Preparing for Advent

I love Advent. It is my absolute favourite time of year. I love all the seasons for their unique gifts, but Advent is a very special time in our home and we all feel it.

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Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is traditionally a time in which we prepare for Christmas; for the coming of Christ on Christmas Day.  In these commercial times, it is easy to get carried away; arranging far too many outings, trying to spend time with as many friends as possible before Christmas (as if time were finite and Christmas were the deadline!) People spend large quantities of money on presents and parties and take on too much at a time when we are naturally getting tired, so illness can strike if we don’t look after ourselves.

I am not immune to all this. I often take on too many projects in the hope that I will finish them in time for Christmas and we are sometimes out of the house more than we are in it, but over the years, I have realised that rushing around causes tension and that I need to make enough space for the “out breaths” and inner work that this season requires. I like to write Christmas letters as I mentioned here and I spend many happy hours doing this in the first couple of weeks in December;  writing to friends abroad or people I seldom see, but think of fondly.  It is time well spent; time with dear friends is always time well spent 🙂 I usually go out to cafe’s or if I am at home, I play some Christmas music to put me in a festive mood for writing.

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My preparations for Advent start a couple of weeks before, when I get my Advent box out of the eaves and review ideas from years gone by. This booklet by Annette Frontz  was given to me by lovely friend some years ago. It has been a wonderful resource for Advent ideas and there is a section on inner work too. I also enjoy reading the Advent and Christmas section in  All Year Round and Festivals, Family and Food and many of the ideas for the rituals I will mention have come from these wonderful resources.  I also have a big brown leatherbound book in which I have written all our seasonal traditions to remind me of the lovely things we do.

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I try to create a very quiet mood at the beginning of Advent. The Nature table is quiet, with a dark blue cloth on it and very little is happening. I lay a star path of 24 golden (paper) stars leading to the stable with a larger golden star holding an Advent Candle for each Advent Sunday. Very little else is occurring and it feels good to have a moment of quiet; an outbreath after the riot of colour and activity in the autumn and before the bright lights of Christmas.

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The candle holders are made out of gold card. I drew an X in the middle and cut along the lines. Then I pushed each of the four sides out from the middle and the candle sits snugly inside. It works surprisingly well.

We have a variety of ways in which we mark the days of Advent. We started with just a couple of rituals when the children were small, but things have been added over the years. I would recommend you don’t take anything on that you can’t manage from year to year, as the children will expect it and be disappointed if you don’t continue that particular tradition. Our own family rituals are as follows:

*  We hang a blue silk ribbon with 24 golden sequin stars glued to it and one big golden star right at the top. A little felt angel that I made many years ago climbs one star at a time all the way up to Christmas day. When my children were young, this was an excellent way to see how close we were getting to Christmas. Our angel is a little worn and I have considered making another, but we are still so fond of her I probably never will  🙂

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*  We stick one golden star sticker each day on the dark blue sky that is the background to our nature table. By Christmas the sky is full of stars and it looks so beautiful and full of light.

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*  We have a fabric Advent Calendar with little pockets on it, that I sewed (in kit form) a few years ago. Elves come in the night of the 30th November/1st December and leave an ornament in each pocket for my daughters to find in the morning. We also leave a letter to Father Christmas by the fireplace that night for the elves to take to him. This is the start of the Christmas magic for them. My daughters take it in turns to hang a little ornament on the bare branches hanging above the stable on our nature table. By Christmas it is full and joyful.

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*  My daughters each have one of these beautiful Advent Calendars that we bought in our school shop. They last several years (with a bit of help from blu tack) and are just gorgeous!

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Those are our morning rituals. The children take it in turns to do the various things and again in the evening. They are very good at being fair about it, as there is certainly plenty for them to do!

*  For a couple of years we have also opened an electronic  Advent Calendar every afternoon after school, something my daughters really look forward to. It was gifted to us by a lovely member of our school community, who sadly passed away recently. This year and from now on, I will treat her grandchildren to one, to repay her kindness and generosity. Although my children are rarely exposed to the computer, I decided that this was o.k, as it is really very beautiful and traditional.

*  In the evening we move our felt Mary along the star path on the Nature table. We darken the room and light the Advent candles for that week (one for the first week of Advent, two for the second etc) and sing this song with reverence as one of the children moves Mary forward one star.

” On the Golden Star Path walking

Mother Mary travels Far

Brings to Us the Light of Heaven

Brighter than the Brightest Star “

*  For our evening ritual, we choose a Christmas book by a process of Lucky Dip – I have written all the titles of our books down on red and green paper and my daughters take it in turn picking a book at random. We sit downstairs by the fire on warm sheepskins and read the story together and often sing carols ( if there is time). My daughters are already looking forward to this and we had a little practise the other day! 🙂

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*  We light our Advent wreath candles at every mealtime and sing this verse:

” Winter is dark,  yet each tiny spark,  brightens the way to Christmas Day “

The First Sunday of Advent  has just passed. Our family always has a wreath on the table with four red candles in it, as is traditional in Germany and Scandinavian countries I believe and also in Steiner Waldorf schools. We light one candle for every week and by Christmas there are four candles lit on the wreath and a mood of celebration.

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I had planned to make my own wreath in time for Sunday and even purchased some florist foam and went out for a walk with my daughters, but our local park didn’t have any suitable evergreens and time was too tight to go further afield this year, so we are making do with an artificial wreath this year  ( I always have it as a back up). The artificial wreaths these days are quite realistic I find and I have decorated it with some little toadstools, berries and cinnamon sticks as my German grandmother always did. Some of the decorations belonged to her and I am always so happy to see them as they remind me of the wonderful Christmases I spent with my grandparents.  I would have loved to have made my own, but I must remind myself not to let perfection be the enemy of the good. This is more than good enough. 🙂

Each week of Advent we can use the following themes from Rudolph Steiner to give the week a focus:

The first light of Advent is the light of stones,
Stones that live in crystals, seashells and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind,
The light of hope, that we may learn to love and understand.

I use these themes in all kinds of ways, but especially on the Nature Table. Objects are added overnight by the ‘elves’ for my daughters to find in the morning. They never cease to delight in this, especially as the elves also add things to their own nature tables in their rooms.

  • In the first week : stones, golden shells, crystals and rocks  are added to the Nature table
  • In the second week :  greenery, little toadstools, golden nuts, pinecones and such like are added to the Nature Table.
  • In the third week : Mary’s donkey arrives to travel the path with her and little clay hedgehogs, felt mice, wooly sheep and a few animals in the stable are added to the Nature Table.
  • In the fourth week:  Joseph arrives and the innkepeer, the shepherds and some angels.  If it is a long week, some gnomes may join the crystals.

This is a wonderful ritual, full of the magic of the season and the Nature table becomes  so full of life by Christmas. If you choose to take on this ritual,  do try to keep it up every evening throughout Advent, as the children will notice if the elves aren’t bringing things and could be disappointed. Saying that, sometimes our elves have been known not to come!!…but then add two things the next day. So once again, let us not let perfection be the enemy of the good!

Wow! Writing all this really makes me realise how many rituals and traditions we have surrounding Advent. As I mentioned, it is my favourite time of year!  Most of these rituals don’t cost anything, just a bit of foresight. I am very conscious that my daughters will one day outgrow them, so I cherish every year as if it were the last. I very much hope we will continue to have these special times for many more years.

In our Steiner (Waldorf) school, the Kindergartens celebrate Advent with an Advent Spiral in the first week of Advent. The children and parents are all dressed in dark blue to echo the quiet mood of this festival. An inwardly spiralling path of evergreens is laid on the floor, leading to a tree stump with a large central candle on it, which is looked after by ‘Mother Mary’. Each child is given a shiny red apple with a golden candle in it by their teacher and in the semi darkness, they walk the spiral path to the centre to light their candle (this represents their journey to birth). When the candle is lit, they walk back out of the spiral and place their apple along the path in a place of their choosing (this represents their journey from birth and their free will). By the time all the children have placed their candles on the spiral path safely, the room is much brighter and there is a feeling of light and hope. The teachers, parents and children sing many beautiful songs (including my favourite The Angel Gabriel) throughout the ceremony to create a mood of reflection and reverence. Last year was my final opportunity to attend this festival with my daughters after seven years. I will miss it.

My daughters are both in the school now and will attend an Advent assembly in the main hall every Monday. The children are also dressed in dark blue and the hall is darkened to reflect the mood of Advent; one of expectation. A child from each class is chosen to bring their clay candle holder (which they made last week) to the assembly. As the assembly draws to a close, each of these children lights their candle from an Advent Wreath and carefully takes their light back to their classroom. That child then lights his/her neighbours candle and the neighbour lights his/her neighbours candle and so the light is passed all the way around the class until all the candles are lit and the children sing their Advent songs. This feels so special and wholesome to me. My youngest was very appreciative of all these touches particularly.

I plan to share more about Advent and our weekly rituals here in the weeks to come and will hopefully share a Christmas book list at some point too. It would have been more helpful earlier in the season, but there is always next year 😉

Wishing you all a peaceful Advent. 

Making this week…

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This week, I have been trying to finish some projects to free me up for my Christmas crafting. It has been a bit stop, start at times, but this week:

*  I finished the dark blue satin table runners for the dining hall tables at our Christmas Fayre.  The runners are 2m40cm and the fabric doesn’t really iron well, so I had to do a lot of pinning before I could sew and now have a lot of bent pins to bend back into shape!

* I made a bit of progress on the little Phoebe mouse I started a few weeks ago. I am making two for my daughters for their Christmas presents.

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*  I finished the crayon rolls I was making. The children wanted buttons on them this time, so I inserted a small piece of black elastic where I sewed the ribbon in the previous ones I made. They are going to purchase their own buttons to sew on.

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*  I am so almost there on my youngest daughter’s Owlet. I got a bit stuck on the short rows but thanks to the helpful folk on Youtube, I am now well on my way to finishing it. It is getting so cold now, I want to wrap her up in it as soon as possible. I had a nice half an hour knitting whilst my daughter had a riding lesson yesterday.

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As I write, I am drying some orange slices in the oven, which we are planning to hang on silver branches amongst the paper angels my eldest daughter made to sell at the Christmas Fayre this weekend. Aren’t they beautiful 🙂

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I also need some for a garland. They are really easy to do and look and smell wonderful. Here is a quick explanation:

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  • Arrange the orange slices on a metal rack ( such as a cooling rack), so that the air can circulate around them when they are drying in the oven. I used to use a baking tray, but I found they stuck a bit. If you do, turn them regularly.

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  • Leave in an oven on the lowest temperature for 2-3 hours, checking every now and then and turning them if necessary. When they are nice and dry, take them out and do what you wish with them 🙂 They will still be a bit sticky, but this is fine. They will air dry with time and even darken in colour.

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 Sadly my orange slices went soft and a bit mouldy in storage this year: they were in a plastic box with some salt dough ornaments that went soft – our eaves are rather cold/damp 😦  I would recommend storing them in a paper bag, or if they are in an arrangement,  don’t store them with salt dough in a damp place!!

I am making some sugar-free carob sweets (my children don’t eat chocolate) in Christmas moulds so my daughters can enjoy one a day in the run up to Christmas. I only have one Christmas mould and one star shaped mould, so I will have to make some more again tomorrow! I thought I would share the recipe with you as it is so easy and sugar free 🙂

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        Ingredients:

  • 40g carob powder
  • 40g lucuma powder
  • 20g cococunt oil/butter
  • 120g cacao butter ( I put this in the freezer for half an hour before so it is easier to remove from the container!) 
  • Grated rind of one lemon or orange or a couple of drops of food grade orange or peppermint essential oil.

* Melt the cacao butter and the coconut oil in a bain marie on a low/medium heat.

* Add the carob, lucuma powder and rind/oil to the bowl. Mix well.

*  Turn off the heat and spoon into the moulds.

*  Leave in the fridge for 3-4 hrs or overnight to harden.

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This makes 25-30 carob sweets

Couldn’t be easier and a really tasty sugar free treat is born! Even our chocolate loving friends enjoy these. 🙂

That’s about all for today. I am planning to post about our Advent preparations tomorrow.  Only two more sleeps until we start opening our lovely Advent calendars 🙂

Hope you are enjoying your crafting time as much as I do. 

Joining Nicole at Frontier Dreams

 

 

Making and a little Elving

This past week, I have had a few paid projects to do. My sister asked me to make some personalised bunting for a few well deserving friends of hers. She provided the fabric and I provided the wool felt for the letters. I always use 100% wool felt because it lasts and the effect is more beautiful. I didn’t have whole pieces in my stash, so I alternated the colours and I managed to cut all the letters from the felt that I had. Phew! I couldn’t get any good photos due to the light. It is brighter than what you can see in the photo below.

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I am also in the process of making two crayon rolls. Two of the children in my daughter’s class were so happy with the ones I made them for school, they wanted one for home too. 🙂

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I am considering whether I should set up a little etsy shop to sell bespoke things like these as I really love spending a morning sewing and creating things with a specific person in mind. It would also be lovely to have a bit of spending money, I must say. Maybe after Christmas….let’s see. I have plenty to keep me going til then!!

I am back to knitting  this sweater for my youngest. Nearly finished with the owls, just the heads to go. I have enjoyed using the cable method. I thought it would be too difficult, but it was fine. My daughter is going to choose some little wooden buttons with me later this afternoon.

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I have also volunteered to cut out six long table runners and hem them for the dining hall tables at our Christmas Fayre on 3rd December. It’s a very slippery material, but I am sure it will look lovely.

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This is one of the parental school contributions I mentioned here. All parents will be baking cakes and working on a stall, selling tickets or doing something useful on the day, the day before and the day after! My husband is doing all the cooking so he will be busy!

My eldest will be selling her wares at the Fayre’s Children’s Market. They will give a percentage of what they make to the school as payment for their stall. So far she has made around 20 beanbags and nine doll skirts. Here are a few. They are very sweet. I imagine they will sell well.

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She has also made a start on some origami boxes. We found some good instructions here. We asked around for some sheet music and my youngest daughter’s violin teacher gave us a few sheets. We have photocopied these double sided and this is what my daughter is using to make her boxes.

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I think she is planning to make lids too and perhaps some boxes using maps too. She is also going to make little paper angels from an easy pattern we found in this months Landlove magazine.

We bought her and her sister a little elf hairband for them to wear on the stall. They kept them on all day and were really helpful little elves;  polishing things, sweeping outside and they also arranged ALL their soft toys on their bed because they were busy getting them ready for Christmas presents!!

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It was delightful and this continued into the afternoon when they sat down to make things for the Fayre.  They loved the feeling of being little elves in Father Christmas’s workshop! So sweet.

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In a few moments I am going to our school to help the Handwork teacher out. My youngest daughter’s first grade class are learning to knit and there are too many children at the same stage for her to teach them all, so she has enlisted my help. I knit the German way,  as my German grandmother was my teacher, but my eldest has shown me the English way and I think it will be fine. It seems a bit more fiddly though! 🙂 There is a little rhyme that they use at school, that I have memorised, so I am sure that will help:

In through the front door,

Running Round the Back,

Peeping through the window,

And off jumps Jack.

 

That’s all the news on Crafting this week. I hope you too are Keeping Calm and Crafting On.

 

 

 

 

Martinmas and the Nature Table…

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On Friday 11th November, we celebrated our annual Martinmas festival.  I meant to write this sooner, but there haven’t been many opportunities lately to sit down and write as much as I would like to. I thought I would share it anyway. Better late than never 🙂

Martinmas is the second autumn festival after Michaelmas Festival. This festival celebrates the life work of St Martin of Tours. Martin was born around 316AD and at the age of 15, he was forced to follow in his fathers footsteps to become a officer in the Roman army. Legend has it that as Martin rode into Amiens one cold icy winter’s night, he spotted a beggar, who was half naked, shivering near the city gates. He took his warm army cloak off and cut it in two with his sword, so that both he and the beggar were clothed in half of it. That night Christ came to him in a dream: He was dressed in the half cloak that Martin had given to the beggar and was surrounded by angels. Christ told the angels “Martin has covered me with this garment”.

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This gave Martin immense courage and faith that he was on the right path. He was baptised and after leaving the army, he spent the rest of his life helping the sick, the needy and the poor and bringing Christianity to areas of France. He was even made a Bishop, despite his protestations. He was undoubtedly a humble man who was guarded by angels and spent his life doing Christ’s work. There is much to say about Martin’s journey. More can be found on St Martin here and in this book.

Below are two books we enjoy reading at Martinmas. Unfortunately they are only in German. I haven’t found any in English thusfar as St Martin is not widely known or celebrated here, only in Waldorf Education, I believe.

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In the wonderful resource All Year Round the inner journey is well explained;

“St Martin recognised the divine spark in the poor man of Amiens and gave it the protection of his own cloak. When we make a paper lantern, we too may feel that we are giving protection to our own little ‘flame’ that was beginning to shine at Michaelmas, so that we may carry it safely through the dark world. It may only be a small and fragile light – but every light brings relief to the darkness”

Every act of kindness, no matter how small brings light and hope into the world. At this time of year, it is fitting that we donate money or warm winter clothes to homeless charities or those helping the refugees, or we could buy a homeless person a warm drink. Martin recognised that we all have the divine spark in us, every one of us and if we see that, it is easier to love, forgive and reach out to our fellow man. The Buddha spoke of our oneness and how we all suffer from the same human problems – we are all the same essentially, so if we help another being, we are helping the world. This is what I believe – spreading light and goodness is as good for us as it is for the recipients.

We can note that Martin did not give his whole cloak away. We can only help others if we look after ourselves too. ( I think this is particularly important for mothers who are always giving to our families, friends, community…we need to make sure we are well looked after too and nourished). We should not feel impoverished by giving, but enriched in spirit.

Traditionally Martinmas is celebrated with a lantern walk, to bring the light into the darkness, to bring hope into the dark days.

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Since they were little, my daughters and I have gone on lantern walks in our surrounding area in the week leading up to Martinmas. We have always been lucky to have a local park within a short walk.  We sing lantern songs in German and it is a special time. This year it rained a lot in the week before, so we didn’t get to go 😦 We were planning to have friends over for a lantern walk (friends who left Waldorf education a couple of years ago but who still love the festivals). It is our little tradtion to have them over for lantern walking, soup and warm mulled apple juice to warm us up afterwards. Unfortunately we had to cancel that due to rain too!! 😦

Luckily the 11th November was a fine day and we were able to take a lovely lantern walk with my youngest daughter’s class. My eldest daughter’s fourth grade class no longer go for a lantern walks ( too many of the children don’t seem to take it seriously and mess around 😦 ) so my eldest was grateful for the opportunity to join in on this walk as she loves the atmosphere of the festival.

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Parents are very involved in a Steiner (Waldorf|) school: we are very much part of a Community;  from Class contact work to making cakes to raise funds, to helping out at fayres and cleaning the classroom. Every parent had a job to make this lantern walk happen. Glass jars with tealights in them were placed all the way around a local pond to light the path  and a fire was lit outside the village hall to keep us warm afterwards. Parents brought mulled appled juice and  flapjacks for afterwards and we had a wonderful time, singing lantern songs and enjoying the stillness of the night. I don’t have many photos as my camera doesn’t seem to cope well with darkness, but here is my daughter with her lantern 🙂

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Our collection of homemade lanterns has been growing over the years. Here are some of them that we made more recently. I keep fantasising about more intricate lanterns – one day….They all look so beautiful with a little candle shining hopefully in them.

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I change my nature table in November to reflect the changes in nature. The leaves are all on the ground – almost – and I have gnomes sweeping them underground and I have changed the cloths to purple to create a darker feeling as the nights draw in ever more.

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Gnomes are in their cave looking after crystals, there are two gnomes warming themselves by the fire outside the cave and everywhere the gnomes are working hard to sweep away autumn leaves with their little lanterns at the ready for when it gets dark early.

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Here are two little gnomes going for a lantern walk. I made them a couple of years ago using instructions found here.

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My youngest sat a little gnome on top of our toadstool house 🙂

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Here is the gnomes cave. I couldn’t capture it properly on camera. The fairy lights are red in the lanterns and in the cave and there are some big crystals in there.

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More gnomes on the mantlepiece.

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And finally another nature table in our dining area. I made the little toadstools in the cyclamen by placing beeswax in limpet shells and pushing squewers into them. They are so easy to make and good fun.

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As this season draws to an end and Advent begins. we will gather all our autumn leaves, dried acorns and conkers together for our  “gnomes bonfire”. I found the idea in All Year Round and we love it. I will share photos no doubt. It clears a space for new beginnings and the quiet time of reflection that is Advent.

I love changing the Nature Table to reflect the seasons and festivals. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Follow your heart 🙂

Going away….

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I took a solo trip away from home on Saturday and stayed in a hotel on Saturday night all on my own, something I haven’t done in over 15 years.  I used to love travelling by myself and have always enjoyed my own company, but it feels like a lifetime ago ( my pre-children life – was there ever such a thing??!). I must admit I felt hesitant to depart that morning, but once I got going, put my favourite music on and was travelling on the open road through the beautiful autumn countryside, I began to enjoy myself and my new found freedom.

It rained all day, but that didn’t dampen my spirits as it was actually fun to walk in the rain; to look at the world through my rain spattered glasses and not to have any responsibility to model good behaviour!!

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I went to my favourite National Trust property for autumn colour and I wasn’t disappointed. I left my ‘mummy bag’ in the car and it was just me, my iPod, and my membership card and car keys in my pocket – how liberating for this mama! There was hardly a soul there because of the rain, which was refreshing. It felt as if I had this whole secret garden all to myself; I could sing and skip and whatever took my fancy 🙂 including taking lots of photos. Above all, I could be present, fully present. It was a gift indeed.

Here are (quite) a few of the photos that capture the mood of the moment 🙂 I hope you will indulge me for a moment, I felt totally inspired at the time by all the beauty surrounding me….

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So good to be out in nature!

Then I treated myself to a lovely lunch in a great cafe we recently discovered. The atmosphere was cosy, with lots of fairy lights  – my favourite kind of cosy 😉
The food was delicious and I could savour every tasty mouthful without distraction or interruption. Simple pleasures!

When I arrived in the village where I was due to spend the night, I took a walk around to explore. Such fun to discover a new area, going down back roads and just being curious because….It soon started raining so I sought refuge in another lovely cafe and enjoyed my third redbush tea of the day….

I decided to start writing my Christmas letters! I know it is rather early, but I try to make sure I write a proper letter ( 2-6 A4 pages worth) to all my friends abroad at Christmas  (and I try to write at birthdays too,  although this year was a bit more hit and miss than other years). I always end up writing around 20 letters , so ideally I need to start early if I want it to be a relaxed experience. I tend to write most of my letters in cafes or at home with Christmas music on to get me in the mood. I have never started this early before, but it feels good. I probably won’t send them til the end of November, but at least two are written so far (to friends in the States). Another 18 to go 🙂 . I love writing letters at Christmas time, especially if I haven’t caught up with these friends over the year. There is always a lot to write about and spending a couple of hours in a cafe writing a proper long letter to a friend is my way of spending some time in their company and feeling closer to them somehow. I have a few friends who are my regular ‘pen pals’ who I met whilst travelling in Australia many moons ago. Nothing beats receiving a hand- written letter in my opinion. An email can be read and forgotten but the feeling of sitting down to a letter is so much more satisfying and nourishing. Human warmth shines through in a letter in a way that can’t be acheived by an email, I feel.

Unfortunately the hotel I stayed in was rather disappointing. There was no mention of a band playing in the bar when I booked it, but basically my room was over the bar and there was music well into the night. I fell asleep just after midnight and the music was still going strong. Not quite the picture of peace and tranquility that I had in mind!! I did enjoy having a lovely long candlelit bath with Epsom salts and essential oils to begin with though and spent the evening watching ‘Gladiator’ and starting some knitting projects. I like to start a few at a time if possible, so I can pick up the one that takes my fancy.

I have started  the fingerless gloves I mentioned in my previous post,

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I started and finished another drop stitch cowl which is my favourite knit for instant gratification (we all need those don’t we 😉 ). I didnt’ have enough to do the four rows of drop stitch, but it is still lovely.

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I have decided to knit my daughters a Phoebe mouse each after seeing this post of Nicole’s at Frontier Dreams. I remember thinking they were so cute when she made her daughters them some years ago and I need a relatively quick and sweet project. I had hoped to make quilts, but that will have to be an Easter gift methinks.

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I have done one head so far which is a good start. I now have 46 rows of just knitting, so I will pick my time for that ( when I don’t need to concentrate fully…) and probably start another head in the meantime.  It feels good to have made a start.

The following day, I had a leisurely morning, breakfast, a walk and another trip to a cafe for a fruit tea and some alfresco knitting.

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This leaf landed in my lap!

I am taking a break from chocolate and caffeine (since the beginning of November) so redbush and fruit teas are my staples at the moment. I love the colourway of this yarn. It feels so autumnal to me and the yarn is so chunky and cosy.

I met my dear family for lunch and an afternoon adventure in the woods – another trip to Pooh Country. It was so lovely to see them again after the break.

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We found these lovely shiny sweet chestnuts amongst the piles of wet autumn leaves.

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Treasure!

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We are planning to roast them on our wood burner once it gets colder (it is still fairly mild here for this time of year).

All in all I felt so very grateful to have this time away and I know it won’t be my last. I can see how my nervous system calmed down (despite the noise in the hotel) and I have been able to be much more patient and understanding for my children since then. I definitely needed this solo trip and I am so very grateful to have a husband who understands this deep need in me.

I hope you are having fun Keeping Calm and Crafting On 

 

A Waldorf doll skirt tutorial

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As promised  here is a tutorial on the tiered doll skirt I made for both my daughters’ dolls this year. They are designed with a 45cm tall Waldorf doll in mind. You can use whatever materials you have in your stash as the quantities are so small. I like to make matching skirts for my daughters and their dolls.

You will need: 

  • two pieces of fabric 19cm x 11cm for the top tier
  • two pieces of fabric 24cm x 9cm fabric for the middle tier
  • two pieces of fabric 29cm x 11cm fabric for the lower tier
  • matching thread
  • enough 1cm wide elastic to go round the dolls tummy

For a longer skirt, use a 1cm seam allowance, or for a skirt just below the knee use a 1.5cm seam allowance. 

I always pin and sew, but if you are inexperienced, I would recommend tacking everything first.

Instructions  

1.Cut the fabric out to the above dimensions.

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2.  Pin the fabrics right sides together as shown above and sew the side seams with a 1cm seam allowance.

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3.  Zig zag all the edges to stop fraying.

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4. Iron seams to the side so they lay flat against the material.

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5. Fold the hem on the bottom tier up by 1cm. Press. Then fold by another 1cm. Press again.

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6. Tack or pin hem and edgestitch close to the top of the fold.

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7. On the top tier, turn the top under by 1cm. Press.

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8. Then turn it under by 2.5cm to create the waist band casing. Press. Pin in place.

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9. Edgestitch along the folded edge, leaving a 2cm wide gap to insert the elastic.

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10. Make the gathers at the top of the second tier and at the top of the bottom tier as follows:

Set your sewing machine on the widest possible stitch length and sew 1cm or 1.5cm (dep on your seam allowance) in all around the top, starting near a seam and ending  approx 2cm from the starting point. Leave long ends. Do not reverse stitch.

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Use something small like an unpicker to bring both the long threads through from the front to the back.

Place the top tier (upside down) inside the middle tier with right sides together.

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Pin the two seams together to hold in place.

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Pull one of the threads on each side to create little gathers to fit the top tier.

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When you are satisfied with the gathers and that the two tiers fit together perfectly, knot the four long threads together and tie in a knot to secure. Cut short.

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11. Pin the whole way round and tack before machine sewing using the same seam allowance. ( 1cm or 1.5cm).

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12. Do exactly the same with the middle and bottom tier.

I do recommend tacking to hold the tiers in place before sewing. 

13. Zig zag to finish the seams nicely and press the seams downwards as shown:

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14. Measure your doll’s tummy and cut the elastic accordingly.

15. Attach a safety pin to the elastic and feed it into the waist band casing on the top tier.

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16. Once the elastic has come out at the other end, secure the two ends together by pinning and tacking.

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17. Either hand sew or machine sew the elastic securely, one piece on top of the other as shown.

18. Close the gap in the waistband casing with handsewing or neat machine sewing.

And that’s it!

I added a little trim to my skirts, just sewn onto the bottom of each tier to make them feel a little more special.

And here is ‘Kirsty’ – the doll I made for my youngest some years ago – modelling her skirt 🙂

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I do hope these instructions are clear enough. It is tricky to explain every step with the aid of photographs,  as some steps I didn’t manage to capture well – especially the gathering bit. I hope the tutorial will be useful and do let me know if you have any questions. I am happy to help.

Sharing at The really craty link party.

We are making…

My eldest daughter has decided to sell some of her wares at our school Christmas bazaar, so the making has begun. Her sister and I are her assistants. This week she is making very simple bean bags. We made some at the weekend and some after school. The photos are rather dark because we made them before dinner time and it’s getting dark so early these days 😦 These are the lovely fabrics she is using:

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We actually bought the fabrics so my daughters could make a doll’s quilt each – my youngest in particular fantasises about sitting by the wood burner sewing her quilt in the winter days ahead – just like Laura and Mary 🙂 We realised there would be plenty of fabric left over so my eldest asked if she could make the beanbags with it.

I am cutting the fabric, her sister is pinning, she is sewing and turning them inside out, I am pressing them and poking the corners and she and her sister are filling the bean bags. It is a veritable production line 🙂

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So far we have cut out and sewed 18 bean bags and will make a few more in boy friendly fabrics. We filled about 10 of them before we ran out of rice and beans.

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Next week she plans to make simple doll skirts. It is lovely to see her being so industrious and confident in her abilities. She will be selling her wares on her own. I feel really proud of her –  this sweet talented 10 year old was so super shy for so many years, it makes me happy to see how she will push herself to do the things she really wants to do. I think Steiner (Waldorf) education has really helped her with this, being in a safe space with a positive outlook about abilities, not to mention the emphasis on creativity. It really has brought out some good qualities in her.

I haven’t done much to report on myself. I have finished the second sleeve of  the owlet sweater I am knitting for my youngest and am just about to start the yoke. My daughter is keen for it to be finished as her sister is wearing her warm sweater and she wants to be cosy for the winter too.

I am planning to start knitting  these fingerless gloves using the lovely pink rowan alpaca yarn I have left over from the shawl I made myself this summer. I might take the instructions away with me this weekend.  I am going to go away for a whole night and a day this weekend ON MY OWN!!! The first time in 10 years. I have been away to visit friends for a night once in a while, but what I have been craving most of all is guilt free time alone  – waking alone, sleeping undisturbed and just pottering around doing whatever takes my fancy. I have always needed this alone time, but family life does not lend itself to being alone very much and certainly not for long swathes of time, so my husband has facilitated this treat for me and I am so grateful for it. I have been struggling a bit lately  and I hope it will help. I expect I will knit, write letters, listen to my favourite music, eat, walk in the woods and do all the things I enjoy doing alone. I am going to leave all technology behind.

So looking forward to that..

I hope you are enjoying your own crafts. Joining Nicole for Keep Calm Crafting On

 

Hallowe’en birthday

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My eldest daughter celebrated her tenth birthday on Monday. My, ten years old!! Where does the time go?! She is a Hallowe’en baby. I still remember her birth as clear as if it were yesterday: we were on the thirteenth floor of the hospital ( we had planned a homebirth, but it was thought safer to have her in hospital at the last minute, although there were no complications and it all went really well…I have been lucky to have been blessed with two relatively easy births), the room was dark as the sun was just setting outside and all was quiet and peaceful as our baby angel was born onto the earth. As we held her for the first time, we looked outside to see fireworks lighting up the sky. A real celebration of this little miracle. It still feels like such a special day, like there is magic in the air and we still do a small firework display to celebrate each year.

My daughter was quite concerned about getting into double digits, but now she is there,  she is o.k with it 🙂 It doesn’t feel any different after all.  ( it is always the same at the threshold of a new decade I find). I thought as it was her 10th birthday, we should do something  really special to mark this milestone, so I commissioned a poster for her from here.

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I think you can create ‘word clouds’ yourself, but I didn’t have the time, so I just provided the words and the experts did the work. My daughter was so amazed that it was a poster all about her. I would highly recommend doing something similar to mark a special occasion. She gazes at it often and I know she is delighted to read all the great things that we know and love about her. As she is in a Steiner (Waldorf) school, reading is introduced late, so it will be good reading practise! I hope it will make her feel good for many years to come and it will be interesting to look back on when she is older to see what still applies.

I wrote about our birthday traditions here. Here are a few glimpses of the decorations we use for this autumn birthday. I always try to make sure the decor reflects the feel of the season. This includes a darker birthday crown, a darker tablecloth, autumn coloured streamers and a star path (rather than the path of flowers I lay for my spring born daughter).

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The autumn nature table with some birthday additions on the right hand side

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Another nature table over the mantelpiece

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The streamers that I always hang from the birthday girl’s door. Ten – it’s getting busy!

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The star path to the birthday table. My daughter picked up the stars on her way down.

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The birthday chair covered in a gauzy rainbow cloth over a dark pink silk and Rachel with her matching birthday crown.

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The birthday table with our lovely birthday ring with all its seasonal wooden ornaments and a vase of flowers I picked from our garden. The cosmos are still going strong!

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And a photo of the birthday child at a few days old

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We had a lovely birthday breakfast with presents. Here are the presents we gave her:

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She is so happy with her new sewing machine. I also booked her on a  weekly dressmaking course for children until Christmas, as she doesn’t like me to teach her anything!  She just made a pair of shorts of Tuesday and will be making a skirt next time! Exciting new possibilities…

Her younger sister made her this Jack O Lantern bag and bought her a little Sylvanian out of her own money (for playing the violin, I give her 20p per session for effort and 20p for keeping quiet when her sister does reading practise!  It all adds up! )

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I love it that my daughters like to make each other presents and also that they want to save up to buy the other a present. It’s very touching.

After breakfast, we went for a wonderful autumn walk at a National Trust Property famed for its autumn colour.

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The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed collecting lots of different leaves. I feel some more beeswax leaf dipping coming on! It was lovely to get out of the house and into nature. The children were happy and all was well with the world in those moments 🙂

We returned home in the early afternoon so we had an hour and a half to set the party up. The party was Hallowe’en themed at my daughter’s request. We usually do craft parties, but to make life easier, we just did games this time.

Here are some of the decorations:

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Bats in the hallway – made many years ago, but still going strong!

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A cobweb curtain cut into strips up to three quarters of the way up, hanging between the kitchen and the party room and below another one on one of the big doors and more Bats!

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We love fairy lights to create a special atmosphere.

The party went really well. Once all the guests had arrived (there were six special friends), my daughter unwrapped her gifts. The children loved to see what each other had given the birthday girl. As I have written before, I really belive in opening presents on the party day. It gives the children a chance to say thank you in person to their friends and children often feel dissatisfied if they haven’t seen their friend open the present they have carefully chosen or made. One school friend made my daughter the most amazing slippers! That’s one of the things I love about Steiner Waldorf-schooled children – apart from being creative thinkers, they are always making things.

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Aren’t they adorable! 

Then we played some party games. The children were divided into two teams for each game (with different teams being formed every game to keep it fair – so each child could be with the birthday girl and their other friends at several points in the evening). The team who won the game were allowed to do a lucky dip for a ‘treat’ ( party poppers, glow sticks, bubbles, stickers, healthier ‘sweets’ etc) and the team who lost had to do a trick that the other team decided e.g:  stand on one leg and sing an embarassing song.

The games we played  were:

  • apple and orange bobbing – oranges are more challenging for the older child.
  • wrapping mummies with toilet roll – I gave a roll of toilet roll to each child and one team member voluteered to be the ‘mummy’and be wrapped up. The fastest team to wrap the ‘mummy’ wins.It was a real giggle and quite a challenge. I recommend a good quality toilet roll as one team had a better effect than the other due to the quality of the toilet roll!

As you can see below, we have a mountain of toilet roll to use up! ( I am not one to waste things, so I spent a fair bit of time folding it into useful pieces to reuse!! )

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  •  blindfolded tasting game – we used jelly (vampire flesh), cottage cheese (zombie brain), peeled grapes (witches eyeball), spaghetti (worms) and passion fruit (frog spawn).  Some children were much braver than others with the tasting.
  •  treasure hunt in the garden – I hung 15 pieces of hallowe’en themed paraphenalia around the garden and the children went out with torches to find them and had to write down what they had found. We were going to use a spooky-sound gadget, but my youngest would have burst into tears ( she finds Hallowe’en too scary at the best of times…)
  • the detective game – one child goes out of the room (the detective). Meanwhile, the others sit in a circle and decide who the murderer is. When the detective comes back, the murderer  winks at three of the children and they fall down dead. The detective has to keep an eye on everyone and guess who the murderer is after the three fall down.
  • throwing spiders at some cobwebby sticky material from a good distance.
  • trick or treating – of course 🙂

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I struggled to get any photos in focus that night. I like this one anyway!

The games went down really well and there was a lot of fun and laughter. After trick or treating we came back for a dinner of potato ‘ghosts’ and sausage ‘mummies’ as mentioned here.

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Followed by cake and fireworks.

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It was really a lovely party and the children all had a fantastic time which really is the most important thing. My daughter was really pleased with how the day turned out. Hurrah!

My children don’t eat sweets, so they left their bounty next to the back door with their fairy doors for the ‘sugar fairy’ to collect. We found this lovely story here some years ago and it has been such a gift to us: it allows the children to go trick or treating purposefully with their friends and enjoy the sense of occasion. ( I keep the sweets for next years trick or treaters as they seem to last forever!). 

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The next morning they were richly rewarded with crystals and the makings of a crystal necklace 🙂 

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I hope you all had a happy Hallowe’en too!

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Now for a nice rest….before I set my mind to something else 🙂

 

Birthday makings

Half term break was lovely; we went away for a weekend to the New Forest and came back rejuvenated and have spent the rest of the time catching up with friends. We were also busy preparing for my eldest daughter’s birthday, which she celebrated on Monday.

My daughters are back to school today and I have the house to myself for six whole hours which I really welcome after a busy twelve days together. Our bedroom particularly needs attention as it has once again become the dumping ground for all kinds of things! 😦 Oh how I wish we had a bit more storage somehow…I just bought an underbed storage drawer, but I am not sure how feng shui that is;  having all our paperwork and unfinished business under the bed!!?! Hmmn….

I thought I would quickly share our birthday makings today and I will share a proper birthday post when I next get a chance.

I finished the sweater just in time – I was still weaving in the ends the night before!! It needs a good bit of blocking and I have it on an adult hanger for this photo, but that’s the best I could do at the time and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back to block it now!

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My daughter is really pleased with it. I made a mistake in the blue band so the flower pattern haven’t come out right, but luckily it is in a colour that doesn’t show up too much. I did ask my daughter if she would like me to rip out those rows, but she said she preferred to have it finished on time – phew! I really like the colours she has chosen. I must admit I was sceptical at first that they would work together in that order, but I should have known better: my daughter has an excellent feel for colour and design 🙂

I also finished the tiered skirt I mentioned here:

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and the matching skirt for the Waldorf doll I made her some years ago. Meet  Rachel!

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As you can see they went down well 🙂 although the bag makes it all look a bit slouchy…

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I plan to share a tutorial on how to make the doll’s skirt next week as I took lots of photos during the process.

My daughters have been doing a bit of their own making. We needed to make our big family room more festive, so the girls spent an industrious couple of hours making two very long autumn-coloured paper chains. My youngest put the papers in colour order,

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and my eldest made the chains. She used a stapler for speed as they only had  a short time in which to make them in. You can see the focus in these photos 🙂
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We think they look very effective. We wanted to create a cohesive feel to the two parts of the room and create a party atmosphere. Here is a photo from the night before my daughter’s birthday.

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We did a lot of the birthday and party preparations the day before as we didn’t want them to overshadow my daughter’s actual birthday.

Every year we have a leaf mobile over the birthday table and we dip the leaves in beeswax to create a lovely lustre. It also smells so gorgeous when you are doing it, which is an added bonus 🙂 My daughters love to help dip the leaves in beeswax and it only takes half an hour to knock up a nice batch of leaves.

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They last forever after that, although we always do the beeswaxing anew each year as it has been part of our autumn traditions for many years.

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Apart from these crafts, there was of course pumpkin carving

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and making food for the party. My husband made the sausage ‘mummies’ and the potato ‘ghosts’ with a little help. They were very much enjoyed.

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They are made from large potato slices, cut in half . An apple corer was used to gouge out the eyes and give them their shape at the bottom. The children loved them!

We really enjoyed our Sunday, preparing for the party. It was well worth the effort to get as many preparations done as possible in advance, so we could feel more relaxed and unhurried on the actual birthday.

Hope you are enjoying some seasonal crafting fun. Joining Nicole at Keep Calm Crafting On and Teresa at The Really Crafty Link Party