Autumn Books for children

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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 ūüôā 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 Рeverything 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 someday and I want to savour them while I can.

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We have quite a selection of autumn books, so as with the summer books, I am going to group them a little for you:

Books for Michaelmas : 

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St George and the Dragon  РMargaret Hodges Рquite a lengthy story for older children (7+) with lovely pictures. A retelling of the story of St George ( the red cross knight) and his calling to fight a dragon to save a kingdom from destruction.

Sweet animal stories for autumn:

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Hodge the Hedgehog Amy Sparkes – a rhyming story about a hedgehog who lives up to his name of hedge hogger: he refuses to share his hedge with any of the other animals. When he falls asleep from exhaustion, the animals go in and spruce the place up and Hodge realises what he has been missing – friendship. Heartwarming and autumnal.

Ferdie and the Falling LeavesJulia Rawlinson – a very sweet story about a little fox cub who has never experienced autumn and is very worried when his favourite tree starts losing its leaves. Beautiful watercolour pictures and a lovely surprise picture at the end. A real favourite with us. (when I looked it up it, he is now called Fletcher! Don’t ask me why?!)¬†

Who’s Been Eating My Porridge¬†– M. Christina Butler – an easy read for the beginner reader, but a firm favourite for many years. A little bear won’t eat his porridge, no matter how many yummy things his family add to it. Lots of lovely descriptions about bears gathering their winter stores. Cosy story.

The Lonely Scarecrow РMaggie Kneen Рa scarecrow is feeling really lonely in the field on his own as the animals are scared of him with his jagged metal mouth. When it snows, he looks more like a jolly snowman and attracts the animals to him. He is delighted and the animals realise,when the snow melts, that he is kind, despite his appearance. Although not strictly autumn, it has plenty of autumnal activity in it.

Tattybogle РSandra Horn Рa very upbeat story about a scarecrow who has a very  positive outlook. When he is torn apart during a storm, he still tries to find a silver lining. Luckily what is left of him Рa branch Рtakes root and he becomes a beautiful tree. Certainly makes you think there is always a positive for each negative if we look for it!

We also recommend:

After The Storm РNick Butterworth Рa story of Percy the Park Keeper and his animal friends. There is a storm in the park and a tree that shelters many animals falls down. It is a tale about working together and friendship, as the animals go in search of a new abode and make it their home. We love all the Percy The Park Keeper stories.

Brambly Hedge Autumn Story РJill Barklem Рa story from the popular Brambly Hedge series. An adventurous little mouse, Primrose, goes missing. She is quite unaware of the worry she has caused as she enjoys blackberries, tea and cake with harvest mice and other adventures until it gets dark and rather scary. Luckily the search party finds her and all is well after she is tucked up in bed with some acorn coffee. Adorable as always.

Books by Elsa Beskow, Sibylle von Olfers and Cicely Mary Barker:

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Woody, Hazel and Little Pip РElsa Beskow Рa story about two cheeky acorn boys who get into trouble with the woodland gnomes and a little girl who goes to find them with the help of a squirrel. Very sweet pictures and storyline.

Christopher’s Harvest Time¬†– Elsa Beskow – A lonely boy Christopher makes friends with a boy called September, who takes him around his garden in search of a ball he has lost. He meets all the characters in his garden whom he has never met or imagined were there, including Mrs Bramley who is on the front cover. He knows he will never be lonely there again. Beautiful illustrations and sweet old fashioned storyline.

The Story of the Wind Children РSibylle von Olfers РOld fashioned, simple yet charming story about a little boy who is trying to sail his boats, but there is no wind. Luckily a wind sprite decides to create some wind for him and many an adventure, including meeting some rose hip and leaf children. This is the author of the much loved The Root Children.

Flower Fairies of the Autumn РCicely Mary Barker Рbeautiful poems about all the flowers and berries that we typically see in the autumn. Always a favourite around here.

Books for Harvest Time:

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The Gigantic Turnip РAleksei Tolstoy Рan fun and quirkily illustrated retelling of the traditional story by Aleksei Tolstoy, with illustrations by Niamh Sharkey.

County Fair¬†– Laura Ingalls Wilder – a simple early reader story about a New York State farming family ( from the book¬†Farmer Boy¬†) who bring various produce to¬†a local County show for judging, including an enormous pumpkin that little Almanzo grew himself, which wins first prize. An incite into the farming community of the day and how much they could eat! Set in the late 1800’s. Based on real events. ¬†

Pumpkins РMary Lyn Ray Рa heartwarming story about a man who finds out his nearby field is for sale. He worries what will happen to it in the name of progress, so he decides he will buy it himself. This is no mean feat. He wants to grow a quick growing crop to sell, so he chooses pumpkins. He sends the pumpkins far and wide with instructions to carve Jack-O-Lanterns and with the proceeds he manages to save his field. A lovely story of hope and hard work.

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Autumn¬†– Gerda Muller –¬†A simple board book with no words, but beautiful evocative pictures of the season instead. The children are seen jumping in leaf piles, collecting conkers, getting wet and all the other fun things you can do in autumn, including cosy autumnal crafts. Captures your imagination and a good way to get talking about autumn.

AutumnMargaret Meyerkort  Рplenty of stories, poems and songs for the season. We recognise many of them from our Steiner (Waldorf) school.

Autumn books for older children ( 7+):

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Autumn Activity Book РClare Beaton Рlots of ideas for autumn crafts from leaf rubbing, to foraging, to making baked apples. Plenty of factual information about autumn customs worldwide and what animals are busy doing at this time of year. Comes with a weather chart so children can keep track of the autumn weather each day.

Why do Leaves Change Colour?¬†– Betsy Maestro – a factual book about why leaves change colour. Quite a bit of scientific information here so I don’t recommend it to young children who are still so dreamy. Very interesting read with lovely photos of autumn. A new book to us which we are enjoying.

We gather together РWendy Pfeffer Рa very comprehensive factual book about autumn with interesting scientific facts and cultural references that help us to understand how important the harvest season has been throughout the world in every culture over thousands of years. Very interesting.

For Hallowe’en:¬†

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Merlina and the Magic Spell¬†– Daniela Drescher – beautiful watercolour pictures of a little witch Merlina and her Dragon friend Igor bringing the harvest in to preserve. There is quite a bit of comedy as Merlina tries out some spells to help Igor when he steps on a thorn. Things don’t go to plan, but all is well by the end and they carve some lovely pumpkins for their garden. The pictures let your imagination set sail.

The Best Hallowe’en Hunt Ever¬†– John Speirs – each page is Hallowe’en themed and full of action (think Where is Wally?)¬†¬†You have a long list of Hallowe’en things to find on each page, which can be quite challenging, but after a few years, we are now finding them quite quickly! Enjoyable once a year fun.

These are the autumn books we are currently enjoying. We usually add a couple every year, so over the years we have accrued quite a collection! If there are any lovely autumn books that you would recommend, please write to me in the comments. I always love to follow up a suggestion!

I also have two Martinmas books in German that I will share when I write a Martinmas post soon. I couldn’t find any in English, but luckily we can read German ūüôā

Wishing you many cosy times, curled up with a lovely book this autumn. 

 

 

 

What I am making….

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been feeling very low in energy lately, so I have only been doing the things that really need doing and trying to accept that things are slower for me right now. ¬†I have been eating a lot of chocolate to keep me going ( false energy…) and drinking more tea and coffee than I usually do.

We have just come back from a weekend away, spending lots of time outdoors and as a family, which has been really relaxing – just the tonic we all needed! Thank goodness we allowed ourselves this time away as I now feel ready for the busy half term holidays (seeing friends every day…) and getting ready for my eldest daughter’s birthday and party next Monday.

I thought I would share what I have been up to on the making front.

I  finished off the two pairs of curtains I made for our lounge and bedroom and already things are feeling a bit cosier at home. The nights are drawing in fast and it is lovely to be able to draw the curtains on the encroaching darkness.

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dsc05363Apart from that I am still working on my eldest daughter’s¬†sweater. I am onto the yoke finally and onto the colour work. Wish me luck! It’s the first time I have tried this technique!

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My daughter’s birthday is next Monday. The jury is still out on whether I will get it knitted and finished in time. I am also sewing my daughter a tiered skirt from¬†this¬†pattern that I have used several¬†times¬†before.

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I only have the elastic to add now and to make a¬†matching little skirt for her Waldorf doll ūüôā

I always ask my daughters to choose their own fabric and pattern when I make them something to ensure it is something that they really want. It is always a one-off and I know they like that! They are too old and opinionated now about what they wear to just take a chance!

I hope you are enjoying some quiet crafting too!

Joining Frontier Dreams KCCO

A need for quiet

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I have been feeling quite low in energy and consequently mood for the past couple of weeks. This often coincides with the full moon (which was a powerful one this week) or happens premenstrually, but it is also an autumn thing for me. Every year my energies dwindle in the autumn and I feel I would rather be a hedgehog and go into hibernation for a spell (!), but of course that isn’t possible, so I keep going, but it leaves me feeling more and more exhausted. This week my energies were so low, I found myself too tired to do the things I enjoy, like writing, imagining, creating… I have been feeling rather flat and uninspired ūüė¶

For years, I suffered from SAD without knowing and always found myself in Counselling by January!  For me, it really starts at the end of August (when the light changes imperceptibly, but my body notices). I start to feel tearful or overwhelmed for no particular reason, even though it still feels very summery. I am so sensitive to the seasons and the moon. So sensitive in general. I always considered it to be a handicap, to be so controlled by and at the mercy of the elements and things/people around me. I now realise that my sensitivity is really a gift thanks to this book and other wise people I have encountered in my life. I know very quickly if things are out of kilter, if my life balance is off. My body tells me. It can feel quite inconvenient, this being a busy time of year; with a birthday and Christmas around the corner, but I need to learn to pace myself and to listen.  If I listen to my body, I know it is time to take better care of myself; to take that Epsom Salts bath, to light some candles and just be, to sit quietly with a cup of warm herbal tea or to cosy up with a good book or an uplifting film and some knitting.

When I started writing here, I wanted to share only the good stuff, the things that I enjoy and for which I am grateful. I still want to share what works for me and the joys, but I feel that it wouldn’t be authentic to not share the struggles at times and what I do to help myself during these times, as there may be someone out there just like me that it could help. After all life is made up of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. We don’t do anyone any favours by pretending all is well all the time, just as we don’t do our friends any favours if our house is always pristine and tidy when they visit. Life and home life is a lot more messy than that and we all secretly know that.

I wonder if there are others of you out there who find this time of year a struggle too; who also feel a need to retreat from the busyness of modern family life?

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Over time, I have learnt some tools that can help me at this time of year when my mood and energy starts to dip. I thought I would share them with you in case there is anyone who it could help:

  • I have a “Happy (mood) Lamp” – if I start using it early enough it helps considerably. A mere 15 minutes a day can boost you. I often put it on at breakfast or whilst sewing. It mimics daylight and has been helping me for years. Because of the sunshine we have been having, I have only just retrieved it out from the attic again. I will report back on how I am feeling at a later date.
  • Vitamin D¬†spray¬†– I stopped using this over the summer because of all the sun we were having, but I can see I probably shouldn’t have as I do need it.
  • Walking – if I go for a good walk – even 10 minutes of brisk walking – it lifts my mood, especially if I go out in nature.
  • Quiet time. Just reserving my energy – as an introvert, my energy comes from being alone. When we are constantly busy or in company we easily get tired and cranky.
  • Making time for playfulness. Last year I attended a course on¬†The Artists Way. I found that making myself go on an “Artist Date” every week – a solo trip out with just playfulness and relaxation in mind – was just what I needed to boost my mood. It takes you back to all the things you could indulge in as a teenager/young adult that seem so elusive as a mama with all the time constraints and commitments, but which we so need. I see that that is sorely missing this year and I will try to change that.
  • Do one thing – even if time is limited, I have a list of things that I really enjoy, that relax me and ¬†‘fill my cup’. For me these include: walking, a candlelit bath, reading ( even a few pages of this¬†or another wholesome¬†magazine), journalling, meditation, sudoku, knitting, yoga, rebounding, dancing around my lounge (!), a mindful cup of tea… If time is limited, it is still possible to fit one of those in, even for 10 minutes. It changes things. At the end of the day, I look back and see if I have included at least one thing that is just for me. I must admit, I have really gone off the boil with this but it really helps.
  • Gratitude List¬† – at the end of the day, I try to write 10 things for which I am grateful. When I was feeling good during the summer, I rather let this go, but I have restarted this practise as it really helps me to put things into perspective and focusing on gratitude is so important.
  • Meditation – helps me to bring my mind into the present, to listen to the tension in my body and to let it go. It can sometimes be difficult to focus when I am tired or my mind is restless and I have even been known to fall asleep in an evening meditation(!), but I would highly recommend a meditation practice or using affirmations, like ‘all is well, all will be well‘.

I am going to try to listen to my body; to slow down and be more present; to boost it with nourishing foods and more sleep. Our bodies have wisdom that we often ignore or resist. Resistance causes stress and stress wears us out.

I do know what to do, I just need to allow myself this time. Our culture wants us to keep going, everyone is busy and that is how we think it has to be. If there is a space in our schedule, we fill it with something. There is rarely a space to just be. I was listening to an interview at the Nourished Momma Summit¬†and one of the speakers (I don’t recall who) mentioned that we are human beings, not human doings and this really resonated with me. I am always thinking what needs doing, what to do next, forgetting that it is o.k to just be.

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I have a party to organise for my eldest on her Hallowe’en birthday. I had planned to do two parties, one small one on Hallowe’en, as she really wants to have a Hallowe’en themed party this year (we¬†haven’t¬†had one for a couple of years as I thought it really overshadowed her birthday and she agreed) and then I was planning to do a craft party the week after for her school friends. Due to my low energy levels, I have persuaded her that one party is enough and she would rather have a calm mummy than the frazzled mummy I was becoming! There will be four friends and lots of fun and games.

Tomorrow we are heading off for a weekend in the New Forest in Hampshire Рa wonderful place to spend an autumn day. We are really craving some family time together and a break from routine. Our family needs this regularly and we try to factor it in, especially at busy times. There is a deep need in us to reconnect in nature and away from home. Hopefully this will help my energy levels. I have certainly spent a lot of time indoors this half term while the children were at school; decluttering, doing jobs around the house, making things etc, so hopefully being out in nature will give me the boost I need and of course being with the ones I love in a relaxed space, taking things slowly.

Wishing you a peaceful autumn with many quiet moments to just be. 

Work in progress

I have made good progress on the sweater I am making for my eldest daughter, although I am still unsure if I will get it made in time for her birthday, but I plough on.

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I am enjoying reading The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. I found it in the library last week and although it is no longer summer, the title appealed to me. It is the story of an artist grandmother and her granddaughter Sophia spending a summer together on a remote Finnish island. It is written by the author of the Moomins and the story is based on the author’s own mother and her relationship with her granddaughter. It is really well written and quite quirky. I am really enjoying reading it. I haven’t escaped into a book for a long while.

As the nights are drawing in, I feel the need for some curtains. I bought the material earlier this year but didn’t manage to get started until now.

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Last Wednesday, I started¬†cutting the material up¬†( Wednesday is my only long day at home – when the children are both in school until 3.20pm) and tomorrow I am planning to get at least one pair made – for our bedroom- and hopefully to get started on sewing the lounge curtains too, depending on the time. I still have to cut some more lining fabric, so we shall see. I love these long days at home, sewing – it’s so great to have a whole five hours or so all to myself. ¬†I feel like I really get things done, which is a good feeling when days can often feel so ‘bitty’ and you don’t have the feeling you have anything to show for your¬†time and efforts ( I am sure all you mamas out there know what I mean…). That’s why making things it so important to me. I have something concrete (and useful and beautiful!) to show for my time.

For a long time, our bedroom has served as a store room and as a place to throw things into when we need to tidy up quickly before friends visit ūüė¶¬†(do you have a place like that? I think many of us do! It used to be the understairs cupboard in our old house…).¬† The room has been unloved and unfinished for over two years now. My husband is currently¬†sleeping in my eldest daughter’s room and I am in with my daughters. It is quite unsatisfactory and we are now addressing this. Originally we both slept with our youngest daughter as she needs the company at night or she wakes frequently: she is quite the touchy feely kind and needs to feel someone there. When my eldest became nine, she started having nightmares and couldn’t be in her room on her own, so we decided it best that she slept in with her sister and I. That has been going on for almost a year now (she is almost ten). I think we need to take this opportunity to move into our own bedroom as soon as possible before our eldest decides she wants to sleep alone again!

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We painted it a warm light yellow last year and bought a wardrobe and there are wooden blinds in there, but it doesn’t feel cosy enough, so I am going to make some curtains using this material:

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It is called Heidi which is my eldest daughter’s name, so I knew it had to come home with me ūüôā

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The blue material with the birds on it is for our lounge and the large quantity of floral material is for our dining room/family area, where we have two wide bifold doors. I feel the need to get cosy for the winter, to draw the curtains on the darkness and create light and beauty inside.

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Making curtains requires lots of space, so I am working downstairs on the large expanse of floor in our family area.

I am using this¬†tutorial¬†which seems to be really clear. I have made two pairs of curtains in the past; one simple unlined pair for our¬†playroom¬†and one pair for my eldest daughter’s very wide bedroom windows, which I lined with black-out fabric.

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I am looking forward to working with these beautiful fabrics! But right now, I’d better get back to my knitting and a relaxing episode of Call the Midwife ūüôā

Hope you are enjoying the craft of your choice. Keeping Calm and Crafting On  with Nicole at Frontier Dreams.

 

Apple harvest time

It is apple harvest time here in England. We only harvested a few apples from our own fruit trees¬†this year as it is their first season with us and they have been suffering from aphid problems and the ensuing leaf curl ūüė¶ ¬†but we hope to tackle it to ensure a better harvest next year.

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We are growing our apples on espalier trees to save space

But thanks to the generosity of neighbours and friends, we have been enjoying apples in all kinds of forms lately ; juiced, baked, pureed, made into pies….

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Here is a lovely apple pie by husband baked¬†last week.Yum! ūüôā¬†

Last weekend, we went to an Apple Festival at a local country estate. The weather was glorious, but it was rather busy so we didn’t stay too long (as my daughters don’t feel relaxed in crowds), but we did treat ourselves to some delicious freshly pressed apple juice and had a good look around.

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There was some¬†Morris dancing¬†– something so quintessentially English. I must admit I always fancied myself as a Morris dancer when I was a child ;-). It looks like such fun! Maybe one day…

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And there was even a blacksmith in his forge ( how very¬†Michaelmas¬†ūüôā

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I went to the Advice Stall to ask about our aphid problem and was given some helpful advice which hopefully will make a difference. It sounds like you have to keep on top of it regularly, so that will keep me busy next year!

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We were told that we could pick¬†apples for free from the old apple orchard there whenever we wanted, so a friend and I made a plan to go there on Friday after school with our children and a picnic. We had a fabulous time (bar the fruit flies..). The apples were really high up, so the children¬†climbed into the smaller trees and we used long sticks to knock them down from the larger trees! It was really good fun ūüôā

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And we each went home with a big sack of apples.

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Including this quirky apple “pear”¬†

They are mainly cooking apples so we will use the large ones for baked apples filled with nuts and raisins and I also have plans to make apple sauce with lots of cinnamon. ¬†I expect our horse Minnie will be enjoying some to. ūüôā

We went back to our friends’ house after our picnic with a plan to make apple crumble. The children were very much involved in making the¬†impromptu crumble. They all donned aprons and my friend’s little boy even wore a chef’s hat. So sweet. They thoroughly enjoyed mixing the flour, oats, sugar and butter with their hands to make the crumble topping. It worked out surprisingly well for an improvised effort and the children really enjoyed the fruits of their labour! I didn’t have my camera with me at this point which is a shame as they were a joy to behold.

My nature table and seasonal decorations also have an apple/harvest theme, to reflect what is happening in nature. I made the apples from little balls of beeswax with tiny twigs as stems.

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A little pumpkin fairy that I needle felted some years ago, is still a favourite.

The nature table should reflect what is happening out in nature; so for example it is a busy time for animals who are gathering food for their winter stores.

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Felt mice eating corn.  

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 A squirrel collecting acorns amongst the toadstools .

We have started collecting conkers and acorns which are gradually making their way onto the nature table along with the pumpkins,apples and corn that are already there. I do so love the autumn nature table as there are so many treasures out in nature that you can collect to adorn it with, so it is constantly evolving.

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I bought the little plastic gourds on our recent trip to Germany. You can purchase such beautiful seasonal decorations in Germany, I always make sure I treat myself to a few while I am there.

I hope you are enjoying the harvest season too!

 

 

Dragon Catcher

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My youngest daughter’s first grade class recently made some paper ‘Dragon Catchers’ which I mentioned in my¬†Michaelmas post. You play with them like a cup and ball, but in this case you need to catch the dragon ( the tissue paper streamers) in the paper cup. I have scoured pinterest for them, but they aren’t anywhere obvious, so I thought I would share how the class made them here in case anyone fancies making one for next Michaelmas or just for their children to play ‘Catch the Dragon’ with ūüôā

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  • Firstly cut a square of about 22cm. Colour the square with crayons ¬†on both sides in fiery colours (¬†Stockmar block crayons blend particularly well).
  • Find the centre and make a hole. Thread a 50 cm ¬†length of yarn through it.

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  • Fold the paper in half to make two triangles.
  • Then fold one flap down a little as seen above.¬†( Leave the other part up as this is the part that helps catch the dragon ) ¬†

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  • Now fold one side across to meet the other side at the level of the flap you just folded down.dsc05166
  • Fold the other side across on top. (My eldest daughter taped this part down to stop it flapping up).

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  • Tie a bead to the bottom of your yarn

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  • Thread a bead onto the top of your yarn (there shouldn’t be too much movement, so choose the appropriate sized beed for your yarn).
  • Cut strips of tissue paper in fiery colours to ¬†40cm lengths and fold in half.
  • Hold the strips together and tie them together right in the middle using the yarn as seen above.

And that’s it!
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My eldest daughter made one for herself the same day so she could join in the fun. She had to improvise with the tissue paper that we had a home (!) and preferred other colours for the cup. These have been a hit around here. So simple, yet so effective.

Hope the instructions were clear enough. It’s a bit tricky to explain so my daughters modelled how to make them for me ūüôā

Michaelmas Festival

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Michaelmas daisies 

Michaelmas festival takes place on 29th September each year and it is one of the many  seasonal festivals that we celebrate at our Steiner (Waldorf) school. It is the first of three autumn/winter festivals (Michaelmas, Martinmas and Advent) which culminate in the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

The autumn equinox has just passed and slowly the balance between darkness and light is changing as we head into the darker months and the process of death and decay in nature has begun as we bid a final farewell to summer.  It is harvest time and farmers and gardeners work hard to bring crops in and finish their work in the fields/ putting beds to rest in preparation for the winter months. Harvest festivals are celebrated throughout the Northern Hemisphere to mark this.  Although we can now buy any food we wish at any time of the year, it is fitting to thank our earth for its bountiful gifts and to make space for gratitude.

It is also a busy time in nature with animals gathering their winter stores and birds preparing to migrate.

Michaelmas has traditionally been the time of new beginnings and taking up new tasks. It is for this reason, that the University term begins at this time and it was traditional in olden times to renew work and rental contracts at Michaelmas.

Who is Michael?

Archangel Michael is the mightiest of all the Archangels in God’s Heavenly Court and the leader of God’s army. He stands for truth, goodness, courage and fortitude. It was he who fought Lucifer (another mighty Archangel) and cast him out of heaven when he became deluded with vanity, pride and a¬†desire to usurp God. He was cast down onto the earth and became Satan (the devil).

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. ¬†But they were¬†not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. ¬†The great dragon was hurled down‚ÄĒthat ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” Revelations 12:7-9

In English folklore it is thought that he landed in a thorny blackberry bush and in his anger he spat upon the bush and cursed its fruit, so it is recommended not to pick blackberries after Michaelmas ( that’s the end of my¬†foraging!)

Archangel Michael or Saint Michael is venerated in both Judaism and Christianity and he is also mentioned in the Qu’ran. He is the most powerful of the Archangels and many churches throughout the Christian world have been dedicated to him (including Mont St Michel in France which we visited this¬†summer). Iconic paintings of Michael typically show him on a white steed holding a sword and a shield, gazing forwards whilst holding the dragon at bay at his feet. We can note that he does not kill the dragon but rather subdues him; his gaze is not on what he is trying to overcome (the darkness), instead he is looking towards the light. He is also shown with scales on many statues, as he is the Archangel that comes to the dying to weigh up their souls and give them a chance to redeem themselves. Greater detail can be found¬†here¬†and¬†here.

So how does Michaelmas serve us?

In the summer months we are at one with nature. The sun gives us warmth, energy  and plenty of long light-filled days. Life feels like a lighter experience and our spirits are permeated with this warmth and light and all around us is abundant. The challenge now as the days grow shorter, is to step away from nature (and darkness) and make it a priority to take the light into ourselves; to kindle our inner light and to harness the energy we have absorbed from the sun to give us strength for the darker days ahead.  Michaelmas is the ideal time to shine a light on our inner dragons (human weaknesses such as uncertainty, fear and doubt) and to cultivate the inner strength and courage to conquer these and to strive for self awareness. If we nurture our inner light, when the dragon rears its head -or insecurities creep in Рwe are self aware enough to keep these feelings in check and to face the future without fear. We can call on Archangel Michael to help us summon our inner strength and resolve to stay on the path of goodness, truth and light.

Stories of good versus evil or light versus dark are often told at this time.  One such story is St George and the Dragon. The image of St.George taming or slaying the dragon represents our inner courage to face our fears.

Other associations:

The colour red is associated with this festival, echoing the berry reds out in nature, ¬†the rosy apples and the fiery colours of the turning leaves. In more anthroposophical circles, red is the colour of blood which is thought to be¬†the carrier of the ego (our spirit self) and we need this ego power to keep our dragons at bay. Blood is also the carrier of iron and the shooting stars at this time of year are iron falling upon the earth to give us strength. Michael’s sword is also of steel as is his steely determination to conquer the dragon.

Young children do not need to know the history behind the festival to enjoy it. We can present them with images of hard working blacksmiths with their iron, animals gathering their winter stores, mice making their nests and hedgehogs preparing for their winter sleep. Stories of courage and fortitude for older children all create the mood of the festival without going into detail.

How do we celebrate Michaelmas in our school?

This year both my daughters are in the main school. Parents do not attend main school festivals, but I am told the day started with a Michaelmas assembly with the children all dressed in red to reflect the spirit of the festival. During the morning, the children were divided into groups and were assigned various tasks to help prepare the school and grounds for the winter months. using their will forces for the good of the school. My eldest daughter did some dusting and cleaned the banisters whilst my youngest did some weeding outside. When I arrived to pick my youngest up, there was a marked difference I found: the energy really seemed to have been lifted by the communal effort. The children were rewarded with a harvest feast made by the ninth grade class (14-15 year olds) and there was even an entertaining performance of St George and the Dragon by the children of the tenth grade class. From what I have heard, it was a rewarding, enjoyable day for all.

In autumn Saint Michael with sword and with shield

passes over meadow and orchards and fields

He’s on his way to battle against darkness and strife.

He is the heavenly warrior, protector of life.

This is the Michaelmas song that both my daughters sing at school ( there are others for the older ones). They have been singing it every day at home and it really seems to resonate with them.

I was lucky enough to attend the Early Years festival (as I am now volunteering to contribute to our school news sheet). I have attended these festivals for eight years so I feel quite at home there! The families all wore dark berry red to suit the mood of the season.The children were asked to walk to school if possible and to pick up some treasures on their way ( leaves, conkers, feathers, stones etc.) which were carefully laid into a spiral shape for all to admire.
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There was a harvest table, including bread windmills, harvest sheaves, a giant mouse and many little mice (think the song ” a mouse lived in a windmill” which we later sang ) and of course a Michaelmas dragon. So plenty of imagery there!

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The families then shared a festive brunch and sang some wonderful seasonal songs , including my two favourites ” Yellow the Bracken” and “I am a Blacksmith good and true” and the Michaelmas song “The Autumn Winds blow open the gate” ( all found in this¬†book). In the spirit of gratitude, the families also brought donations of food for a local charity.¬†dsc05113

At home, we made a small corner for St Michael ( or St George – the red cross knight) on our nature table. I made the dragon from this¬†pattern¬†some years ago. I always fantasised about getting an¬†Ostheimer¬†Saint Michael, but there are always so many expenses at this time of year, I make do with a doll’s house boy on a white Schleich horse ūüôā .

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And I brought out our Michaelmas candle which has had much use over the years  (the idea was found in All Year Round Рa wonderful resource for all things Waldorf/seasonal).

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My youngest daughter made a ‘dragon catcher’ in her class which she has had fun playing with and my eldest made one at home later that day with some instructions from her sister. I will share a simple tutorial with you tomorrow since I haven’t found it anywhere online and the girls love it.

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It is rather a long post but there is a lot to say, but hopefully the spirit of the festival is clear and it is helpful to know more about why we celebrate Michaelmas :-).

 

I like to write about the festivals here as it helps me clarify the meanings behind them  to myself and hopefully it will do the same for others of you out there. There is certainly a lot more that could be said, but I wanted to keep it simple!

Horses and knitting

I am making slow progress on the¬†sweater¬†I am making for my eldest daughter. ¬†I was hoping to make it for her birthday by the end of October but I don’t seem to find the time somehow. Now all the crayon rolls¬†are made, I am enjoying a bit of cosy knitting instead. The other day we took a long car journey and I played a bit of catch up and today I went to watch my youngest daughter having a horse riding lesson and managed to fit in a few more rows in between reading this¬†horse and pony encyclopaedia

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I am trying to find out as much as possible about horses as we now own a pony! I know it sounds strange, but we didn’t intend to become horse owners and it has come as a bit of a shock surprise that we are actually responsible for our very own horse, but this is how it is and so I am trying to educate myself so I don’t feel quite so out of my depth! She is a beautiful girl and we are all quite smitten but totally inexperienced! ūüôā

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I will explain more shortly. Tonight I am just going write this short post on my work in progress for¬†KKCO¬†. I am still finishing off a couple of posts I am writing related to Michaelmas¬†¬†ūüôā

Hope you too are enjoying some cosy crafting time!