ready for school now, but I shall miss the early years. I feel that one of the main lessons I am learning as a parent is to let go and to trust,  so I can send my children off with a joyful heart to make their way in the world. At times like this, I remind myself of the wise words of the poet Khalil Gibran ( which I must print out and frame as I need to remind myself of this often):

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Aside from my mixed emotions about my daughters growing up, the house felt really empty this morning after our long summer together, but there is comfort in the beginning of a new routine and the start of autumn always signals new beginnings, as we draw a little inward, start projects and make new plans. I think the head space will do me good and I imagine I will be able to post a bit more here too, so there are many advantages too 🙂

Anyway, I thought I would share a few photos of this milestone with you:

Here is C with the cloth bag that I made for her when she started playgroup and that has taken her through Kindergarten and now into the main school – it was full to bursting!

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Right at the top is a picture of C with her Schultuete. She was delighted to open it and find all the school paraphernalia. She has been watching her sister using all these materials for some years and especially asked for a fountain pen which she can use at home as it is too early for that at school.

She was very happy with her little gnome friend, who will be called either Joe or Moe or even Joe-Moe supposedly!

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In preparation for the first day of school, we read a few books. I don’t seem to be able to locate one of our little German books now but we read it lots in Germany ( lots of tidying up to be done after the long summer break, methinks!).

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Puddle’s Big Step is C’s favourite book as I read it to her when she started Playgroup and Kindergarten.Little Puddle is very nervous about starting school, but soon gets into the swing of things and looks forward to it.

Fuzzypeg Goes to School – is one of the Little Grey Rabbit series. It is an old fashioned story about a little hedgehog called Fuzzypeg who decides he is ready for school. Very sweet.

Conni kommt in die Schule – a German short story about Conni’s preparations for her first day at school complete with Schultuete.

It is lovely that the girls are finally in the same playground together and my eldest says she will look out for her sister as I am sure she will. They are so close and kind to each other (well, a lot of the time!)

And of course it was the first day back for my eldest daughter too. She has a new (male) teacher and there have been quite a few changes in her class, so she was also in two minds about going back.  I wish her well in Class Four. How time flies…

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First day at school preparations

Tomorrow my dear youngest daughter starts school for the first time at the ripe old age of seven. We go to a local Steiner ( Waldorf ) school, where children start school around the age of six or seven, depending on their maturity. I am so grateful that both my daughters had plenty of Kindergarten playtime in their early years and they only went to school when they were considered emotionally and physically ready. My youngest stayed on an extra year in Kindergarten (she is May born) as she was emotionally very immature. She is now ready: her teeth have started to fall out and she now seems to be her own person and more outward looking. She still has very mixed feelings about not going back to Kindergarten, but hopefully it will be a good experience for her.

The new teacher has asked parents to make a few things for the beginning of term. These include a crayon roll ( for all the lovely beeswax crayons they will be using), a small red bean bag and a little gnome. I made the gnome and crayon roll

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and my  eldest daughter made the beanbag and filled if with rice.

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I am going to place them all in her Schultuete for her to discover tomorrow morning.

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It is a long standing German custom for children to receive a Schultuete on their first day of school. It is a usually made from a card, wrapped into a conical shape with a crepe paper top that is tied closed, to hide the treasures from view. It can be hand made or bought and is traditionally filled with sweets and toys and a few school supplies.

We don’t have this lovely tradition here in England,  but as I am half German and I love to mark all my children’s milestones with something special, I wanted to carry this custom on at home. I have a large Schultuete stored away (that I purchased when my eldest daughter started school three years ago) and I just bought another smaller one on our trip to Hamburg last week as my eldest requested one  (I did the same for her younger sister when she started school). Instead of filling it with sweet treats, I fill it will useful things for school and the above makings.  I just finished up another larger crayon roll for my eldest daughter in time for tomorrow. She needs a fuss making of her too! I bought her a few new stick crayons as hers were really worn down after years of use!

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Both my daughters decided on the fabric and ribbons for their crayon rolls. I always get their input so I make them something they really love.

In Germany the children bring their Schultueten into school, but we will open ours at home before school commences. I hope this will be the incentive we need for the girls to get up at 6.30am tomorrow morning!! ( after getting up at 8am all summer long…)

Other craft news: My eldest finished her baby angel doll

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It was a nice summer holiday project for her and she is really delighted with her baby doll!

Hope you are Keeping Calm and Crafting On

A trip down memory lane in Hamburg and missing Daddy…

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We have just returned from five days away in Hamburg, Germany. This is where my mother comes from and where I spent every happy summer of my childhood.

Every year, my sister and I spent six precious weeks with our wonderful Oma and Opa (grandparents), enjoying the freedom of an unstructured summer. They lived out in the suburbs and had a large garden with plenty of space to play and roam and a quiet neighbourhood to explore – I have tried to recreate something similar for my own children, inspired by these memories, so they too can experience the feeling of space and possibility.

We try to go to Hamburg once a year as I feel it’s good for my mother to return home and I think she wouldn’t do it without us; she needs the moral support somehow. She still has a couple of good friends there and we are still in touch with a few relatives. As I said previously, I have such happy memories of Germany as a child (and later as a young adult, when I spent every free holiday from University living and working in Munich in the South) so I am always happy to go back! I feel very connected to the German way of life.

We were lucky to be staying in a fabulous apartment right in the city centre, so a lot of things were in easy walking distance, but the transport facilities in Hamburg are so reasonably priced and efficient, it is really easy and affordable to get around anyway. Even the ferries on the Elbe are included in the price of a day ticket.

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My cousin now lives in the house my grandparents lived in but unfortunately he and his family were away this year so we couldn’t visit. Luckily we did pay a visit to my mother’s friends who live nearby and who also have a beautiful spacious garden to play in.

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I love the way Germans decorate their homes; they put a lot of attention into design and detail, whatever the style of the home. There is a wonderful cosiness and welcoming feeling, that I really treasure. And that’s not even mentioning the delicious tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen in the afternoon!

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We visited two of my mother’s cousins. One of them lives in quite a special place called Oevelgoenne, down by the River Elbe, which you can access by ferry. The houses run along the river bank with gardens and a footpath separating them from the river.

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His father, my Oma’s brother, founded the ‘Oevelgoenner Seekiste’ museum, a fascinating treasure trove of seafaring paraphernalia. It is now run by his daughter-in-law ( you can book it for a party these days).

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The museum is close to the ‘Strandperle ‘ cafe which was originally owned by my great aunt Eva. It continues to be a very popular spot for refreshments in the area, being so close to the small beach there.

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We used to visit these relatives every year as children and were fascinated by the activity on the docks, as are my children today. It was a privilege to sit out on the veranda ( enjoying Kaffee und Kuchen again 🙂 ) watching the busy docking world at work. There was an amazing variety of different ships from faraway lands being guided into dock by the Elblotsen ( river pilots). One we thought had almost 2000 containers on it! (unfortunately the photo is unclear as I took it from inside a ferry).

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and of course there was the occasional paddle steamer on an outing!

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I remember as a child sitting on that veranda whilst the adults talked, using binoculars to try to spot where the container ships were coming from. It was a lovely to be there again with my daughters ( and again the adults talked, as adults do!)

Apart from these trips down memory lane, we enjoyed our fair share of ice cream (it’s so reasonable and delicious and it was hot!) and were happy to sample all the the delicious breads and cheeses that Germany is so good at producing. Heaven!

It is always just myself, my mother and my two daughters who take the trip back to Hamburg. Daddy stays at home as he doesn’t speak German ( and it is a nice chance for him to have some peace and quiet and also an opportunity to do some jobs around the house without interruption!) In years gone by,  we stayed with my mother’s friend in her cosy home and we didn’t miss home so much or Daddy, but this year as we stayed in an apartment, my daughters insisted on speaking with their Daddy every evening and there were some tears too as they missed him so. Before we left, the girls drew him these pictures and put some sweet peas by his bedside table as a surprise 🙂

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Daddy bought the girls a little duck and squirrel toy before they left and requested that they take photos of them on their travels, which we did. When we were first married, he bought me a velcro monkey when I was going away for the first time. I have quite a selection of photos of that monkey in various countries and scenes! 🙂

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A lovely relative also gave the girls a small teddy each so they got their fair share of photo opportunities too! 🙂

I always intended to speak German with my children as I was so disappointed about not being bilingual ( my mother stopped speaking German at home when I was five, I think). I did speak it with my eldest daughter exclusively until she was six and a half, but then I felt a need to express some things in my mother tongue. English is my soul language and I really needed to speak soul to soul with her and it didn’t feel authentic in German. Unfortunately this opened the floodgates to more and more English and eventually only English spoken. My youngest daughter was four at that point. I had been so assiduous about speaking German up until then, I was rather disappointed with myself that I let it go and my youngest understands a lot less.

Saying that, when they are spoken to directly and slowly, they do understand quite a lot so it wasn’t all in vain and we will continue to visit Germany every year so the girls can also experience the German traditions that I hold so dear.

I would highly recommend Hamburg for a visit. It feels very manageable in size and has an interesting seafaring history, not to mention the delicious seafood!

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