Surrender – lessons in letting go

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I am slowly learning to let go…to accept things as they are….to trust in Divine Order…to surrender….

There are circumstances in life that can be trying. I find that fighting them or resisting them can be exhausting and cause more suffering than the actual circumstance itself.  I have been on a spiritual path for several years, but it has taken me a long time to reach this understanding and to be able to use the trials of life as “spiritual practise”.

To trust that everything is unfolding as it should be – that there is Universal Order, is difficult for us humans to comprehend. We like to control outcomes, to measure, to have scientific proof, but if we could only let go and trust, rather than micro-manage our lives, things would flow easier and the channel to our higher wisdom and the Divine would be more accessible.

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As we trust that a seed will grow into a plant that will nourish us or lift our spirits with joyful colour in the spring and summer months, we must trust that we too are undergoing necessary growth and development through the challenges we meet. If we trust in Divine Order, the struggle goes out of things, we can relax and be open to receive. There is great freedom in this.

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At this time,  both my daughters and my husband are ill in bed with a virus and I am holding the fort with a heavy cold of my own. 😦 All our lovely plans for the weekend had to be cancelled as well as a long awaited meeting with a dear friend after College on Tuesday.
I have been practising patient acceptance for a while now and realise I have a choice – to feel frustration and disappointment at what I could be doing (and to try to do some of it anyway…college work etc); or to surrender fully to this time at home and let go of expectation. In the act of surrender, I am able to be completely present to minister to my children both day and night and to answer their calls for loving care and physical affection at this time of vulnerability.  I am grateful for this time of closeness, when usually the girls are so independent.

Now my daughters’ fevers have passed and they are more alert, we have been watching some cosy old fashioned films together, including our two new favourites: Little Women and National Velvet and we will watch Anne of Green Gables (which we have already read and enjoyed) tomorrow, as these were some of my favourite films from my childhood, that I had yet to introduce my daughters to.

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We have also cuddled up to read some of our favourite winter books, including The Sea Mice and The Stars, enjoying ginger biscuits and spicy apple juice as the Sea Mice do in this wonderful story. 🙂

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I rarely sit down to share a picture book with my eldest daughter anymore, so it is a treat for me!

I have had a chance to do some knitting whilst my daughters rest and am making good progress 🙂

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and even managed to sew two sets of bunting for my sister’s friends in the snippets of time in-between caring for the children. Hurrah!

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The girls have helped to make pom poms for a “snowball” garland in moments when they have felt like sitting up, so we even have something to show for our time spent at home 🙂

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And I have been inspired to write this post slowly…but surely…

It will probably be a couple of days before the girls make a full recovery, but what could feel like an inconvenience has actually been a gift. A gift of the present moment, of connection, of retreat, of hibernation even 🙂

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There is always a gift if we look for it, I find. Happiness does seem to be a choice.

During the months, whilst I have been away from this space, there have been a few challenges in our lives. One of these has been changes in my childrens’ school life:

My eldest daughter’s class size shrunk at the end of last year (when some children left to start their secondary school education in the State system, including a best friend). This resulted in a class merger between her class and the class above – Grade 6/7 – and her class losing their teacher to a younger class 😦 My daughter felt her disappointment fully and whilst I sympathised with her frustration and disappointment, I tried to remain calm and centred so I could be proactive. Some words that resonated with me at this time were:

” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”  Dr R Niebuhr

So I did all that I could to prevent the merger, including rallying parents, helping with marketing efforts to try to attract more students to the school (with Brexit, these are difficult times for attracting new business…), writing copious letters and arranging a string of meetings with members of staff to see if there could be another way forward. I used prayer and meditation to help ground myself, but ultimately I had to accept that the merger would go ahead and that our dream of my eldest daughter staying at her Waldorf school until 16yrs may not come to fruition. I have had to let go and trust in the greater plan, whatever that will be. It will become clearer in time….

At the same time, I was meant to be studying for my Biomedicine exam in June and had to resign myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to study as much as I would have liked, due to prioritising my daughter’s class’s needs. I did what I could with the time at hand and had to trust that if this is my path, I would do o.k. It was another lesson in letting go and trusting in the rightness of things as they are. Fortunately it seems I am on the right path…..

And just this last week we found out that our youngest daughter will also be losing her much adored teacher in May as she returns to her home country.  😦 My daughter spent a whole day sobbing on and off, but has reached a level of acceptance despite her sadness. I think when something cannot be changed, all we can do it accept it. The future remains uncertain, but we are choosing to stay positive and trust that whatever changes come along, we will find a way that works for us.

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I am trusting in the bigger plan and trying not to get too caught up in the detail, whilst still being proactive. This has not been my habit in life thus far. I have been an over thinker and worrier – a family pattern –  but it has got me nowhere, except spiking my cortisol levels and affecting my health and wellbeing. I see that now.

I think trusting in the bigger plan is really helpful in difficult times. And remembering that we have a choice about how we react to things. Our thoughts and attachment to ideals can be our biggest enemy; imprisoning us and making us truly unhappy, if we identify too closely with them.

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The fire at our house that I mentioned in my previous post and the consequences, are another example of something that was beyond our control and where I had a choice about how I could react. I could have been frustrated that it created so much chaos and work and just before Christmas and even let it overshadow our preparations for Christmas, or I could accept what was and work with it.  I chose acceptance because it allowed my energies to be used productively; arranging our Christmas festivities etc. Of course I did feel fully the horror when it happened –  I certainly don’t want to deny my feelings.  But it really has been a revelation to see life’s obstacles as an opportunity to practise patient acceptance rather than resistance.

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a page from the year planner that a kind friend gave me for Christmas 🙂

I have had some health challenges over the past years, which were highlighted last year when I started my studies.  Nothing major, but some chronic short term memory loss, difficulty concentrating and very low energy levels, which were interfering with my ability to study. I have been seeing a healthcare professional since September and following a protocol, including going to bed around 9pm for several months and have been following a restricted diet with numerous supplements to support my recovery. It has meant letting go of seeing friends in the evening, starting new projects and spending time alone with my husband in the evening, but I have had to accept this as part of my recovery and that my body needs a lot of rest and nourishment to be able to restore a balance again after years of neglect. I have put some of my life on hold and trust that if I put the effort in with the protocol, it will be worth it. This certainly has been an act of Surrender on my part as the results did not show for quite some time and I am still in the process of recovering and will probably be for some time. But I know that if I am to study and do the things that I feel a calling to do, I need to be in good shape! So I must patiently accept this time of waiting…I am still studying this year; learning about all the different modalities in brief – Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Chinese Medicine, Nutrition and Iridology. It is fascinating!  It is supposed to be a lighter year in terms of study requirements, but there is still an exam at the end. I haven’t found time to study yet, with one thing or another, but am once again trying to relax and trust that I will be granted enough time to study so that I can pass the exam in June.

It is a great comfort trusting all will be well. In fact, one of my favourite simple mantras for uncertain times is:

“All is well,  all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well”

I put it to a little tune and sing it to myself to soothe myself and to silence the worried voices. It really helps.

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The agapanthus decided to bloom again in January 🙂

I could see all these challenges as a catalogue of frustrating circumstances that are ruining my peace of mind or getting in the way of my life’s purpose, or I can see them as an opportunity to practise surrender again and again. This does not mean denying frustration. Frustration at change or dismay/deep upset at bad news is totally understandable and a normal reaction to something that puts our life, as we know it, on hold or changes it irrevocably. It is necessary to feel our feelings fully, but ultimately we need to move beyond that to acceptance and surrendering to what is and move forward from that perspective. Surrendering may not change the circumstances, but it is a way to freedom and peace of mind.

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Because of the fire, we have a much reduced winter Nature Table scene, but King Winter had to make an appearance 🙂  

I attend a monthly Spiritual Philosophy group, in which we always do a guided meditation/visualisation. It is my absolute favourite part of the session as I spend time with my guardian angel. So much comes to light in these sessions, it is incredible. Last Thursday, we were encouraged to go sledging and we would meet our guardian at the bottom of the slope. I usually sledge with my feet as brakes when I don’t know the terrain or if it is a fast ride – I am cautious in that way – but as this wasn’t “real life”, I decided to take the brakes off and fly down the slope. Wow! My heart was so light and I felt so deliciously free, just imagining it. I can see this as a metaphor for life. If we put the brakes on (and try to control events), we are interrupting the natural flow of life and the joy of being in the moment. Life can pass us by and the opportunities that could arise often don’t when we are in a state of resistance. My guardian as usual had some wise words to impart, advising me that I already know what to do…I do think the answers are within us, the clarity that we seek, but we so often cloud things over with our overthinking, using our precious energy to try to control outcomes.

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So I am trying to make a point of noticing when I tense up and if my shoulders and jaw become tight (when I am resisting something or holding on too tightly to an ideal outcome) and consciously making an effort to let go.

Another mantra that a friend and counsellor gave me that I have put to a simple tune and sing when I feel the need is:

“ As I let go, I heal on every level”

I would highly recommend it. It literally dissolves my stress. My shoulders lower and I know letting go is the answer.

When I attended an Artist’s Way group some years ago, on the first session, we were asked to write three goals for the course down. We were given a few arts and craft materials and five minutes to do it in! Here is mine:

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To let creativity and ideas flow, we must let go and trust. In so doing we are opening the channels to Divine inspiration and what’s not to enjoy in this freedom! 🙂

These are of course just examples of my own recent personal challenges. The world is full of much greater challenges on a larger scale, but perhaps practising  meeting our own personal challenges with equinamity and acceptance is a good start. Many things are not within our personal control, so we do need to learn to live with uncertainty every day and accept it as part of life. But we do have some control over our inner terrain, our thoughts and reactions and we can practise choosing  peace and harmony.

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This has become an epic post, written over many days!!!  I felt I wanted to share my feelings on this subject as I know we all go through trials and challenges, some that in retrospect may seem trivial and some that shake the foundations of our life as we know it. We all need to have a toolbox of aids to get us through these times. Above all else, I think Faith is the most important; be it Faith in our ability to handle things; Faith that things are as they should be; Faith in Universal Order and of course Faith in the Divine.  Faith is such a comfort and so strengthening.

Wishing you all a good dose of Faith in your lives xx

I leave you with one more mantra that I have put to a tune and sing often. So joyful!

My love is vaster than a mountain,
My peace is a deep as the sea
My joy is like a radiant sun,
My spirit is strong and free”

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Reading, Knitting and musing…

I thought I would write a little about the books I have been reading lately, with pictures of the knitting I have been doing on the side 🙂

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I took the The Friday Night Knitting Club on holiday with me and really enjoyed this book. The main protagonist is Georgia Walker, a capable single mum and owner of a knitting shop in New York’s Broadway. She is doing well, making ends meet and raising her 12 year old daughter singlehandedly with support from an older friend and mentor Anita. Not long into the book, she is faced with two people from the past unexpectedly returning into her life and long buried betrayals resurface. The Friday Night Knitting Club comes into being quite by accident, but familiar characters return every week to knit and unlikely friendships and connections are formed. The book is well written and is an easy yet engaging read. I won’t go into too much detail, but I was in tears by the end. A good read with an unexpected ending. Also great to spend some ‘virtual’ time in a knitting shop 🙂

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I have just finished The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul which I found on a book shelf at our holiday cottage (I left another book in exchange). I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is written by Deborah Rodriguez, an American writer who used to own and teach at a beauty school in Kabul, Afghanistan and also co-owned a coffee shop there. She is well placed to write about the region and the people, having spent five years living and working there. The story centres around five women: Sunny – an American who runs the coffee shop, Halajan – the owner of the building who has a modern outlook, but must hide this from her son, Yasmina – a country girl, pregnant and abducted from her uncle’s house, who works in the cafe, Isabel – a British journalist with quite a past and Candace – a rich American divorcee, looking for her calling in life. Their lives entwine as they get to know each other in the cafe and good friendships are formed through adversity. There is once again the theme of women connecting and together they get things done. We learn about how women there are oppressed and devalued by their culture and have to live under a strict code of conduct. The book is set at a time when the Taliban were starting to get a stronger grip on things and life is unstable in Kabul. We learn a lot about Afghan culture, traditions and the different ethnic groups. It was quite eye opening in some ways for me and certainly makes me appreciate the freedoms I have as a woman in the West. The characters are believable and it left me wanting more. I just saw there is a sequel to it and a couple more books by the author so I will certainly be ordering more 🙂

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And at the weekend I started reading Tomorrow There Will be Apricots. There are two female protagonists I believe, an eighty year old and a troubled teenager, Lorca, who I am just getting to know.  So far so good.

As you can see, I have started a new knitting project. I didn’t work on with my sweater this week as I had to wind another ball of yarn before continuing. As it has been getting cooler here again, I decided I would finally knit myself a hat! So this weekend, on the train to London to see friends, I cast on to knit a Wurm hat

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and after two train journeys and a couple of car trips, I am nearly there 🙂 I have made a Wurm hat before and found it a very flattering, fun shape. The bright, soft blue/green Merino yarn is also making it an enjoyable knit.

I have noticed the books I am gravitating to are about women’s relationships and the need to form a supportive community.  I think women’s groups are so important; be they friendships, reading groups, craft groups or political groups or even an antenatal group. Women need to connect and support each other and not be in isolation as we go through life’s stages and challenges. We thrive in a supportive environment where we can feel safe to be a woman, to express ourselves fully; our passions, joys, fears, doubts and vision for the future. We all have our own individual strengths of course, but I believe together we are stronger, and confiding in each other we can feel more validated and thus become bolder and wiser.

I feel the world needs women’s wisdom now more than ever, perhaps even for its very survival. I have heard it often said that women will change the world for the better – as creators, nurturers, communicators, visionaries and peacemakers – we understand what the world needs to mend its broken heart and to safeguard the future of the world. As mothers we are perhaps even better placed to want (and need) change and perhaps to create it, one child at a time;  by encouraging in our children a deep love and respect for our planet, for our fellow beings (including animals) and for all of nature.

Recently I became impressed by the vision and work of Clare Dubois and Tree Sisters. I am enjoying contributing to their cause, albeit only financially at this time. It is so inspiring and encouraging to see women standing up for what is important so we can create a viable future for our planet.

Even through this little blog here, I hope to build some form of community, however small, through sharing and connecting with other women (bloggers or not) with similar values. We need to support each other; to applaud each other for our womanly skills – It is another way of sharing and valuing what we do.

Gosh I didn’t realise I was going to write that, but it is something that dawns on me often; that if we women listened to our deepest longings – for peace, harmony, connection and community, then we have all the answers. We just need to subdue our fear of being too much, too powerful (we have generations of female ancestors who were devalued and belittled for being women whose voices still whisper their fears to us, but would, I think, want us to be free).

Finally, I would like to share a couple of things with all you lovely women out there, that have struck a chord with me. I hope you like them!

This video clip was sent to me by a friend.

And do have a listen to this free meditation by Scott Brandon Hoffman –  It is called a “I See You” – a Love Letter to women. Take some time out alone and enjoy this warm bath for the soul. You deserve it!

Dear Woman, never doubt how special you are.

 Sharing at Unravelled Wednesdays

Catching up…

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I must say I haven’t been crafting as much as I would like to lately. I have spent most of my spare time, when the children are at school (three hours most days) sorting out boxes of things in a final attempt to get some order into our home and to declutter the things we no longer need: I have a lovely box of good quality “treasures” waiting to go to the charity shop on Friday 🙂 It will never be perfect, I am clear on that, but I find myself wasting a lot of time trying to locate certain papers and other items because I just don’t know where I have put or stored them and it is really frustrating not having systems in place that work for me. I am not particularly organised in general – I do try, but it isn’t in my nature somehow and I am a bit dyslexic on that front too, but I live in hope!

We are moving on with our works on our little garage conversion/studio. It doesn’t look like much in the photo, but it has been plastered, the doors are going in on Friday and we will hopefully paint it early next week. It is starting to take shape and despite its smallness, we think it will be the perfect space to create in and it is nice and close to the house which is a bonus.

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I have been doing some gentle culling of my craft supplies. Nothing radical (I did that two years ago when we moved house), but still, letting go of things we won’t find a use for is a good feeling.  I try to keep my supplies in plastic boxes – one box for felt, one for wool roving, one for yarn, one for stuffing wool, one for fabric, one for notions and one for patchwork projects. If the items no longer fit in the box, I reduce what is in there until they do. It works for me. I have a lot of yarn, particularly aran, from old projects that is taking up far too much space in my box. The yarn is all squished up in the box and some of the more delicate yarn isn’t looking too happy. I was wondering what to do with it all when I saw the very thing on the soulemama blog (super crafter and all round inspirational woman) – a memory blanket!  I now have my mini ‘mountain’ of yarn in a big basket, always on hand and have already made a start. It is going to be a long term project, but it’s lovely to have a project where I can make good use of all this yarn. I am also enjoying some simple mindless knitting – it’s a blessing right now 🙂

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I seem to have a lot of purple, pink and blue yarns to use up, with the occasional red thrown in! 🙂

I have enjoyed reading the The Reader on the 6.27. It was in the ‘quick choice’ section at our local library. I wanted something thought provoking, but easy to read and it was both of these. The story is about a Frenchman who would normally never stand out from the crowd. He works in a paper pulping factory and hates his job and all it stands for. Every day he rescues a few pages of the books that are destroyed there and reads them aloud to the commuters on his morning train journey. One day he finds a memory stick on the train and when he reads what is on it, he feels he has met his soul mate. The woman is a lavatory attendant in a mall and she is as deep feeling as he is. He goes on a quest to find her and in the meantime enjoys reading aloud at an old people home at the request of one of the commuters. In his small, seemingly insignificant and monotonous life, he finds some moments of joy. I enjoyed every moment of reading this book. You feel for the character and it is wonderfully written. Very down to earth and touching.

As for sewing, it was also high time to finish those pre- Christmas (!) projects that just fell by the wayside. My sister asked me to make bunting for her four children in December. I managed to get all the triangles sewn before we were due to meet them, but as my husband was ill at the time, we didn’t travel over for our pre-Christmas get together and I lost the impetus to make them somehow. I did warn my sister that they might not get made in time as I had other making to do, but I didn’t expect to still be finishing them in March! There has been a fair bit of illness here over the winter months, not to mention going away after Christmas, I somehow got out of the rhythm of sewing for a while. Today I finally sat down with all these projects and am pleased to say I can finally tick them off my list! And it was lovely to be sewing again!

For the teenage girl:

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For the teenage boy:

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For the 8 and 10 year old boys with their forest themed room:

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I also finally finished the cushion I was making for our friend Zosia, who we have known all her life: she is only four days younger than my eldest daughter. It was once again rather a delayed project, but now we have an lovely excuse to see her again!

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I took some photos whilst making the cushion, so I might share a tutorial soon if I get a chance.

My eldest daughter is taking part in a Children’s Parade with her school in May . I had to sew her cape today before the workshop tomorrow.

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My daughter tried to sew it herself, but the fabric is so slippery, I said I would do it for her.

And finally on another crafting note my eldest daughter’s class performed the Jungle Book for the whole school and parents today. My daughter has a terrible cold and will probably be off school tomorrow resting, but the class has been rehearsing this play for four weeks as part of their Main Lesson and she couldn’t miss out on this culmination of all their hard work, could she?  After all, the show must go on! I was so impressed by the scenery and costumes and they even had lighting. Here are a few  glimpses:

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Ah so lovely to spend some time creating today. Joining  the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams KKCO and Ginny’s Yarn Along.

Winter books for children

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I promised I would share our winter books with you, so here I am finally with a selection of our favourites. As I have mentioned before herehere and here, we love books and love to escape into a beautiful picture book. Our favourite picture books need to be beautifully illustrated, with a wholesome, heart warming story. My daughters particularly like stories about animal friendships and we seem to have a plentiful selection of these amongst our winter selection! The winter books are amongst my favourite of all the seasonal books we have. Perhaps because it is a time when we sit down to read more, or perhaps there is just more sparkle in these books?

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I will once again group the books a little as we have collected quite a few over the years.

Board books for young children:

Winter – Gerda Muller – a simple book without words, where you can make up your own story to go with the beautiful evocative illustrations.

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Picture books for young children with animal friends in them:

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The Sea Mice and The Stars – Kenneth Steven – our absolute favourite winter book. It is the task of the sea mice to collect falling stars to help light the homes of all the mice in the winter months. Little Ashenteen and her brother Willabee revel in their important roles. Heartwarming, sparkly – a joy to behold.

Snow Friends – M Christina Butler – a story of friendship. One winters day a young bear wakes up to find the world covered in snow. He is all alone and decides to make a snowman so he has a friend to play with. Other animals join him to make the snowman and firm friendships are formed. Very sweet and sparkly.

Rabbit’s Winter Walk – Lorna Hussey –  little brown rabbit wakes up in the middle of winter and is impatient for spring to arrive so he goes on an adventure in search of spring. Animals help him on his way, but he is no closer to finding spring when a snowstorm hits and he yearns for his snug burrow. When he awakens, spring is everywhere. A message to be patient and wait for things to come in their right time. Lovely evocative pictures.

Bella Gets Her Skates On – Ian Whybrow – Little Bella rabbit is very cautious by nature. and is worried whether she will take to skating when her family go to the local pond. With lots of praise and reassurance she tries it and finds she loves it. A story about trying things, despite worrying we may not do them right or fail.

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One Snowy Night – Nick Butterworth – we love the Percy the Park Keeper series about a jolly chap called Percy and his animal friends. In this book the animals are taken by surprise by a big snowstorm and one by one they all seek shelter in Percy’s hut and in his bed. Percy is always there for his friends and despite it being a squash and a squeeze, everyone finds a place to sleep in the end. There is a fold out poster on the last page for children to spot all the sleeping places of the various animals amongst other things. Good fun.

The Big Dark – John Prater – little Chinoo lives in an igloo in the Arctic with his parents. It is winter and where he lives it is dark for many months and Chinoo is bored as he can’t go fishing or play outside. One day his parents ask him to follow them to the sea. On the way he plays with various young animals. When he gets to the sea, the sun is just rising and the animals and his family look on in wonder. Beautifully illustrated and a plenty of glitter 🙂

Any Room for Me – Loek Koopmans – an old man loses his mitten in the woods. A mouse finds it and wonders if it would make a warm shelter, followed by a frog, a hare, a fox, a wild boar and a bear who all ask if they can shelter from the snowstorm in the mitten. The animals accommodate each other and there is a picture of all the animals sleeping happily in the very stretched mitten. The man realises he has lost his mitten and returns with his dog to find it at which point the animals scatter. Sweet story.

The Tomten and the Fox – Astrid Lindgren – the ground is covered in snow and a fox is hungry, so he ventures over to a farm in search of food. We see pictures of the cosy home with children playing, unaware that there is a fox out in the snow. The Tomten (a little gnome-like figure), who looks after the farm at night whilst the family is asleep, sees the fox prowling by the chicken coop and asks him if he would like to share his porridge, as he knows how hungry he is. Evocative illustrations and an easy reader.

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One Winter’s Day – M Christina Butler – a sweet story about a little hedgehog whose nest is blown away in a storm. He wraps up warmly and heads to his friend Badgers house, but finds he is not the only one who is cold. Hedgehog shares his warm clothes with his friends and they later repay him with rebuilding his nest. A heartwarming story of friendship and sharing. Lovely illustrations.

One Snowy Night– M Christina Butler – another beautiful picture book with little Hedgehog in it. Hedgehog is woken from his winter sleep when his home is disturbed by a snow storm. Soon a surprise present lands at his feet-a cosy red woollen hat. He finds it impossible to wear with all his prickles, so he passes it onto his friend Rabbit who passes it on to Badger and then onto Fox. Everyone finds it unsuitable in some way, until it goes full circle when Fox finds the little hedgehog curled up and freezing in a snowdrift. He wraps the hedgehog up in the stretched woollen hat and takes him back to Badgers house. It is now a nice warm cover and perfect for hedgehog after all. Lovely illustrations and sweet storyline.

A Book for Bramble – Lynne Garner. Bramble the hedgehog has to go to sleep for the winter. His mouse friend Teasel decides to write him a book about what he is missing out on during the winter as he wants to share winter with his dear friend in some way.  A sweet story of friendship and sharing.

Pooh’s Snowy Day – Andrew Grey – a short story about Winne the Pooh and Piglet going for a snowy walk and rebuilding their friend Eeyore’s house. Always jolly and heartwarming.

Other lovely picture books and early readers:

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Winter Days in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder – we love all the Little House books. The book starts with the family preparing for winter by gathering their winter stores. We get to know all the indoor activities that the family do and enjoy to pass the time on long winter days in the house. A cosy book for reading by the fire 🙂

Longer picture books:

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Ollie’s Ski Trip – Elsa Beskow – a firm favourite at this time of the year. We love all Elsa Beskow books here! Here we read about Ollie’s adventures with Jack Frost into the magical Land of King Winter. where he meets and plays with the children who make sledges and skates for Christmas. Includes a visit from Mrs Thaw and Lady Spring.  Sweet story and pictures.

The Story of the Snow Children – Sibylle von Olfers – my youngest loves this book. Little Poppy is all alone at home. She looks out to see the snowflakes dancing outside and realises they are calling for her to come out and play. Soon she is on a sledge being ferried away to the Snow Kingdom where she joins in a party for the Snow princess’s birthday. Lovely pictures and story, typical of Sibylle von Olfers

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Squirrel Goes Skating – Alison Uttley – lovely heart warming story about Little Grey Rabbit, Hare and Squirrel. It is a chilly winter’s day and the friends go ice skating in their finery. After a lovely day of skating and sharing hot lemonade and sandwiches with their other friends, they go home to find a rat has eaten their carefully prepared dinner! Luckily their friends come to the rescue and all is well. Old fashioned goodness.

Bramley Hedge – Winter Story – Jill Barklem. The stories from Bramley Hedge have always been a favourite around here. The illustrations are so detailed and beautiful and the stories are so sweet. In this story, the mice of Bramley hedge are snowed in, but they cleverly dig tunnels under the snow to access their food store and decide to construct an ice hall so that they can celebrate winter with an impromptu ‘snow’ ball – a once in a life time experience. We enjoy seeing all the preparations, and as usual the mice know how to feast and make merry!

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The Snow Queen – illustrated by Anastasiya Archipova. Hans Christian’s classic tale about a couple of friends Gerda and Kay who get separated when a tiny piece of an evil magic mirror gets lodged in Kay’s eye and his heart turns to ice. He ends up living with the Snow Queen and Gerda goes on a quest to find her dear friend. The book is told in seven chapters as her quest is a long one. Full of adventure and a great read and of course it all ends happily ever after.

Die Sterntaler  or The Star Child– illustrated by Bernadette Watts. Grimm Brothers story – a little orphan girl Matilda is all alone in the world, with just some bread to eat and the clothes on her back. She has nothing to lose, so gives away all that she has to others that appear less fortunate than her. She is standing naked in the woods, when  countless stars fall from the heavens around her, which turn into silver coins. Matilda will never need for anything again. A story of kindness and its rewards with gorgeous illustrations.

Other winter resources: 

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Winter – Jennifer Aulie and Margaret Meyerkort – seasonal stories and songs that are used typically in Waldorf Kindergartens. Good as an at home resource.

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice – Wendy Pfeffer – lots of useful information about celebrating the Solstice and all the other celebrations around the world at this time of year and why we celebrate. For a school age child. Very informative and lovely pictures too.

 

We love these books but are always happy to know of any other books that you would particularly recommend for winter reading. I am very aware that my ten year old is growing out of our picture books. She still sneaks a look at least once during the season, because these well loved books conjure up memories of our cosy afternoon story time sessions when she was at Kindergarten or half days at school. I still try to read daily with my youngest, who is seven and still loves these books. I wonder what will happen to them after they have grown out of them?….perhaps I will have to store our favourites for grandchildren, or pass them on to well deserving families? For now, I shall enjoy them for as long as I can 🙂

Hope you are enjoying some cosy winter reading too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating quietly and looking forward to the New Year

Today is already the Fifth Day of Christmas.

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We have five little booties hanging from a red ribbon on our mantlepiece to mark the passing of the days and we are enjoying reading our post-Christmas books. We always save reading Wenceslas until Boxing Day (26th December) and The Twelve Days of Christmas and the Babouschka stories come out on Christmas Day. We love singing around here and especially love a rousing song of Good King Wenceslas and The Twelve Days of Christmas :-).

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I had meant to write before, but we haven’t been feeling too good here, so I have been too exhausted to write in the evenings, which is when I usually write.  My husband has had a virus for over three weeks and my daughters and I have sore throats on and off and are easily tired out. We are trying to keep the virus at bay with regular diffusions of the “Four Thieves” oil combination (Clove, Lemon, Rosemary, Eucalyptus and Cinammon) as found here. I also rub the Onguard oil from Doterra on the children’s feet and have been known to drink it in warm mulled apple juice :-). I  really do think it is helping, but we are not on form right now, so we are staying low key and have had to cancel many of our lovely arrangements with friends, which is a shame, but can’t be helped.

The lead up to Christmas was actually very nice and slow. (I think starting earlier with my preparations helped a lot). On the 23rd, we spent a lovely day with friends running around a National Trust place near us, eating spicy biscuits and doing a winter trail.

On Christmas Eve, my daughters and I went to a Christingle Service at a local church; something we have done for many years. It always marks the start of Christmas for us. The service was beautiful and all the children were involved in setting up the stable. The Nativity story was told to us in such a detailed and imaginative way; it engaged both young and old alike. The sun had set as we left the Church and it felt like magic was in the air; as we imagined the imminent arrival of baby Jesus and of Father Christmas (!) during the night.

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There was much excitement as the girls hung their stockings, wrote their notes to Father Christmas and prepared a mince pie and a small glass of Baileys for Father Christmas and a carrot for the reindeer. The girls also received new pyjamas on Christmas Eve – something we have done for many years and is awaited by them with great anticipation! We also look at the Norad Santa tracker to see where Father Christmas is. It really captures the girls’ imagination.

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I managed to finish the Phoebe mice I have been knitting for my daughters. It was a close call and I was up until late on Christmas Eve still sewing the eyes, eyelashes and nose on (!), but it was so worth it. My daughters were delighted and are really loving their new friends Lily Lou (in blue) and Phoebe (in pink).

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My eldest daughter even said today that she loves her doll more every day. How to melt a mama’s heart 🙂

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I realised late on that I never did a gauge swatch and I think I used the wrong yarn too! (I was trying to use up  yarn I had left over from some ponchos I made my daughters last Christmas), so they may well be on the larger size! I also found I had quite a few gaps around the face and neck, so I wove the gaps together as neatly as I could. The Phoebe in the pink dress needed a scarf to hide her rather gaunt looking neck! But my youngest daughter is happy with her so that’s all that matters.

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Their dresses are also different lengths. I blame late night knitting!!!….

My daughters have asked me to knit them a cardigan each as they think they are feeling the cold! So I have printed out the Phoebe Mouse Sweater pattern to take away to knit when we go on holiday to the Canary Islands in a few days time. They will hopefully be nice and warm in their cardigans on their return to the UK in January 🙂

I made a start last night as I was itching to get knitting again.

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It is nice to be knitting with no deadline this time. I was up until 1am on more nights than I care to recall! It’s no surprise I am a bit worse for wear now, I suppose?

The girls made us some little homemade Christmas presents too, which we have hung in the tree. These are mine:

And these are for my husband to hang in his van:

My eldest also made her sister a secret Christmas skirt at her Dressmaking class. She has made her sister very happy!  I was so pleased to find this fabric in mid-December, as a lot of shops were running out of pretty, affordable Christmas fabrics and my youngest loves gingerbread men.

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I still haven’t finished the sewing projects I started here as we didn’t end up seeing many friends or any relatives in the weeks before Christmas, due to my husband being ill, so I have put these projects on hold until the New Year, when I will have more time.

On the 27th we had a dear friend round for food, fun and several rounds of charades! It made a nice change from just being us ( even if it wore us out somewhat…). She is a dear friend to us all and sometimes looks after our daughters for us for a day, so my husband and I can have some much needed time together.Our daughters just adore her: she is quiet and thoughtful like them and creative with a good sense of humour, so they are well matched. 🙂

We made a selection of sweet treats to enjoy over the festive break. We try to make them with minimal sugar and wheat free. Some were better than others, but my daughters are used to these experiments 😉 and very much enjoyed having lots of biscuits to choose from!

As for the Nature table, it is full now. The fourth week of Advent brought the Shepherds to the hill, the Inn Keeper, the Angels and of course Baby Jesus on Christmas Day. I made these figures eight years ago. Mary isn’t in the right colours and I could definitely improve on them now that I have better sewing skills (I first learnt to hand sew in our Parent and Child group, when my eldest was two and this is where my love of making things for my children and for the Nature Table began), but somehow I never do. They belong to the Nature Table and what would I do with them otherwise? They are imbued with something special from all the years of walking the star path!

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Here is the angel (who climbs the blue silk ribbon star path) telling the Shepherds the good news on Christmas Day.

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And here are the shepherds arriving at the stable the next day with their sheep in tow.

The three wise men  have begun their journey to Bethlehem, where they will arrive on the 6th January ( Epiphany).

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They are making their way across our lounge to the Nature Table; a little way further each day. We don’t have camels, so are making do with these elephants (I just noticed one seems to be going backwards – Oops!)

The Christmas Play that our daughters performed for us was great. We weren’t allowed to take photos, so that we were fully present and didn’t distract them, but here is our entrance flyer and Rudolph 🙂 We were impressed how well it flowed and the igloo I mentioned here worked out well for all the costume changes too. 🙂

That’s our Christmas so far. Here are a few more photos of things that appear on Christmas Day.

We will be leaving for the Canary Islands on the 31st December, so I have a fair bit of packing to do until then and will have to take our decorations down tomorrow too 😦 . I am putting together, the things that we traditionally do on New Years Eve, to take with us and thought I would share them with you, despite this being a very long post and my being rather tired… I hope it makes sense!

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We are going to choose five stars each and write down something we enjoyed in 2016 on each of the stars. It can be very simple, but it is a great way to focus on gratitude and the good things that have happened in our lives. We will then hang them up as a garland, using the little pegs. In years gone by, I have cut out little leaves from green paper and pegged them to a branch as shown in this photo.

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The burlap will be tied around some greenery (that we hope to find) and we will write our wishes for 2017 on paper and tie it all up to be burned, so we can send those wishes out to the universe. Last year we burned them in our wood burner.

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We also do another lovely tradition that I thought I would share here in case any of you would like to do the same? There is something similar in the book All Year Round.

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I have gathered up these treasures to take with us.

You will need:

  • Dark blue tissue paper
  • Walnut halves – one per person
  • Little birthday candles – one per person
  • A pack of angel cards
  • Crystals and coins – for the abundance corner
  • A key and shells – for the adventure corner
  • Hearts – for the love corner
  • A pine cone, a toadstool and greenery – for the healing corner
  1. Lay the dark blue tissue paper into a shallow dish, such as a glass baking dish.
  2. Create a health, abundance, love and healing corner, so one of each in the four corners of your dish, by placing the above mentioned items there.
  3. Fill the dish with water to three quarters full – the walnuts boats will need to float on it.
  4. Place the little birthday candles in the walnut halves, fixing them in place by melting a little candle wax to the bottom of the walnut boat.
  5. Divide the angel cards evenly into four piles and place a pile in each corner.
  6. Now think of your intentions and your hopes for the New Year. Take it in turns to light your candle and gently set your little walnut boat afloat in the centre of the dish.
  7. Let your boat surprise you. When it arrives at its destination, take an Angel Card from that Deck.

Simple, but oh so beautiful and  such a lovely ritual to do with friends and family. I have found the cards and destination to be very apt over the years we have done this.

Enjoy! 

Hoping that you are enjoying the Festive season and are staying warm and well.

I will be back later in the New Year. Wishing you a wonderful start to 2017.

Joining Nicole for KKCO

Christmas books for children

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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 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 reviews helpful for choosing books).

I will try to write a little about each one as we read them, so you might find more detail here as the days go by 🙂

There is still enough time to treat your loved ones to a nice picture book for Christmas:-)

These books are in English. We do have others in German, but will have to share them at some other point.

Stories for when you have half an hour or so to spend for some cosy reading:

The Story of Holly and Ivy Rumer Godden – one of our favourite Christmas books. A story of a little orphan girl, Ivy, who doesn’t have a foster family for Christmas. She is sent by train to an orphanage for babies over the Christmas period, but on the way, she goes in search of her imaginary grandmother in Aylesbury. Meanwhile a little doll, Holly is standing on the shelf of a toy shop waiting to be brought alive by the love of a child. At the same time an older lady suddenly gets the Christmas spirit and starts decorating her home for Christmas and starts imagining how lovely it would be to have a child at home with her and her husband for Christmas….A heart warming story about wishes coming true and the magic of Christmas creating miracles. Truely heartwarming.

Papa Panov’s Special Day – Mig Holder – another favourite of ours. Papa Panov is an old shoemaker and well loved character in his village. He is on his own at home on  Christmas Eve as his wife has died and his children have moved away. As he reads about the Nativity, he falls asleep and is woken by a voice he believes to be Jesus, telling him to look out for him on Christmas morn. He waits around all day, interrupted by various characters whom he helps in small but meaningful ways. At the end of the day he is disappointed not to have met Jesus, but then hears the voice again – telling him that his acts of kindness that day were noticed and appreciated. A really touching story with wonderful evocative pictures. It really warms my heart everytime I read it and brings a tear to my eye.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – Susan Wojciechowski – this book is so wonderful. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is heartwarming. There are two main characters: Jonathan Toomey, a carpenter who has suffered loss in his life and is living as a virtual recluse, making wooden items for the locals to pay his rent and a young boy, Thomas whose father has died in the war and who has had to move to the countryside with his mother to live with an aunt. On his journey to the country, he loses his wooden nativity set, something very precious to him. His mother asks Mr Toomey if he could make another and here starts the beginning of a new relationship between the rather gruff  and cynical Toomey and the innocent and curious Thomas. His mother requests that Thomas watch Mr Toomey at work and after initially rejecting this, he decides to allow it and they both learn a lot in the process. A really lovely book with heart. There is also a film which I would highly recommend if you love the book.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree –  Gloria Houston – another heartwarming Christmas book. Set in the Appalachian mountains, it is spring and a little girl, Ruthie and her father go in search of a beautiful balsam tree that will take pride of place in their church at Christmastime. Soon after her father is called to war and Ruthie and her mother have to manage alone. Towards Christmas, it becomes clear that her father is not coming home yet, so Ruthie and her mother start their journey high up to the rocky crags to find and bring back the tree with the help of their faithful horse Piedy. Ruthie has also been chosen to be the heavenly angel in the Christmas Nativity, but she is doubtful that she will have anything to wear, times being hard. Her mother manages to recycle some of her clothes to surprise Ruthie with a dress and a matching doll as a Christmas present. This book is full of hope and wonder and has a lovely happy ending. Beautiful illustrations.

Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas – Margaret Tempest – we have lots of books in this series – there is one for every season and occasion! The illustrations are sweet and old fashioned and the story is always wholesome. Little Grey Rabbit and her friends celebrate Christmas with fun in the snow, carolling and time spent with good friends.

Shorter stories for younger children :

Dear Santa – Kathryn White – a very sweet story about a young bear who finds a lost letter addressed to Father Christmas and decides to take it upon himself to hand deliver the letter so the boy will not be disappointed.  With the help of his dear friend rabbit, they travel to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas and even take a ride in his magical sleigh. The boy receives his presents of course 🙂 The book comes with a couple of letters and envelopes so a child can write his/her own letter to Father Christmas. The illustrations are gorgeous.

Little Fairy’s Christmas – Daniela Drescher

Ferdie’s Christmas – Julia Rawlinson – this is one in a series of seasonal books about the sweet little innocent fox cub, Ferdie (there is an autumn and a spring one – we have them all!) Ferdie is worried that Father Christmas won’t find his friends’, the rabbits, house on Christmas Eve as they have moved. He works hard to lay down stick arrows to show the way, only to have his efforts foiled by a snowstorm. Of course it all ends well and the final illustration in these books is always a treat. Gorgeous watercolour style illustrations – a visual treat.

The Tomten and the Fox – Astrid Lindgren

Bear Stays Up for Christmas – Karma Wilson

Tales from Christmas Wood – Suzy Senior – this book is made up of several short chapters telling about different animal characters in Christmas Wood. The illustrations are just wonderful and the stories are sweet and simple.  All the different stories and characters come together in the final chapter when the animals discover a Nativity scene inside a barn and celebrate Christmas together. Lovely!

Little Duck’s First Christmas – Dawn Richards

Christmas in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Nutcracker – Gaby Goldsack

The Christmas Eve tree – Delia Huddy – set in London, a little crooked tree remains unsold on Christmas Eve. A young homeless boy asks if he can have it and sets it up in a cardboard box near the arches where the homeless spend the night. He buys candles for it and the tree and the homeless folk celebrate Christmas together with singing and lots of laughter and people gather round on their way back home from shopping or work. The pictures are very evocative of London life. After a while, the tree wilts and is taken away by a road sweeper, only to be secretly planted in a quiet corner of a park where the tree grows to be tall and strong. Heartwarming story.

Fun stories that my children like about when things don’t turn out as expected at Christmas: 

Santa’s Littlest Helper Travels the World – Anu Stohner

Christmas in Exeter Street – Diana Hendry – not my favourite pictures, but very funny and very English! A large family home soon fills up with relatives, friends, neighbours and some very unexpected visitors. After all the beds and sofas are occupied, the others find all sorts of unusual places to sleep; the bath, dresser shelves and the mantelpiece to mention a few! They all spend a very jolly Christmas together. A really quirky, fun book. My children love it! 🙂

Russell’s Christmas Magic – Rob Scotton

Simple picture books of the First Christmas:

The First Christmas – Gaby Goldsack

The Nativity – May Eliot

Room for a Little One – Martin Waddell – this is a story about the stable in which Jesus was born from the point of view of the ox. Before Mary and Joseph arrive, the ox invites an old dog, a cat and a mouse in to shelter from the cold. They all welcome each other, appreciating their need to shelter from the cold and to feel safe. When the donkey arrives with Mary and Joseph, they too are invited to take shelter in the stable, before their little one enters the world. Realistic style pictures accompany this short story.

We read this on  Christmas Eve night: 

The Night Before Christmas – Clement C Moore

Chapter books: 

Maria’s Kleiner Esel und die Flucht nach Ägypten – Gunhild Sehlin

Behold the Star – J B Phillips

Tumtum and Nutmeg’s Christmas Adventure – Emily Bearn

I think we have a few more that I haven’t mentioned. Will update if I find any more, but as you can imagine, life is full of activity right now!

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I hope you are enjoying cosy reading sessions with your own children. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the second week of Advent

The second week of Advent has just passed and we now have three candles lit on our Advent wreath and the sense of anticipation is mounting!

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As I mentioned here, each week of Advent has a different theme: the first week was the week of stones, crystals, shells and minerals. The second week was that of plants. To that end:

I added golden hazenuts, little shiny toadstools, silvery pine cone trees, a pot of paper flowers and bits of greenery to the nature table.

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Mary has moved several steps forward along her star path.

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This picture was taken in the evening on the third Sunday of Advent: we light the number of candles for the weeks of Advent and move Mary forward one star, whilst singing this song.

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This week, I also made our door wreath – recycling greenery that previously hung over doorways and from beams at our School Fayre and adding some homemade dried orange slices and rosehips from our local park.

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I also purchased a poinsettia, which is a must for my Advent experience. I have such happy memories of having a poinsettia at home as a child and ever since. I also treasure my candle bridge, as it reminds me of the German Christmases of my childhood and gazing in wonder at the candle bridges shining merrily from almost every window of the houses and flats I passed on my evening walks with my grandparents. They feel quintessentially German to me and I love them for it! There is such a feeling of  nostalgia for Christmases past at this time; the smells, the sights; the tastes; they all evoke childhood memories of cosy, magical times.

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This week I made sure we read this version of the Legend of the Poinsettia, The Christmas Eve Tree and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.

I put all our garlands up too. I use artificial garlands, purchased last year from a Garden Centre and have woven fairy lights through them and added an assortment of dried oranges, cinammon sticks, golden pine cones, red ribbons and artificial berries.

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I really love them. They feel so festive and look quite naturalistic too. We have one on the mantlepiece and two over our large doors at the back of our house.

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We always try to do a craft of some sort based on the theme of the week, but since my daughters were busily making gifts for their class secret santa, we made do with making plant shaped gingerbread biscuits;  in this case,  trees and holly.

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We used Khorasan (Kamut) flour, which my youngest daughter seems to tolerate and we find it works as a good substitute for wheat in this kind of recipe. They were spicy, with a good crunch; just as gingerbread biscuits should be. 🙂

The recipe is as follows:

120g flour

1/2 tsp of cinammon, ginger and bicarbonate of soda

30g unsalted butter

60g coconut sugar

1 tbl molasses and 1 tbl date syrup ( or 2tbl of one of these)

  • Sieve the flour, cinammon, ginger and bicarbonate of soda together.
  • Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan on a low heat.
  • When slightly cooled, add the melted butter mix to the dry ingredients and give a good stir, adding a teaspoon or two of cold milk or water if necessary to make the dough come together.
  • Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper to about half a centimetre thickness. We did this warm, but it said to chill the dough for half an hour. We were impatient for our gingerbread biscuits so couldn’t wait!
  • Cut out lots of lovely shapes
  • Bake the biscuits in a preheated oven at 160 C for about 7 minutes,depending on thickness and size of biscuit. Tiny biscuits only take 4-5 mins.

Yum! 

Below are the Secret Santa presents my daughters are making for their classmates. My eldest daughter’s boy classmate absolutely loves tigers so she wanted to make him a tiger hand puppet. She is so in love with it, she would rather keep it herself! But I remind her why she made it; to bring joy to this boy and she can always make herself one at another time.

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My youngest daughter is making a little gingerbread man ornament for her girl classmate. I helped her with the face as it was a bit fiddly for her.  She will finish it this afternoon as they break up from school tomorrow – hurrah! Can’t wait for a break from the early morning wake ups and the school run.

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For their teachers, they tied two clay dove ornaments (that they cut out last week), onto shiny red ribbon and also made little candy canes from two glittery pipe cleaners twisted together (that St Nicholas brought them last week). Simple things, but made with love. 🙂

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As for me, I am only managing to do one long post a week, as I am busy making, baking and writing my Christmas letters a lot of the time. My favourite kind of busy 🙂

Last week, I started another one of my little cushions that I make well deserving friends 😉 This friend was born only four days after my eldest and they have known each other all their young lives. I was planning to make it for her birthday, but with all the birthday preparations for my eldest daughter’s birthday and party, it went on the back burner. I now have a deadline to work to, for when we next meet, so that has got me motivated. I love the tree fabric at the back ( perfect for the second week of Advent 😉 ).

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I have also been asked by my sister to make bunting for her four children for Christmas. I finally bought the fabric on Friday, after much deliberation. I do so hope they like it. I put quite a bit of thought into it, so fingers crossed! I have almost sewn all the triangles together (except for one set). Now I just need to sew them onto some bias binding and hopefully they will be ready for our family get together this weekend.

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For the eldest fourteen year old girl

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For a 12 year old boy. He wanted his nickname on it and some emojis!

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For  10 and 8 year old boys who have a forest themed room

As for my making for my own daughters, here are their Phoebe Mice in progress. I sit down for a couple of hours every evening to work on them and I am hoping with steady progress, that they will be ready and waiting for my daughters on Christmas morn 🙂

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I hope you too are enjoying some festive crafting. Joining Nicole for KCCO.

Peace and Joy to you all. *

 

 

 

 

Autumn Books for children

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It’s starting to feel really autumnal now, so it’s time to cosy up at home with some lovely autumn books 🙂 We have just spent a lovely afternoon with our autumn books today, so I thought it was time to share what our favourites are.

We have picture books for every season and festival, which we enjoy rediscovering at the beginning of each season. It really is a joy to reacquaint ourselves with our seasonal favourites – everything feels fresh, yet familiar. When the season is over, I store them away with our nature table things in a big plastic box in the eaves.

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Some of the Elsa Beskow and Sibillye von Olfers are kept on a shelf in the lounge in our reading corner. I love them so much, I can’t store them away for a whole year! And besides I am quite aware that my daughters will outgrow them someday and I want to savour them while I can.

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

Books for Michaelmas 

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

Sweet animal stories for autumn:

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

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

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

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

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

We also recommend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books for Harvest Time:

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn books for older children ( 7+):

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

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

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

For Hallowe’en: 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

An ‘Expotition’ to the Hundred Acre Wood…

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

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

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

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

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

Their rooms belong to Pooh and Piglet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First day of school – new beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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