Christmas books for children



As I have mentioned in previous posts, we love books here. We find great comfort in time reading together and love to escape into the wonderful world of a beautifully crafted book. We have a quite a selection of Advent and Christmas books for children ; some we purchased after enjoying them from the library; some we found in charity shops and some we were given. The illustrations are so important to me; that they be beautiful and wholesome. Occasionally a book is such fun, that I let that go, but I do so prefer a picture book with wonderful cosy illustrations.

I will share the titles here, but unfortunately I don’t have enough time to go into great detail about them right now.  More can be found in the reviews that you will find with the link. ( I do not have any affiliate links, but I find amazon…

View original post 346 more words

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.

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…

View original post 2,110 more words

Small joys and deep gratitude


Now that I am studying, I can only realistically devote a couple of hours each week to writing here and last week, I prioritised writing a Christmas letter instead.

I like to write long newsy letters to friends and family abroad at Christmas time and I usually spend considerable periods of time writing them; in coffee shops and at home (accompanied by Christmas tunes to get me in the mood!) Most letters are around four A4 pages long, some more. I started this in my twenties, when I was a prolific letter writer. I have always enjoyed letter writing as a chance to connect and “spend time” with friends who I rarely see. As you can probably imagine, this is rather time consuming, so this year with my study schedule going right up to the 19th December, I decided to handwrite a long “round robin”-style letter instead. It is eight A4 pages long!

Anyone who has visited my blog, will know that I always have a lot to say 😉

There is a lot to recount after a year has passed and I have tried to make the letter as personal as possible, considering it will reach over 25 recipients. I plan to photocopy it onto colourful paper and write a personal message in a Christmas card with a photo of the girls. Hopefully it will be well received.


I don’t usually send a photo of us parents as we don’t change too much from year to year (and besides I don’t even think I have one of the four of us!!) I really should try to get one taken as we now sponsor a little girl in India and I think it would be nice for her to have a photo of our whole family. We sponsored a girl in Africa until she reached sixteen this year, when the sponsorship had to end – Jebbeh received a lot of photos over the years!!

In preparation for Advent and Christmas, I have been looking through all my Christmas books, magazines and my brown leather-bound book, in which I have written all our family traditions. I love spending time preparing for Advent and setting an intention for a peaceful, special time. I have made a few plans for crafting and baking and arranged a couple of family outings, but am trying to keep things relatively simple as energies are low at this time of year.  There is still a lot going on at school until 13th December (when we break up – nice and early, thank goodness!

Our Christmas Fayre is this weekend. My eldest has continued to work on the pretty things that she will sell on her stall in the Children’s market. She has finished her doll skirts, angels and small window stars and this weekend she needle felted some more baubles


Some of these are her sisters, but she is happy to sell them for her. 

My youngest treated herself to an elf costume with some money left over from her Birthday. I think the girls are planning to do another Christmas play for us. Here they both are with their “elving” 🙂

The temperatures here have plummeted to 6 C and we even had ice on our pond.


It has been so mild this autumn, it feels good to have colder weather in the lead up to Advent and I am sure our Christmas Fayre this weekend will put us further in the mood.

I am treating us to the Jacquie Lawson Electronic Advent Calendar again this year. It is so beautiful and my daughters look forward to it year after year. Originally a grandmother at our school treated us to one every year, which we so appreciated, but as she died last autumn, I have taken it upon myself to treat her grandchildren and some of my lovely friends’ children to keep up the tradition. 🙂

One of my greatest joys in autumn and winter is to experience the sunrise and sunset – both of which are during our waking hours. The sun rises after seven now and sets around 4.15pm. We often gasp at the wonderful colours as we drive home from school; ranging from vibrant fiery reds and oranges to soft pastel pinks and blues. It is a real joy to experience such beauty in nature – it fills us with much needed reverence.



Another moment of reverence the other day was peering in at our home from the outside. I had just been in our studio and it was raining and windy outside. As I looked towards our warm, cosy and colourful home, I felt such deep gratitude for this shelter; this refuge from the cold and rain and the outside world.


I was walking around our City the other day and I was struck at how many homeless people there are. I always am in the winter months – it must be so tough on them, huddled in doorways in the cold, watching everyone hurrying by, doing their Christmas shopping and seeing people sitting in warm comfortable cafes. I am often considering ways to help. I plan to contribute some funds so that a few people can spend the festive season at one of the Crisis centres – a fantastic organisation that helps bring humanity and hope to the homeless. We are also planning to give a big box of food to one of the soup kitchens, who feed the homeless in the evenings. Sometimes I give a few pounds to individuals, but it never feels like it’s enough. The government needs to do something – this needs bigger solutions than I am able to offer….but I can send them my prayers, love and hope. That is what I shall do…. and make sure I always return a smile.


I have been enjoying studying a couple of hours each day (but not on weekends). I recently spoke with a friend (and mentor) about how I struggle with concentrating for long periods of time and how, after my long day of lectures, I had craved using my hands to craft and relax my tired brain.  My friend had a really great suggestion for me!  She informed me that the brain is only able to receive information for 45 minutes at a time before it needs a break, so she suggested I study for 45 minutes – putting a timer on – and then craft or do something I enjoy for 15 minutes – again using a timer – before returning to my studies and repeating this as often as I have time for.  It is WONDERFUL!!! I enjoy the study and love the break. This week, I had time to fold lots of kite paper so I can make small window stars to include in some of my Christmas letters. Such joy 🙂


I also finished knitting an Infinity Cowl for my youngest that has been sitting on the needles for far to long and it now very much needed!


and last week I made some lantern “children”.


Although Martinmas itself had long passed, I still felt that the Nature Table by our dining table would be enhanced by some lantern “children” 🙂


Besides, our school lantern walk only took place last Friday (due to staff illness on two other occasions), so lanterns are still very much current here!


I made them using peg dolls that I have had for ages. I just cut out some felt to fit the doll and glued it on with a hot glue gun (as I didn’t have high tack glue and PVA glue doesn’t work on felt). I also cut out some felt for a cape and hood. I sewed the hat together along the top using blanket stitch and then attached the hood to the cape with a running stitch. leaving two long ends on either side that I pulled together and tied at the front. The woollen hair was stuck on with hot glue, but I think a high tack glue would have been better. We gave the children a shorter hair do as the longer hair didn’t show and was bulky underneath.

My daughters liked them so much that they both made one for their own Nature Tables in their rooms 🙂 It feels good to add something new to the Nature Table every season. We have quite a collection!!

It is such a joy to make time to craft. I make sure I have the materials at hand so whenever I take a break from study, I don’t need to go anywhere (except to make a cup of tea!) and it makes the experience very enjoyable. I highly recommend it!

On the subject of joy and gratitude, we just recently received a new recyling bin. I know it doesn’t sound too thrilling, but it has made me so happy to be able to finally recycle plastic packaging (including fruit punnets, yoghurt pots, bottle tops etc). Until now, we have only been able to recycle glass, cardboard, paper, tin cans and plastic bottles and it has really bothered me not having anywhere to recycle all the other plastic. Friends and family in London have been able to recycle these for a while, so on my trips to visit them, I have sometimes been known to bring a big bag of plastic containers with me! (yes I really do!) I have also taken plastic lids with me to France to recycle!!!

Germany is amazing with its recycling. You can recycle pretty much everything which is astounding and I hope the way we will be heading.  Ideally I would prefer less packaging all round and we often have a fruit/veg box delivered in the winter months to help cut things down (and it has been a way to recycle the plastic punnets).

So right now I am feeling grateful for a lot of things, small things really, but they all add up, I find.

 There is always much to be grateful for if we look for it, isn’t there? 



Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On



Creative time …


I was mentioning changes here in yesterday’s post and forgot to mention that I have started a course of study in Naturopathic Medicine, which is taking me away from home one weekend per month (lectures are from 10am – 6pm on both days – quite a marathon let me tell you!). I am studying Physiology and Biomedicine this year – all very interesting, but it does feel rather taxing for my brain after an eleven year hiatus. I studied this material when I became pregnant with my eldest daughter in 2006, so it isnt totally foreign to me, but it does still feel like I am starting from scratch again. Originally I was interested in becoming a Nutritional Therapist, but since discovering the wonder of herbs, I feel more inclined to study Naturopathy with Herbal Medicine. Let’s see…I need to take one year at a time and things will become clearer if this is the path for me. It is a part-time course so will take several years. I felt it was the right time to start doing something for myself as my children are getting older and need me a bit less and it still allows me plenty of time for family life and homemaking which I love:-)


The long lecture days are very tiring for me and by 3pm, I don’t feel I am taking anything in anymore 😦 I always feel so glad to be home at the end of the day, where it is warm, cosy and colourful – just the right combination to relax me after a long day indoors looking at a big screen under artificial lighting! It really has been a while since I have been in a classroom environment and things have changed a lot in 11 years! (everything is on Power Point for a start!) 😉

My sweet daughters, knowing that I am struggling a bit with the change of environment, draw me sweet pictures to take with me 🙂

On Saturday evening, all I wanted to do was work with my hands, so I sewed some little beech and oak “leaf children” to hang from the branches on our Nature Table. I must say after a day of study, working with my hands was very soothing.


I really wanted to make something autumnal and since I have been making a lot of flower children this year, leaf children felt like the next step 🙂

Basically, I traced a couple of leaves onto paper, pinned the paper to wool felt and cut two leaves out per “child”. The child is made out of a 2cm diameter bead and a pipe cleaner for structure (see above). The pipe cleaner is popped inside between the leaves (it acts as a shoulder) and then the leaf is sewn together around all the sides using blanket stitch. At this point I glued wool on for hair and used a glue gun to stick the acorn or beech nut hat on. I sewed some simple vein lines on too.

I rather like them and am pleased how they turned out 🙂


My youngest daughter was keen to have a go and made a couple over the weekend too. She wanted to draw faces on hers and the beech child has hands. Here they are suspended from branches on her own nature table amongst a paraphanelia of other random “precious” items 🙂


My eldest daughter needed a quick project as she was busy making things to sell on  her stall at our school Christmas Fayre (like last year), so she whipped up a little pine cone ‘child’ in a few minutes! So simple and sweet 🙂


For two weekends now, my daughter has been working on her “wares”. She has sewn some doll skirts again as they sold well last year and has made lots of lovely paper angels for the same reason. She has also started needle felting little Christmas baubles and seems to have other plans too. Let’s see what she manages to get done in the next couple of weeks.


She is a fast and determined maker and is very motivated to earn some real money!


My youngest had a go at needle felting a few things too. Here she is working on a Christmas pudding 🙂

We had friends over the weekend before last to celebrate their daughter’s Birthday (she was born 4 days after my eldest and they have known each other all their lives). We had a lovely time, playing, eating and drinking and there were some fireworks and sparklers too as it was the 5th November.


At some point we noticed the children had gone quiet for a while, so I went upstairs to find them on the bed quietly weaving Ojos de Dios!


They look so pretty, I had to display them 🙂


Apart from these endeavours, it was Martinmas on Sunday. I wrote at length about Martinmas last year so won’t go into any detail here. We have been on a couple of walks up to our local park with our lanterns over the past week and are due to go for a (postponed) lantern walk with my youngest daughter’s class this Friday. It is so lovely to be out in the darkness with our lanterns lighting the way and sweet songs on our lips. 🙂

We attempted to make papier mache lanterns this year, but unfortunately the tutorial we were following wasn’t very detailed, so the lanterns weren’t a great success. 😦 It didn’t mention to use several layers of light coloured tissue paper all over (but then again not too many – I think six is probably about right), so we guessed…One lantern is rather dark – we cut some moons in there to disperse the light – and the other was too flimsy at the top, so my daughter cut the top off making it rather shallow. The girls enjoyed the process, but were a bit disappointed. Note to self to look at more than one tutorial!!! 

Any tips on making one of these would be welcome as we plan to have another go next year 🙂

To make up for this, we made some star paper lanterns for the table yesterday after school using this very detailed video tutorial. 

We all had a go and with a bit of help, we all managed to make these lovely little lanterns to adorn our dining table. We are rather pleased with the results.


Well that’s the round up of our creative time this week. I hope you are enjoying some cosy creative moments at home too. Joining Nicole for Crafting On.


New friends…


We have had a few changes around here in the past weeks. Firstly, one of our sweet guinea pigs “Bubble” died suddenly two days before my eldest daughter’s Birthday (he of the wonderful flowing hair on the left hand side of the photo). We had planned to take the guinea pigs into the house on Sunday but on Saturday night there were a lot of fireworks (we celebrate Guy Fawkes night here in the UK around the 5th November, with fireworks, bonfires and processions in some towns) and we can only imagine Bubble died of a heart attack after a loud bang 😦 Guinea pigs are so sensitive with weak hearts. 😦 We were so sad to lose him and so regretful that we had not brought the guinea pigs in earlier. This autumn has been so mild, there was no need to bring them in sooner (we usually bring them in mid-October) but we forgot to consider that folks could have firework displays in the week before the 5th. 😦

We had a little ceremony to commemorate our little friend and my youngest, whose pet he was, drew on his “gravestone”. Both my daughters made sure he had all his favourite foods in with him – sweet girls.


He is now carefully tucked away under our angel where he will not be disturbed.


We had heard that guinea pigs are sociable animals and can get very lonely, so we felt we needed to find “Pipkin” another friend. We went to the pet shop later that day (in the midst of birthday/party preparations…) and were advised that male guinea pigs don’t always take well to other younger males. They suggested we have two young ones so if ‘Pipkin’ decided he preferred to be alone, then they would have each other.

So, without further ado, meet our new friends ‘Pumpkin’ and ‘Cappuccino’ 🙂


They are Texels and will have long soft curly hair. They are so soft and sweet. My daughters fell in love at first sight!


We were told not to handle our new friends for the first day and to keep them in a separate cage from ‘Pipkin’, but after a couple of days of cuddles – they are soooo sweet and still small – it was time to introduce them to ‘Pipkin’ on neutral ground.


So we built a play pen area for them in our family room and they slowly started to socialise. By the end of the first day they were eating from the same bowl
and not long after they were cosied up in the same tunnel.


The little ones are always climbing over the much larger ‘Pipkin’, but he tolerates it well. Bubble was the dominant guinea pig so he is used to being climbed on! We put them in the same (two storey) cage at the weekend and they are doing really well. Phew!


We still feel sadness at Bubble’s demise, but these sweet little ones have brought us much joy already.

Apart from our new friends, my husband has been working in the garden again as he had some time in between jobs.




He has laid a new lawn and reshaped it so we have plenty of space for lots of lovely perennials and grasses. I love the shape of it. It feels so relaxing to look out to the garden now, after feeling rather haphazard for a long time. I feel so grateful that my husband is so clever and talented! 🙂

The view from our seating area to the pond is also lovely and relaxing – it will be even better once the plants are growing!! There are some spring bulbs to look forward to too 🙂 At the moment none of us are allowed to step on the lawn for three weeks, so there will be no trips up to the veg patch (most of the beds are ‘resting’ now anyway, except for some leeks, chard and parsley) or to the play house, but as the nights draw in, we find ourselves inside more so it is easier to be patient 🙂

Matching Girl’s and Doll’s strip-pieced patchwork skirt tutorial


As promised here is a tutorial on how to make a simple strip-pieced patchwork skirt (suitable for age 7 – 12 years approx) and a matching skirt for an 18 inch Waldorf doll (Build a Bear or similar)


  • Cutting mat and ruler (you can also cut and tear of course)
  • 50cm length of four different coordinating materials (preferably non directional)
  • 2cm wide elastic (1cm wide for doll). Quantity depends on waistband measurements.
  • matching thread
  1. Cut each of your materials into four 12 cm wide strips ( 6cm width strips for the doll) either using a cutting mat or cut and tear as I often do. In that case press the material nice and flat afterwards with an iron.
  2. Then cut each piece to 50cm length (22cm length for the doll) or your desired length for your individual child depending on height and preference.










3.  Arrange the pieces in the order you would like to sew them, to get the best effect.










4. Pin the pieces together along the length.










5. Sew a 1cm seam along the length of all the pieces including the final two to complete the circle.








6. Use zig zag stitch to neaten all the edges.










7. Press the seams flat to the side in the same direction all the way round.










8. Next to make the hem, turn over the top edge by 1cm and press with an iron.










9. Turn the top over again by 1 1/2cm. Press and pin to keep it in place.










9. Sew the hem using edgestitch (straight stitch near the edge as shown).










10. Next to make the waistband, turn the top edge over by 1cm, press and then turn it over again by 3cm (2cm for the doll),  press and pin in place. Edgestitch as before, leaving a 2cm gap to insert the elastic.


















11. Measure the waist of your child (or doll) and cut the elastic accordingly, remembering that the elastic should be under some tension or the skirt will feel too loose. 

12. Insert the elastic using a safety pin to guide it. When the elastic meets at the end, pin and sew it together, taking care to make sure it has not become twisted at any point in the waistband. 










12. Close the gap in the waistband with a few more stitches either on the sewing machine or by hand.


And that’s it! You now have a unique, fun skirt fit for a girl and her doll 🙂 

Joining Teresa at the Really Crafty Link Party


Made and making….


I am finally getting around to sharing what I made for my eldest daughter’s Birthday. I finished the Front Range Tee a few weeks ago and also knitted a mini version for my daughter’s Waldorf doll Rachel. I have shared the doll notes here. I love Laura’s  designs as they are so easy to translate into doll and adult size 🙂



I also sewed a strip pieced patchwork skirt for my daughter at her request in her chosen fabrics (bright and cheerful). My youngest has a dress with a similar style on the bottom half which my eldest loves, so I used that as inspiration. It is so easy to make and really jolly. Of course I made her doll a matching skirt too! 🙂



I will shortly share a tutorial for the skirt as it is easy to make with very little sewing experience – all straight lines and no separate waistband either! 🙂

I always get my children to choose what they would like me to make for their Birthdays (including the fabrics/yarn) to be sure they will be happy with their homemade gift. They both love it that their doll has a matching outfit too. I think all little girls love that 🙂 Not that she is that little anymore….11 years …oh my! How many more years will she want me to make things for her?! I know the days are numbered so I shall enjoy them whilst I can. 🙂


For Christmas I have started work on this “secret” project. I don’t know if you remember but my eldest knitted a tiny rabbit for her sister’s Birthday in May. Whilst searching for the pattern, I came across all the lovely soft toy designs by the same Designer and I just knew that I would have to make my daughters something from there for Christmas. Those cute teddies and dresses are just adorable and I expect my daughters will think the same!


Apart from these projects, we did some beeswax dipping for the autumn Birthday mobile we always hang above the Birthday table. We had collected leaves from several walks over the weeks so there were plenty to choose from. The house was filled with the sweet homely smell of beeswax and the leaves took on a wonderful lustre. I never tire of beeswax dipping 🙂 not that I get much chance these days as my daughters take it in turns and I have to sneak in a go at the beginning (to check the wax is behaving itself!).





My daughters have also made a couple of conker webs each for the nature tables at my request as so many of ours have broken over time.


They are so easy for a young child to make with a little adult help.

Materials : conkers, yarn, cocktail sticks, bradawl 


  • Punch five or six holes in the side of a conker using a bradawl (adult job!)



  • Push little cocktail sticks in the holes ( or wooden skewers if you would like a bigger web)


  • Using your chosen colour of yarn, make a knot on the far end of one cocktail stick (this will be covered later by the weaving).


  • Loop the yarn once around the next cocktail stick for the first 3 or 4 rounds.



  • Now start looping the yarn twice around each cocktail stick to acheive a wider spacing


  • and three times towards the outside. It really is a matter of preference. This is how we like our spacing, but it can be two right from the outset or even three if the child is in a hurry!!


  • Keep doing the above all the way round until you reach the edge or where you would like your web to end.


  • Knot the thread tightly and cut off. And that’s it!


My daughters will happily make several at a time. I never can keep up with punching holes for them!! 🙂

Hope you are enjoying some cosy autumn crafting time. Joining Nicole and the crafty folks at Crafting On

Hallowe’en Birthday


My dearest eldest daughter celebrated her 11th Birthday last Tuesday.

My daughter’s Birthday falls on Hallowe’en: at the time she was born, around 4pm, the sky was darkening, the room was quiet and the lighting dim. As I recovered from the birth and held my sweet baby in my arms, from our window (on the 13th floor of our local hospital), my husband and I gazed out to see fireworks in the sky and the air was filled with a special kind of magic. Our baby had arrived and it felt like the world was celebrating 🙂


So every Hallowe’en Birthday, we try to imbue our daughter’s Birthday with a touch of this magic (with a few cobwebs thrown in!) 🙂


I have shared how we celebrate Birthdays in our family here and my eldest daughter’s Birthday last year here and here. Our Birthday routines are fairly consistent from year to year and my daughters wouldn’t have it any other way! They certainly notice if anything is missing or out of place. To that end, I have written down all our birthday traditions in a book so I can remind myself of what needs doing in case I am tired on the night before the birthday – often the case in the autumn months 😦 There is always something I have forgotten, so I am glad of it!

So the Birthday started as usual with 11 kisses on waking and a walk through a curtain of crepe paper streamers hung by the Birthday girl’s door (we had to go out the day before in search of crepe paper as we didn’t have enough for 11 strips – that doorway is getting so full! – not as easy to find as you might imagine…).  There was a star path to her Birthday chair, which was covered in rainbow coloured gauzy fabric and of course her Birthday crown (made so many years ago, but still going strong as it is made of good strong 100% wool felt!).

There seemed to be a mountain of presents from us, friends and relatives!

After a birthday breakfast and a little play with the new presents, we headed out for a couple of hours to enjoy the autumn sunshine at a nearby National Trust place (as is our tradition). Great quantities of leaves were falling from the trees, so we spent quite some time trying to catch them!

After lunch we headed back home to set our house and garden up for a Hallowe’en themed party.

From my daughter’s 3rd to 7th Birthdays, we held Hallowe’en themed craft parties at her request. Then we took a break for a couple of years, as she was struggling too much with having a party on her Birthday – it seemed to make her so tense, she couldn’t enjoy the rest of the day 😦 But on her 10th Birthday, last year, she wanted to restart the Hallowe’en party tradition and we have hosted two parties now that have been a hit with her and her friends. We play “spooky” games rather then doing crafts as that suits the age and lively temperaments of some of her friends.

The seven guests arrived around 4pm. When everyone was present, they all sat down whilst my daughter opened her presents and thanked her friends personally for their gifts (thank you cards to come). As I have mentioned before, I consider it best that the child open his/her presents when their friends are there, so the giver receives individual thanks, otherwise it feels like there is something missing from this exchange….the energy of giving and receiving…

As far as the games were concerned, they were very similar to last years games (see last years detailed post). We also added some dancing and musical statues to The Monster Mash  which the children loved.


Apple bobbing of course 🙂 


Mummy wrapping


We did blind folded food tasting again. This time on the menu were:

Witches eyeballs – melon balls
Bats brains – marshmallows
Zombie Blood – beetroot juice
Bats Wings – flattened licorice
Warlocks’ vomit! – cold rice pudding
Monster’s fingers – cake fingers

My (scary looking!) husband also told a ‘scary’ story we made up about a headless ghost Arthur who roams our house every Hallowe’en night. He and his wife Nora lived in our house some sixty years ago when she killed him with an axe after several failed attempts. He was asking for our assistance to find evidence that his wife had tried to kill him on numerous occasions and he believed they were hidden in the garden. If we found them all, he could finally be freed from his tortuous existence.

So the children had to hunt the garden using a torch to find the ‘instruments of death’ that his wife had used to try to kill him before she finally murdered him with an axe. Sounds gruesome, but I don’t think anything is too gruesome for these children!!! It was tricky hunting in the dark, with only one torch between four children, but they found everything in the end. (Note to self to buy more torches if we do this kind of thing next year!) 

There were prizes for the games, either spooky shaped chocolates or sugar free juice sweets and for the more complicated games, guests received glow stick bracelets.

The games went very quickly and there was a lot of laughter. 🙂

We then went Trick or Treating for about half an hour or so. We found plenty of welcoming folks. Nothing too scary.


DSC08362  Bit blurred, but I like this photo nonetheless. A lovely bunch of girls! 

My youngest never goes out as she is too scared of the impressions out there. She helped Daddy decorate the cake, set the table and handed out sweets at our door.

On our return, it was time for dinner – the same food as last year – mummy sausages and potato ghosts,  which went down well. This was followed by the “Best Birthday Cake Ever” made by Daddy 🙂


and several rousing renditions of Happy Birthday from my daughter’s friends!



My husband did some fireworks at the end of the party, which everyone always loves and is a long standing tradition from her birth onwards. 🙂 My husband always does a little dance at the end of each firework, which the children find hysterical! – a couple of the children have been attending since they were 3 years old and really expect it!!


We also always carve our daughter’s name into a pumpkin because on her 1st Birthday some good friends came over carrying a lit pumpkin with her name engraved on it. We were so touched and it has stuck ever since. These traditions are so meaningful.


It was a full day. After everyone left, we had a family dance like last year, which our daughter insisted on – her eyes were shining as we took turns to twirl her around the room. 🙂

DSC08397.JPGBlurry, but I still love it…they were moving fast! 

Of course we left a little bowl of sweets for the sugar fairy to keep her and her babies   fed through the winter months and she kindly swapped these for some beautiful ‘treasures’ 🙂

It was an exhausting, exhilarating kind of day.


Dear sweet girl of mine, 11 years on, still marvelling at the wonder of you…

On the Road in the U.S. – Lassen Volcanic National Park


After our stint at South Lake Tahoe, California  we drove out towards Nevada, passing through Carson City and Reno. The landscape was dry and arid again but we noticed how marshy it was by the Carson river, with the banks spilling over, despite the heat. I did not note anything else down about the journey, except that we headed into a densely forested area of evergreens as we approached our destination of the next three nights; Shingletown, California.


Our house in Shingletown was just perfect. Set in a beautiful wooded area, it had all the amenities you could imagine (including a working can opener – that was a first for us!!)



The outside space had a grassy area (albeit artificial grass) with a hammock to lounge on and the porch wrapped around half of the house.


There was also a gas fire set in the middle of a round table; just perfect for warm evenings sitting outside toasting marshmallows 🙂 When we arrived at the cabin, we found a basket of goodies, including all the ingredients for making s’mores, so we felt it only right and proper to make some 🙂

We also toasted bread and pancake mix on skewers over the fire. We decided that Hersheys chocolate wasn’t really a treat for us, so changed to Lindt chocolate on our second session and that was a treat! We don’t really eat many sugary foods in our family, so this was quite an event for the children!

Our evenings by the fire, playing games and chatting were a highlight of our stay.


We spent the first day at the house playing and resting. We were still feeling a bit travel weary at that point and tried to give each other space. I spent some time reading and knitting on the porch which I really appreciated.

In the afternoon, we did some tie dyeing, which I mentioned in a previous post. That was a lot of fun, if a little messy! There was certainly a lot of space around us in which to shake the bottles of dye (vigorously!) and do the dyeing process and there was a great washing machine and dryer too. Hurrah!


The materials were really easy to use and the girls were so pleased with the effects.

They enjoyed setting up their own DIY tie-dye shop upstairs later on, tying their clothes up in rubber bands and offering tie-dye demonstrations for a good price 🙂

On the second day, as was our rhythm on this trip, we went for an outing to the Lassen Volcanic National Park  which had been recommended to us by friends. We had no expectations about the Park and were very pleasantly surprised by what we found!


The rocky landscape of the Park originates from centuries worth of volcanic activity. The area was made a National Park in 1916 after a local businessman, Benjamin F Lomis, took photographs of the massive explosion on Lassen Peak on May 22nd 1915. Lassen Peak is one of world’s largest plug dome volcanoes – it last erupted in 1921.


We entered from the South side. The cost for a seven day pass is $20 in the summer months (April-December). Our first stop was the Visitor Centre where there was information about the area and plenty of photos and in depth detail about the volcanic activity in the area.

There are over 150 miles of hiking trails in the Park. Unfortunately our eldest daughter had blisters on the back of her heels, so she was unable to walk far. We would have loved to have hiked the trail to Boiling Springs Lake – it would have been great to have swum in the lake with its constant temperature of 125 F (51C), but it wasn’t to be. The trail is only a three mile round trip from the Warner Valley Campground.


But we had fun nonetheless, especially when we found snow in the middle of summer (more than we had last winter here in the UK!) from the Kings Creek area upwards – the girls were astounded!


We enjoyed snowball fights and the girls loved running up and down the snowy banks near the Summit Lake trailhead.

It was so special being there and we had such fun! We were totally unprepared, so we all ended up with soaking wet footwear, but it was well worth it!




More surprises were in store of us as we drove back down. Apart from the magnificent views, the carpets of meadow flowers and the sparkling clear lakes, like Lake Helen and the aptly named Emerald Lake, we also stopped off at The Sulphur Works where we saw a boiling mudpot.



and several smoking fumaroles (indicating that the area still has volcanic activity underground).


It was rather smelly (think rotten eggs), but so amazing to see the bubbling cauldrons. Both of my daughters were really impressed (not an easy feat!)


The Lassen Volcanic National Park has so many good walking trails, we really wish we could have spent more days in the area to explore it further.  It felt so peaceful  next to many of the National Parks we had visited thus far with a lot less tourists. A real find!


We were also delighted to spot plenty of wildlife including chipmunks (which we hadn’t seen since our stay in Grand Lake, Colorado), chickarees and plenty of mother deer and their fawns

In the evening we decided to go out for a meal at the only eaterie in town Pioneer Hillside Pizza .The order took a while – we did not realise they only had one pizza oven! – but the wait was worth it as the food was very good.

Considering how small the Shingletown area was, we were delighted to find a good coffee shop there too. The Higher Ground Coffee Shop has a good selection of food and beverages and friendly owners.  I would certainly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

I will be back soon to fill you in on our next stop  Eureka, California  where we visited the Redwood National Park. Only three more travel posts to go. 🙂


Autumn half-term…


I have been away from this space for a while due to my daughters’ school half term break and all the ensuing family commitments. It has been a busy and full time. Now finally I can sit down and share a few of the highlights of our past fortnight. Unfortunately my camera is playing up and quite a few of my photos are out of focus so I shall have to take it in to be fixed again 😦

DSC08110Firstly we went away for a few days to Hampshire, where we often go in the autumn half term break. My father used to take my sister and I away for a week every autumn half term to a static caravan near The New Forest. It was father-daughter time and we enjoyed the freedom of being away from the watchful (and often controlling) eye of our mother, roaming around, playing cards, TV dinners and late night movies 🙂 It was one of the only times we experienced our father as relaxed (away from the stresses of work and homelife). Often he was impatient and distant, so it was good to see him in a different light. It is probably due to this, that it feels so right to visit this area at this time of year. I do feel drawn back year after year.


We stayed in the Marwell Hotel  near Marwell Zoo . We have visited the Zoo a couple of times in the past when staying at the hotel, but we wanted to explore the New Forest this time and our daughters were keener to swim in the heated hotel pool in the mornings and evenings – leaving just enough time for the swimsuits to dry inbetween!


The hotel is set in the midst of a wooded area and feels very special for this reason. There are long gangways separating parts of the hotel which makes it quite unique. Our daughters can never resist running up and down them at any opportunity!


Even the pool area is surrounded by trees and there is plenty of natural light flooding in. I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.


The hotel does good rates for families, including a very generous breakfast buffet in a nice ambience and of course the use of a hotel pool. We had a lovely family room with bunk beds for the girls (not that my youngest slept in there – that was Daddy’s treat ;-) ).


On Tuesday, after a swim (of course!), we headed to Lyndhurst to orientate ourselves and find somewhere for lunch. We found a car park and were pleased to discover The New Forest Centre there, which also has a lovely cafe with tasty and affordably priced food. After lunch, we looked at the gift shop and then wandered into the museum for a little look around. We were very impressed by the museum: There was plenty of information on the history of the New Forest and interractive ways of relating to all the activities taking place in the area.


The girls also did a simple activity of key ring making which they enjoyed. We spent about an hour in there and were really pleased with all that was on offer. I would highly recommend a visit – very educational and above all fun!


Entry to the The New Forest National Park is free and there are plenty of walking trails, including the well known Tall Trees Trail, which we walked last year. After our visit to the States this summer, where we saw some very tall trees (!) we decided nothing could compare, so we walked an easy trail in Bolderwood instead.





It was a 2 mile circular trail, with the chance of seeing deer. We really enjoyed the walk through the autumnal landscape, which ended at a Deer Viewing Platform. Unfortunately there weren’t any deers around, but luckily we spotted a majestic stag by the roadside a couple of minutes drive down the road, so we weren’t disappointed after all. 🙂



In fact we spotted numerous ponies and the wonderful sight of a mother pig and a big group of youngsters – such a delight!


The animals are owned by Commoners (local folk). They are allowed to graze the forest and in return they keep the area from growing too wild, eating all the gorse and brambles. Pigs are mainly seen in the autumn months when they roam around eating acorns and things that would make the ponies sick,  so it is a very beneficial arrangement for all.


After a good walk, we treated ourselves to a slice of cake at a lovely tea room near Brockenhurst that we stumbled upon quite by chance as we struggled to find a parking spot in the village. It is part of a Garden Centre and you need to walk through several long greenhouse structures to access the tearoom, but what a find!

Really quirky with delicious cake and a lovely variety of herbal teas – we felt spoilt! The Garden Centre itself was also a treasure trove of interesting items!

Apart from our trip away, we enjoyed meeting up with two sets of friends that we only every see in the school holidays. We had lots of fun, trying to catch falling leaves and running around together.

We went up to Wisley again – one of our favourite places as I mentioned in my last post – to see our favourite friends.

As soon as we arrived, we headed straight over to the girls’ favourite spot where they immediately immersed themselves in their favourite fantasy games and my dear friend and I had lots of time to catch up on each other’s lives, sitting in the autumn sunshine. Bliss!



I cut out some strips of green card beforehand and stuck a strip of double sided sticky tape down the middle so the girls could make themselves simple autumn leaf crowns. It was a hit 🙂

We all had a lovely time as ever. Due to the shortening days, the Garden closed earlier than usual, much to everyones disappointment. Time flies with good friends!


My mother also visited us at the weekend and we spent a lovely day at a privately owned garden Borde Hill in Sussex. Whenever my mother visits we try to take her somewhere nice in nature so she really enjoys her visit and it’s a relaxing break from her life in London.  We often visit Borde Hill for my Birthday in June as the roses are at their most full and fragrant at that time of year and the place is truely magical (well, that’s how this Midsummer baby sees it 🙂 ). We have never visited in the autumn before, but were not disappointed! The autumn colour was spectacular and as it has been so mild this autumn, lots of flowers were still in bloom and there were even butterflies.

Borde Hill always hosts a Hallowe’en trail in the autumn half term break and we were really impressed by how creatively and thoughtfully it was put together. Our daughters thought it was fantastic.



It ends with a visit to the “Witch’s Lair”. The witch was away for a little while when we arrived there – I do think the girls were secretly relieved!! Daddy played the witch for them – far less scary!


There are two restaurants at Borde Hill. We went to Cafe Elvira which was great. The staff were so friendly and the food was excellent – so after a tasty lunch, we couldn’t help return for cake later on! The cafe ambience is light and airy and the food is really reasonably priced. It is separate from Borde Hill Garden, so you don’t need to go in the garden to visit the cafe. I would highly recommend it.

We also made some slime using this youtube tutorial that the lovely Helen shared a couple of weeks ago. It was really fun to make. As you can see the girls were delighted by the process and the result 🙂

Unfortunately the shaving foam smell is a bit overpowering for them so they aren’t playing with it so much now, but sometimes the fun is in the making. 🙂

Apart from these highlights of our half term, I spent time finishing Birthday makings for my eldest daughter’s 11th Birthday and organising a Hallowe’en party for the same day. I shall write more on that soon. For now, I am taking a deep breath after putting the house back in order and am looking forward to a different pace now the children have returned to school. After the busyness, a moment of quiet….Breathing in, breathing out….we need both…

I do hope you are all enjoying spending time outside at this glorious time of year. 


Because it is still so mild here in the UK, I leave you with a favourite autumn song from our early years time at school. So beautiful sung in a round. It was the only song that comforted my youngest when she was a baby, so it will always be a special song for me.

Yellow the Bracken,
Golden the leaves,
Rosy the apples,
Crimson the leaves,
Mist on the Hillside,
Clouds grey and white
Autumn good morning, summer goodnight.