Simple and Acute Sixteen-pointed Window Star tutorial

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Hi! As anyone who has visited this space will know, my daughters and I love making window star transparencies. We only started making them a couple of years ago and were quite happy with the eight pointed star for a while, but this year we felt like broadening our repertoire 😉 so whilst on holiday we made simple sixteen pointed window stars and a couple of acute sixteen pointed window stars and we love them!

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So I thought I would share a simple tutorial on how we made them. We use kite paper, which is robust transparent paper that lends itself beautifully to the precise folding, The sheets we use come in 16cm x 16cm squares.

To save on paper ( because we prize this paper 🙂 ), we often make small stars, which we find perfectly lovely: We cut the paper in four and then halve it again to create rectangles of 4cm x 2cm. To make larger stars, you can just divide the sheets in half, so the rectangles are 16cm x 8cm

Or if you are using large sheets of transparent paper, cut them into rectangles, making sure the long side is twice as long as the short side.

Simple Sixteen pointed star

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1. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise.

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 2. Open the piece up and fold the four corners to meet the centre line as shown.

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3. Make a second fold towards the middle line on all four sides.

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4. Place some glue on one of the right side bottom corners and stick another piece onto it, laying it along the fold line in the middle and ensuring that the end points meet.  (see below).

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5. Continue this process until the very last piece. This bit is a little fiddly: apply glue to the bottom right side of the piece you are inserting and the bottom right side of the piece to which it will be stuck.

6. Insert the piece carefully; slipping it under one piece and over the other, as shown below.

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(the photos I took fot this step weren’t too clear, so I am using the acute pointed star photos instead as they are clearer). 

Acute Sixteen pointed Window Star

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The first three steps are done as above, but there is one further fold.

After completing Step 3, fold only two of the corners towards the middle line,  making one end more acute, as seen below

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As with the simple star, place glue on the right hand bottom side, where the piece is less acute. The acute part will be on the outside of the star.

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The glueing is the same as with simple pointed star, including the final step.

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And that’s it really. Very simple and so gorgeous, cheering up our windows on our holiday and during the monochrome winter months.

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I hope you too can experience the joy of Window Stars for yourself 🙂

 

February news….

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Several weeks have passed since I last wrote here and it’s mid February now! We were finally blessed with some proper “wintry” days at the beginning of February. Our winter had been particularly mild up until this point, with only a couple of days of frost here and there. My daughters and I continued to fantasise about sledging, snowball fights and catching snow on the tips of our tongues, even though there was no snow or even frost in sight. But finally our wishes became reality…

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when King Winter and Jack Frost performed their magic over a series of cold and frosty mornings and a long awaited snow day, well…morning really….the salty sea air on the South Coast of England doesn’t allow the snow to stay too long!! 😦

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The cold nights allowed us to make Ice Windows/Mandalas. Such an easy and satisfying activity. It works like magic and winter wouldn’t be the same without a few mandalas hung on our pergola 🙂 They look glorious when the sun shines through them.

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Unfortunately the sun didn’t make an appearance on this day.

I wrote details of how to create them here.

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Due to the icy temperatures, my daughters, who are very concerned for the welfare of our now 50 + goldfish (the six we started with last spring went forth and multiplied!!),  made it their job to smash the ice on our pond with a mallet every morning before school, so the fish could breathe. We lost all our goldfish last winter, but so far we can still see them swimming, so are staying hopeful.

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We enjoyed a very early morning of sledging at our local park whilst it was still quiet. In England you can’t rely on the snow staying around, so you have to enjoy it whilst you can!

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Millie, our one year old puppy, enjoyed her first sledging experience 🙂

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It was great fun to play in the snow as a family. Snow definitely brings out the playful side in us all! A small snowman was also built and we enjoyed a quick snowball fight before school 🙂

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We celebrated Candlemas on Saturday 2nd February. It was a gorgeous day. Full sunshine the whole weekend, so perhaps winter will take another flight.

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We didn’t get out much unfortunately as the girls had various activities and parties to go to, so we ended up being  “mama and papa taxi service” for much of the weekend! Ho hum. It can go that way sometimes…

We did manage to carve out a few hours here and there on Saturday to make a few candles. We made stripy candles using odds and ends from various coloured candles we wanted to recycle. I wrote a tutorial here. 

 

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We also made beeswax floating candles; melting different coloured wax in separate tin cans, which we placed in a pan of shallow water. We cut short lengths of wicking to insert into wick holders, the wick holders were placed at the bottom of the moulds and a small amount of wax was poured in to stabilise them. Then the rest was poured in carefully 🙂

 

 

We made yellow star shaped candles for our Candlemas dinner, heart shaped ones for Valentine’s Day and violet-coloured flower candles for our spring celebrations.

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As we gathered together again in the evening, we enjoyed a candlelit meal with the floating candles as our only light. It was very sweet and I know the girls appreciate these touches.

 

It is always rewarding recycling old candles into brand new ones to enjoy over the year to come.  We have plenty more odds and ends of candles in less desirable colours that we will melt in due course to fill terracotta pots with, for our outdoor summer candles.

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As for Valentine’s Day, it was a school day,  so the morning was rather rushed, but we still fit in some sweet card and gift giving. We always go overboard with hearts!!

 

I didn’t have time to make homemade presents this year, but treated my daughters to a little succulent plant each and a little wooden box from a craft shop, which I thought they would enjoy decorating.

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The night before, my youngest made her sister a little booklet with her name on it and my eldest daughter made her sister a quick bear “mask”, to which she added elastic later  in the day 🙂

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Luckily I  managed to made some little carob sweets and heart shaped lollies earlier in the week, so there were some homemade treats. We also made heart shaped biscuits.

 

On Friday, my youngest daughter’s class performed a play that they had been rehearsing for the past half term as part of their main lesson.  In the third grade in Waldorf schools, amongst many other things, the children study Old Testament stories. The children performed a play about Moses in Egypt and Midian. They designed the posters that hung around the school, painted the set and helped make some of the costumes. It was a wonderful production.

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My daughter only had a small role, but performed it with much feeling.

 

As for my own craft news, I finished the sweater I was making.

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I am really pleased with it and it makes a lovely layering piece which is just what is needed at this chilly time of year. Layers are the answer! 🙂

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As I mentioned in my previous post, we had a fire at our house in December and I lost a whole basket full of bamboo needles and yarn. The insurance are helping us to replace all our losses, so I treated myself to a lovely bumper selection of needles and yarn and a yarn winder. I have never had one before and it’s a revelation!

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No more begging my children to hold the yarn while I wind it on, or putting it round my legs and getting in a tangle! It really is very exciting, as any knitter would understand 🙂

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I also purchased this pack of bamboo circular needles which is my favourite upgrade. I had lots of circular needles in my basket, but nowhere to store them neatly with all the long wires. This is brilliant! The needles screw onto various lengths of wire and work so smoothly and the storage is super tidy – hurrah!

I have started work on a child’s version of the Idlewood pullover for my youngest daughter in a nice bright royal blue.

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I made one  for myself last year and she has been asking for one ever since. Finally, the weather is cool and it feels right to make another. It is a lovely quick easy knit. I just need to figure out the sizing as it is designed for adults.

Apart from this, I spotted the pattern below whilst browsing ravelry and my children loved the look of it, so I am planning to make them both hats with colourful buttons 🙂 I happily take requests from my girls, especially as my eldest is quite possibly outgrowing home knits at twelve. Sob!

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I have plans to make a few things for myself afterwards and have found three patterns I like and purchased new yarn for them. So, lots of crafty goodness to look forward to! 🙂

 

I lost a lot of yarn in the fire, so it is lovely to have a new bundle of hope. 🙂

And that’s my round up of the past few weeks. We are off on holiday for a week tomorrow so decorating work can continue at our house whilst we are away. It will be lovely to be back to normal at home soon.

I hope your winter days are gentle, creative, fun and peaceful. 

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The Olympics Games – A Fifth Grade Waldorf milestone.

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At the end of the Fifth Grade, when a child is of secondary school age, it is a tradition amongst Waldorf schools to hold an athletics event, that they call the Olympics, based very loosely on the original Olympic Games held in Ancient Greece. In the fifth grade curriculum, pupils study Ancient Greek and Ancient Civilisations, so by the end of the school year they are very familiar with Ancient Greece.

Waldorf schools consider children of 11 years (grade 5 age), to be at the height of their strength and stamina, before the onset of puberty, and what better way to celebrate this time than this unique athletics event.

My daughter’s school went one step further and turned the whole preceding week into a feat of determination and stamina, when they undertook to hike the 24 mile plus distance between their school and the host school.

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Here they are being waved off and cheered on by the whole school 

Leaving on a hot Monday in late June, they walked eight hours a day, for three days, cross country, in the relentless heat. Every night they camped somewhere different.

Parents were tasked to set up and take down the camp daily and were responsible for catering, shopping, walking and all the preparations. It was a big job, but absolutely worth it: the teacher and children so appreciated arriving at a well set up camp and immediately being able to relax, cool down and play after their long walk. They most certainly deserved it!  I hear there were plenty of water fights! 🙂

We were so impressed by this small class of nine’s determination and fighting spirit to complete the walk without complaint and to enter into the spirit of the event.

They arrived at the host school, to a “Welcome”banner and many of children from other schools, who had just arrived by bus, were in awe of their achievement, before any of the athletic training had even started!

This particular Olympics was held at a large Waldorf school with extensive grounds. There were over twenty different schools taking part, from England and abroad, including Poland, Bulgaria and Germany and all were camping on the school grounds in preparation for the event.  I estimate around 350 pupils or so.

My daughter’s class had spent many months last year training; with morning runs around a track in the park and practising a variety of Olympic sports, including javelin, discus, high and long jump and wrestling, so they were well prepared for the next three days.

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There were two days of training before the actual event, where the children from the different schools were divided up into groups, representing Ancient Greek Cities. It  was an opportunity for children to get to know other Waldorf schooled children. Each City was led by an Archon, who was typically a fifth grade teacher, and had a different ribbon colour. Ribbons were tied to a long pole that the Archon held, so that the groups knew where to assemble. My daughter was in “Marathon” which had a light blue colour. She was happy with that, loving blue as she does 🙂

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It was such an inspiring event, I just had to share it with you and I must say I am enjoying reliving it myself! 🙂  Unfortunately I lost my camera battery the day before the event and didn’t have the time to purchase another. Luckily after trying all kinds of options, I was able to borrow a friend’s camera for the event. The photos aren’t as clear as I would have liked, so I apologise in advance for some of the fuzzier photos, but I wasn’t used to the camera and there was a lot of movement! I wouldn’t have missed recording this milestone event in my daughter’s life, for the world. It really is such a glorious way to mark the end of the primary school years and this memory will last the children lifetime, of that I am sure.  I certainly still carry the memory in my heart with such pride. 🙂

The families were able to camp onsite overnight on the Friday, but away from the pupils. This was just as well as we had to rise early on Saturday!

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By 7.45am we were all gathered for the Opening Ceremony. It started with a steady drum beat echoing through the arena, followed by a torchlit procession of children (one child chosen from each City). The other children followed in their “Cities”, all dressed in white tunics with bare feet, as they would have been in Ancient Olympia.

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Each child wore a belt that they had made themselves (parents had made the simple tunics). My daughter had embroidered some Ancient Greek writing on hers. I don’t think it was anything too meaningful though!!

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The big torch was lit and the Games could begin.

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The first event was the “Marathon”, which was a mile long run around the grounds, finishing on the running track. My daughter loves to run and is the fastest in her class, over long distances, which she is proud of. Due to every child running the race, she found herself quite far back at the beginner’s line and it was difficult for her to push forward until part way through the race, but she did herself proud, being one of the first girls to reach the finish line and beat a lot of boys in the process- an important detail!! 😉 She is only a slight thing but built for speed, with fierce determination. She certainly doesn’t get her athleticism from me – I was always last to be picked for sports!

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Then there was a sprint, called “The Dash”, where the children raced 70m, ran round a javelin, and raced back. This was divided into girls and boys races.

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High jump and long jump followed. The children could choose between these.  My daughter chose the long jump and each child was allowed three attempts.

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The queues were long, but the excitement was papable and every child was applauded for their efforts.

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Wrestling was next. My daughter didn’t want to participate, but we watched her classmates. The wrestling is done standing up in a circle. The aim is to push your opponent out of the circle, whilst palm to palm. No other part of the body is to touch the other. It was a very civilized sort of wrestling!!

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Then came the javelin or discus. These events went on simultaneously, so the  children had to choose between them. My daughter chose the javelin, as she said she didn’t want to offer up the discus to Zeus!!! 🙂 They were once again allowed three attempts.

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There was a “mini marathon” in between that my daughter didn’t participate in, which was a 400m race I think. She and her classmates enjoyed wandering around and enjoying refreshments instead.

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The message was clear: the event was not about winning; it was about participation and doing the best of one’s own ability. The children were each praised for their own individual efforts: the grace of their running; the focus in their wrestling; the steadiness of their hand in their throwing; their determination and skill. It was a very encouraging event.

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Lastly there was a relay race, which everyone took part in, running 80m each. Luckily my daughter took part in an early race as the heat was really getting to us and I was suffering from bad hayfever due to being in a freshly mown field all day long!

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After the final race, there was a very moving closing ceremony.

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The children sat in their ‘Cities’, in a circle around the central Olympic torch. The Archons called each child up individually and gave them a medal with a ribbon in their ‘City’ colour and praised them for their acheivements on the day and told each child what they had appreciated about their individual performance and efforts in the previous two days.

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Some children were given slips of paper with these written down. My daughter’s group didn’t receive one and she has forgotten what was said to her because of all the excitement. I remember hearing grace, focus and determination, which I would definitely say apply to her! It was very moving and meaningful. Apart from tears of emotion, my eyes were unfortunately streaming with hayfever and the heat of the big torch close by, that I could barely see any of this or even find my way back to our camp without help!! 😦

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There was a lot to celebrate, not least our lovely, supportive School Community 🙂

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I love how Waldorf education celebrates the seasons, yearly festivals, important  milestones and The Individual. There is so much reverence and meaningful attention to detail. I feel this sends an important message to the Children of the Future; that their contribution is recognised and valued and that the Earth and it’s gifts are to be treasured and protected.

Anyone who has visited this blog will know I am a passionate advocate of Waldorf (Steiner) education. For those that want to know more, I wrote this post.

In the past I have written about the wonderful celebrations in the Kindergarten years, including the beautiful Kindergarten birthday celebration and the very moving Kindergarten leaving festival – see here and here.

In previous years, I have written about the meaning of some of the festivals we celebrate at school and how we honour them at home. These include: Candlemas  (2nd Feb), Valentine’s Day (14th Feb), EasterMay Day festival (beginning of May),Whitsun festival (end of May), Midsummer and St John’s (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September), Martinmas (11th Nov) and Advent (four weeks leading up to Christmas). Hope you find some food for thought here for creating your own seasonal festivals. 🙂

***May your life be filled with awe, reverence and celebration – of Mother Earth and of the gift of Life! ***

 

 

 

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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Calm after the storm – A New Year’s Retreat

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As I am writing, I am struck by the beautiful sunset outside the window. The bare branches of trees stretch up to the colour drenched sky and I am filled with awe at the glory of nature and the rich colour palette bestowed upon us at (what we imagine to be) the bleakest time of the year.

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The New Year has just begun and as ever it feels full of hope and promise. Our family of four and Millie (our puppy) are on a week long break from the busyness of everyday life – to retreat a little (hibernation is always my winter wish...), to play, to rest, to create, to enjoy nature and each other.

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In this quiet space, we are making the time to renew our loving intentions towards each other and the world and resolving to let go of what no longer serves us. It is a gift.

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The children are currently in the pool with my husband; jumping, diving, full of joy. Water really is their favourite medium for play – my eldest daughter says she feels light and full of energy, which she does not feel upon the earth, except when playing in very natural surroundings. They are so delighted that we have a pool here and visit it twice daily. Their eyes are wide with big beaming smiles as they duck and dive through the water and I know we are offering them a real gift of slowing down and being in the moment, just now. We are still in England (which is unlike us in January when we tend to seek the winter sun), but with a swimming pool on the grounds, everyone is happy.

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And I am finding the time to write again, to craft and have long leisurely lie ins. Bliss.

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It really is blessing to have this time together to regroup.

In the middle of December we had a house fire in our home. We typically do a star path on our Nature Table over Advent. You can see details at the end of this post. We place four small beeswax candles, held in star shaped cardboard holders on the table along the star path and light a candle (or two, three, four, depending on the Advent week) every evening whilst we sing and move Mary along the path to Bethlehem. We have been doing this for years and always blow the candle out right away after the song so that the candles do not grow too small before Mary reaches the stable. For some unknown reason; be it tiredness, carelessness, distraction, we are not sure, my daughters and I left two of the candles on and unattended and went to bed 😦 Luckily we have a smoke alarm, which alerted us all to the fire. The candles had burnt down and set the cloth on fire and the fire had moved swiftly to the television (which is hidden behind another cloth we use as “the sky” of our Nature Table), so by the time I got downstairs at around 11pm, the television was ablaze. My husband was at the back of the house unaware of what was going on, but acted quickly to stop the fire spreading to the electrics and curtains by throwing all manner of damp towels and clothes onto the fire and removing the television. He also tried to remove a burning basket of knitting wool and bamboo needles, but the smoke got too thick and the basket was too hot, so he had to leave it, but luckily it was away from the electrics and other potential fire hazards.  Three fire engines arrived and quickly put out the fire and blew the smoke out of the house with minimal mess. One of our neighbours was also a great help; giving us warm clothes and a duvet for the girls and our dog Millie, to snuggle under whilst they stayed in the car, parked some distance away at their request. The other neighbours slept through it all!! It was really horrifying at the time to see the lounge ablaze, but the thick dark smoke was the main issue as we couldn’t see properly and had to leave the building for health reasaons. Luckily all is  well and the main damage is limited to the lounge and hall where the walls need cleaning and redecorating. The wooden floor also needs replacing and some of the soft furnishings/rugs, but nothing irreplaceable really.

I lost a whole knitting basket full of wool and my favourite bamboo needles and a few items of clothes that my husband threw on the fire, but all in all, it could have been so much worse and I feel we were protected somehow.

It was an accident and where in the past, I may have berated myself about neglecting to blow the candles out, I have chosen instead to be gentle on myself, to focus on being thankful and feeling blessed that nothing worse happened. We are all fine after all, including the guinea pigs, who we had to leave in the house, so all is well. We were also able to have a wonderful Christmas celebration at home, despite the lounge being out of bounds. The insurance company has been nothing but understanding and generous in replacing our goods so far.

I was mid knitting the girls some Hogwarts jumpers – in Gryffindor and Slytherin colours – and wasn’t sure if I would finish in time, but was remaining hopeful and focused! The fire singed the jumpers in several places and due to time constraints, I asked if they might be able to replace them with “the real thing”. They were happy to help and two days before Christmas, they arrived, to the girls delight and my relief!! It felt like a little Christmas miracle 🙂

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and here they are in their whole ensemble – courtesy of Father Christmas, the insurance company and kind relatives 🙂

So currently whilst we are away, cleaning work is being undertaken at home to remove the soot from the walls and shelves throughout the house, including those black webs we noticed developing after the fire , which we were told were soot webs, not cobwebs!! The place certainly looked dressed for Hallowe’en for the first few days and smelled like a bonfire! 😦

It was difficult to sleep in a house that smelled of acrid smoke, but with the help of a couple of air purifiers, the odour did dissipate after a while and we could sleep peacefully again. We regrouped reasonably quickly as Christmas was fast approaching – the show must go on and all that! 😉 In the week before Christmas we were able to host some visiting friends from the States for an afternoon of catching up and games. They gave us our new favourite game Eleminis – which we have enjoyed it on a daily basis since then 🙂 It is rather competitive but a lot of fun!!

On the 21st December we hosted a gathering of some of my “crafty” girlfriends and their children.

The children took turns decorating the two gingerbread houses that my friend Sofia and I had baked (one very late night) a couple of nights before and we ate, drank and made merry; singing all the Christmas songs we knew, with a variety of simple instruments as accompaniment. It really lifted the vibration of the house, which had been feeling rather sorry for itself. A loving hug of friendship for our home and us.

Luckily, we hadn’t had time to put our tree up in the lounge before the fire, so it didn’t smell of smoke and we enjoyed decorating it in the back extension, where we planned to have all our celebrations.

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We also put another smaller “children’s tree” (with mainly homemade decorations) up in the playroom.

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It felt healing to decorate the tree together and set our intention for a beautiful Christmas. We added a few new decorations that my daughters had made at school.

It felt cosy, and with the lounge closed off, we had a lovely celebration and probably one of our loveliest, quietest Christmases, just us four, for several days. We also had a couple of nice days out with friends

and we rang in the New Year with a favourite friend of ours at home

A fun game of charades!!  🙂

So really, although things looked rather bleak for a couple of days, there is so much to be thankful for and we have felt blessed by the many messages of support, friendship, kind offers of help and love. My husband and I even managed to go on a “date” on the 28th December when the girls went to friends’ houses – another Christmas miracle!! 😉

We missed some of our crafting time before Christmas due to the chaos at home, so we have been making up for it now on our break 🙂 The girls and I have enjoyed making some lovely window stars to adorn the windows of our holiday cottage.

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We made some sixteen pointed stars this time as well as our favourite eight pointed stars. The sixteen pointed stars look almost floral to us, we think, especially the greens and reds.

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I love the acute pointed star I made – it looks like a radiant sun, something that is often missing at this time of year! We love creating a warm, homely atmosphere wherever we go and adding our own touches 🙂

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We also made a few pipe cleaner snowflakes.

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I bought these shiny white pipe cleaners earlier in December with no real plan. I just liked them. It dawned on me they might make nice snowflakes and I am rather pleased with how they turned out.

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We twisted four lengths of pipecleaner around an axis to create eight spokes and cut small lengths to twist around each spoke. A fast and easy craft!

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We also cut out handprints of the girls hands – a yearly activity to mark how they much they have grown ( my youngest daughter had a big growth spurt over the summer and is almost catching up with her older sister!). This year they decoupaged their hand prints on cardboard (other years there has been felt, gold card, henna’d hands and hands used on a “family tree” painting.

My daughters also wanted to make their own Advent Calendars for next December.

My eldest decided upon a Hogwarts theme, as she discovered the Harry Potter books series this year and is captivated by the magic of it all.

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My youngest says her Advent Calendar will be for us – mummy and daddy – It is so adorable – we all love it!

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They are using water colours – a present from Father Christmas that come in a handy small tin where each section screws onto the next, so super portable.

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and Lyra Super Ferby pencils – like they use at their Waldorf school – for the detail. I think this is going to be an ongoing project through January as they are only doing a little at a time.

As for me, as well as losing the girl’s sweater knitting to the fire, I also lost another work in progress. that I was making for myself 😦  I urgently felt the need to make a fresh start. Luckily I had some 4mm circular needles left (my only remaining needles – sob!!) and some yarn I kept in the studio, so I have started knitting this sweater – again for me! 🙂 and I must say knitting is such healing work – creating something new stitch by stitch.

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We have also spent time contemplating the The Madonna Sequence each evening as we did last year, as the girls were keen to mark the twelve Holy Nights in some way and we used these Angel cards as a fun way to predict the twelve months ahead, with the girls drawing pictures corresponding with the month or the cards message.

I did my own special inner work, using Lynn Jericho’s Inner Christmas. Lynn, an anthroposophist,  has been sending Inner Christmas messages for the twelve Holy nights for a number of years, but this is the first year I have participated. This year, the contemplations centred around the 12 Inner Freedoms. Each day we received an email with some questions to work with/contemplate, centred around the twelve freedoms: freedom to expand, contract, centre and flow; freedom from ideals, oughts, fears and doubts and freedom of surprise, grief, love and questions. It was very freeing and thought provoking to work with these questions. I have been journalling every morning and meditating on the questions and would highly recommend this Inner work at a time when we are naturally more inward looking and  “when the veils lift that hide the spiritual world from our ordinary consciousness… and allow us to see with inspired clarity” (L Jericho).

Well, I’ve been away from this space for a very long time. I doubted I would return to my writing here, because once I was out of my weekly habit of writing, it was quite easy to let it go, as life felt full enough as it was. I even stopped taking photos for a month when my camera broke 😦

The New Year has arrived and with it, a new calling to write again, to share and record our family life, to express gratitude, for it is only a moment in time, being a mother to younger children. In the two years I have written here, a lot has happened and my daughters have changed so much. My eldest daughter is now 12 and although she still believes in magic, it is only a matter of time before her feet are firmly on the ground and cynicism and skepticism creep in; the Age of not Believing (Sherman Brothers ) and I won’t be able to share this part of our family life any more. So I will begin again and try to fill in the gaps as best I can.  Beginning is half the battle sometimes, don’t you think?

At a friend’s suggestion, each of us is writing down something for which we are grateful or something we enjoyed each day of 2019. My youngest and I want to put the messages in a jar and my eldest and my husband are going to write a list. 🙂 We routinely do this verbally at the end of the day anyway, but I think writing things down will be a more tangible reminder. It is especially a gift for the melancholic temperament (quite a few of us here!) to look back at how much goodness there is in our lives, when we may sometimes doubt it.

We will be returning home tomorrow and and luckily the bulk of the cleaning in our house has been done whilst we are away. Nothing irreplaceable has been lost so we really do count ourselves lucky. Onwards and upwards 🙂

Wishing you a peaceful and joyful start to the New Year 2019. May it be a blessed year for you all. 

 

 

 

Celebrating…

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It was my husband’s 50th Birthday last week. We decorated the Birthday table as we always do and made every attempt to spoil Daddy with flowers and presents to make his day special.

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The girls each made Daddy a present in the couple of nights beforehand, whilst I read them a bedtime story. We are currently reading Little Farm in the Ozarks which we are loving. It is about the childhood of Rose Wilder, the daughter of Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder. We can’t get enough of these books. Thank goodness there are so many!

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An appliqued bookmark and a ‘Happy Birthday’ picture to use again and again

Unfortunately it rained the entire Birthday, so we couldn’t go for any nice long walks. Instead, we went out for a lovely lunch and it was so good to spend time together. In the evening there was cake. It wasn’t a great success and I had to do some errr “glueing” but the cream cheese frosting, sprinkles and strawberries came to the rescue:-) A little rustic, but it tasted fine.

I hope my husband felt we made his day special. My youngest daughter even contributed some of her own money (she doesn’t have much as we don’t give pocket money) to buy him some delicious truffles as Daddy loves them so much 🙂

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We continued the celebrations over the weekend with a party on Sunday, but before this my husband and daughters took part in our City’s annual Children’s Parade on Saturday. Each school was allocated a painting to interpret into costume. I didn’t see the painting, but I believe it was Indian inspired. The girls dressed as Indian-style bulls in oranges and reds. There was drumming and all the children had a hand held instrument.

 

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My daughters made their own heads, with some guidance from one of the very talented mothers at the school. I think they came out beautifully.

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There were also yellow birds, mermaids and peacocks and of course the most amazing main structure. How to envisage creating these structures out of willow, just baffles me. I am so impressed by the creatives who can do this.

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After the parade, both daughters had a friend each over for a play and sleepover.

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My, how grown up they all look in this picture….

There was a circus just up the road, with special deals, so I decided to treat the girls to another trip. We are always amazed by the circus performers – the feats that they can do blow our minds and inspire us! Nothing beats live performances 🙂

Afterwards, the girls spent some time practising various feats on the swing set, blowing bubbles and doing quick changes like the acts we saw, as well as spraying the audience!

Later they decided to make each other presents in secret. The older girls started it, by making little friendship necklaces for themselves and the other two,

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and then they all decided to surprise each other with more presents. It was very sweet and they were all very motivated. Unfortunately the laminator became temperamental so some of their work got rather scrunched up 😦 Here is a small selection…

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The next day, it was time to prepare for my husband’s party that afternoon. We had fun decorating the house and garden for the party. My daughters helped to make long swathes of paper chains to decorate our family room (in case it rained, we were determined to have a party atmosphere inside!)

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Luckily the sun shone for us all weekend, so we could spend time outside and enjoy the garden, celebrating my husband’s 50 years on the Earth.

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One of my husband’s friends is a singer and my husband loves to sing, so they both sang a few Frank Sinatra numbers using a microphone. It was all very civilised and I think the neighbours enjoyed themselves too! 😉 The children decided to climb on the roof at this point! It almost felt like we were at a festival!! 🙂

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It was “bring a dish” sort of party and I organised for friends to help with the food, drinks and bbq so my husband could really relax. The food was amazing and there was so much goodwill, it was lovely.

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   I was a bit late taking this photo! ….

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One of our friends kindly made the cake, as I didn’t want to chance it after my struggles with cake making earlier in the week! 😦 The children did the decorating 🙂

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We had some friends stay over and enjoyed a lovely sunny day with them on Bank Holiday Monday; eating all the delicious left over food – it was still a feast! Millie was in her element all weekend, with all the socialising and friends 🙂 She was exhausted  by the end of the weekend. Here she is cuddling up with my youngest daughter’s latest knitted creation from school 🙂 So sweet.

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It was such an enjoyable, sociable, fun weekend. Now for a nice quiet week. Inbreaths and outbreaths – this is where we find our balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I chose a Steiner (Waldorf) school for my children – a UK parent’s perspective – highlights and misconceptions

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I am writing this because I don’t think enough parents have heard of or understand what Steiner (Waldorf) education is.  I thought it was time to shed some light on the subject because I believe it is a viable alternative to mainstream education and could benefit many children whom the current state system is failing. There are many misconceptions in the mainstream about Steiner education, so I also want to go about setting the record straight.

Let me say a little about our journey...

I have two daughters at a UK Steiner School and we have been involved in Waldorf education for nine years, since starting in the Parent and Child group when my eldest was two years old.

From an early age, I was aware that my daughters needed a different setting from the typically loud and chaotic toddler groups. I myself didn’t feel at home in the busy, noisy environment either, so I looked around for an alternative; somewhere quiet and safe for my children and somewhere to meet like-minded conscious parents. I was blessed to come upon a local Steiner School, who run a weekly Parent and Child group. As soon as we arrived, I knew I’d made the right decision. The mornings had a lovely rhythm: with free play, parent craft time (what a luxury!), baking bread, outdoor play, circle time and a shared lunch (which parents contribute an item to and always results in a feast!) There was an atmosphere of respect, anticipation, and joyful contribution and the space was wonderfully held by the Parent and Child facilitator. During this time I discovered a lot about Steiner education and realised it would be a good fit for my children. I already felt that an early start at school would “wake” my sweet dreamy children “up” before they were ready for it and knowing that most other countries do not start school until their seventh year, I felt confident that Kindergarten was the answer. I was not disappointed.

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My youngest daughter on her last day of Kindergarten with a hobby horse she made herself!

The Kindergarten years are the Wonder Years. The children slowly unfold at their own pace, unhurried and protected from the faster pace of life outside the school. They are free to make discoveries, to play, to imagine and create, without the pressures of academic achievement. Children are only assessed for their readiness for school in their seventh year (6-7yrs).

I fail to understand why the UK Government, contrary to the educational reports they receive on child development, insist it is in children’s best interests to start academic learning as soon as possible. They are even trying to push it into preschools! There is a feeling that children need to get ahead and this can foster early competitiveness in children or feelings of inadequacy,  particularly in younger, more dreamy children who are simply not ready for a school structure or academic learning at a young age. These feelings can remain for their whole educational journey if not handled skilfully by the teaching staff.

I have heard from both family members and friends how the daily pressures of homework, high expectations, not to mention SATS, have left their children feeling stressed, anxious and even depressed by the time they enter secondary school. Of course there are children that breeze through it all, but many children suffer big knocks to their confidence and many more feel demotivated at an early age. It saddens me that so many children are becoming a casualty of this misguided system.

Studies have shown that an early start can actually discourage a love of learning after a few years. There is absolutely no proof that an early start has a positive effect on learning outcomes. The UK has not improved its position in global education rankings, compared with several countries in Asia, Germany. Scandinavia and Finland, all of whose children start school at six or seven years.

In many countries, Steiner education is a State funded alternative to the mainstream education and it has produced many highly esteemed professionals. In this country, we have not reached this point yet, although there are currently a few Steiner Academies in Frome, Hereford, Bristol and Exeter.

I have heard that there have been further cuts to the Arts in schools. How sad that there is less and less of a place for creativity in schools. We are so much more than just our brains and not everyone will excel academically.  In Steiner schools, song, movement and art are integral to their learning, with teachers encouraging the children to produce beautiful work to feel proud of.

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Getting ready for our annual Christmas Fayre

Anyway back to our story…

As I mentioned, my children are very sensitive and don’t thrive in large groups: they feel invisible and quickly lose heart. I felt that mainstream education would do them no good because their needs wouldn’t be met in such large classes. The Steiner school class size is much smaller, with a maximum of 22 pupils and often smaller classes, and an emphasis on getting to know each individual child. The child feels seen and heard. It is a great gift, especially for a quieter child. My daughters have been allowed the time to develop in confidence and to learn at a pace that suits them. They are still enjoying a relatively stress-free childhood. I have seen my once shy and retiring children grow from strength to strength in confidence and ability. My children are now very confident speakers in their class, something I feel sure would not have happened if I had followed the mainstream option.  I fully believe that this type of education should be a model for the future.

Mainstream education tackles subjects like politics, sex education, environmental concerns and other subjects I feel are inappropriate at primary school age. Children can lose their innocence and belief that the world is good far too early on and some children can feel overburdened with worry when they are powerless to change anything. In contrast, such subject matter is introduced in Waldorf education when the right level of maturity is reached to receive it.

In Class 1 (6-7yrs), the child is in a reception-like environment with an emphasis on setting boundaries for behaviour in a school classroom and introducing the child to life in the main school. There is still much wonder and fairy tales form an integral part of the curriculum. Letters and numbers are introduced creatively as a prelude to writing and mathematics. The children are assessed individually so all their needs can be met, whether they are early readers or still need time. The child will still only initially attend one long day until 3.20pm. By the end of Class 1, they attend two long days. This increases every year until Class 4 when they attend every day until 3.20pm. In many countries, such as Germany and Finland (who are globally ahead academically) half days are still very common.

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A beautiful picture drawn by a class teacher in Class 1

Ideally the child will be with their class teacher from Class 1-8 (6-14yrs), so there is continuity of care and the teacher gets to know the child deeply. The child as a whole is educated, not just the brain, but the body, heart, mind and spirit. There are no screens or textbooks. Instead the child creates his/her own subject books, called the Main Lesson book. These are a real feast for the eyes and soul. Below are examples of a few pictures from my eldest daughter’s main lesson book. So inspiring, I find!

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Part of the Geometry main lesson. If you are going to do something, make it beautiful!

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In my eldest daughters class (Class 5) this year, the children are studying Ancient Civilisations, Local Geography, Geometry and Botany. There have been wonderful local geography project presentations, a superbly crafted class play of “the Adventures of Odysseus” and the children are currently working on a self guided Botany project. In the class the children support each other’s efforts. Other subjects in Class 5 include languages, as well as Ancient Greek , handwork, clay work, sports and a special kind of dance movement devised by Steiner called Eurhythmy. Below are a few samples of this year’s work. 

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A Local Geography presentation on the Lake District.

Each summer, the children go on a class trip to reflect what they have learnt in their curriculum that year and the stage in their development. The children in Class 5, at 11 years old, are considered to be at the peak of their strength (before they enter puberty), so in their final term in the Lower school, they will compete in a special Olympics, held in a large Waldorf school with extensive grounds, where they will meet up with other children of their age from Waldorf schools across England and from abroad. The children will undertake a three day hike, camping along the way, and will spend several days preparing for the Olympics. There is a tremendous sense of achievement by the end of the week. The children are feeling excited and proud of their place in the school.

My youngest, at eight, will be staying away for one night at a youth hostel with her class. She started school after she was seven as she wasn’t emotionally ready at six and I am so glad she waited as she is doing brilliantly and has fully embraced school life. They are in their second year of Handwork and she has been bringing back gorgeous knitted toys including this kitty and a piglet that our puppy has taken a liking to! 

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In this day and age, we are in such a hurry to “grow our children up”. We, as adults, surely know that there is no going back to the innocent days of our childhood; with no responsibilities, time on our hands and not a care in the world.  I feel we need to protect our children’s childhoods from the pressures of adult life as long as possible, especially in primary school.

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We all love our children and for many,  mainstream education fits the bill and children do well there, but I fully believe that at least 20% would do better elsewhere. There has been a 40% rise in Home Education because schools are failing many of our children. I believe Steiner schools are a viable alternative for many families, where parents would rather be working than teaching their children, but I think that not enough people know there is another way.

I have seen children breathe a sigh of relief when they enter a Steiner school after leaving mainstream education, once they have adjusted to the different way we do things. Finally a place where they can be themselves, be recognised and are allowed and supported to grow into the independent, confident people they can be, given the time and support they need.

To summarise, some of the Highlights of Steiner education for me are :

  • The creative curriculum – each year of the Steiner curriculum is designed to reflect where the child is in terms of their development. There are no text books: the teacher imparts all the information and the children create their own beautifully illustrated books by their own hand. They use good quality materials to achieve a high standard of work that they can feel proud of. Music, movement, art and handwork are an integral part of the curriculum and allow a holistic educational approach; educating the child’s mind, body and spirit. I can’t think of anything children need more in this day and age.
  • Recall – The class will spend a little time every morning going over what they learnt in the previous school day, having slept on it. This helps them to integrate their knowledge before moving on to the next topic.
  • Continuity – the teacher ideally stays with the class for seven years (6-14yrs) so there is continuity of care and the teacher knows his/her pupils deeply. This is not always possible in every case, but new teachers will work closely with a departing teacher to ensure that the children’s needs are still met. There is certainly greater continuity than in the mainstream, which I appreciate for my children, who do not do well with too much change.
  • Smaller class size – class size is no more than 24 pupils and often less, so each child feels seen and the teacher has a chance to know them deeply, not just based on academic performance.
  • Individual attention – often more reserved children in larger schools feel invisible, not heard and not able to access what other louder, more confident children can.  At a Steiner school, each individual child matters and the teacher will go to lengths to help the child to feel like a valuable part of the class. There is a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. There are also regular Parents Evenings and easy access to the teacher to voice concerns.
  • Later academic study  – children are considered ready for academic study from the time they start to lose their teeth. This is usually from 6 years. There is no pressure to comply with a fixed learning curve and each child will learn to read and write at their own pace with the encouragement of the class teacher. If a child is a late reader, as my eldest was, they still very much participate in the class and do not feel less than the others. There is learning support if necessary.
  • A cooperative attitude –  the children are expected and encouraged to behave respectfully towards each other and collaborative work is important. It is incredibly inspiring and heart warming to see how supportive the children are of each other’s work in the classroom.  It has certainly not been my personal experience of school life!
  • A community school – My daughters know most of the children’s names in the school. The children feel held and safe in a community of pupils, staff and parents. As they say ” It takes a village to raise a child”. This is the closest I have found to this. Parents are invited to be involved in school fundraising and caring for the school, including cleaning the classroom once a term, which is a lovely opportunity to care for your child’s learning environment and gives the parent an insight into what goes on in the classroom. There is even a school shop, selling healthy foods, run by parent and teacher volunteers which is a hub of the community.
  • Handwork Lessons are a wonderful opportunity to learn various skills. The first two years are devoted to learning knitting and the children make themselves a selection of gorgeous knitted toys of which they can be proud. The children learn crotchet in Class 3 and Cross stitch in Class 4. In Class 5 they return to knitting, making socks and my eldest is now knitting gloves. Here are a few examples of her work. What a wonderful achievement. 

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A cross stitch pin cushion made in Class 4 following a painting of their own design

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Cross stitch Christmas cards made in Class 4

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Knitted socks in Class 5

  • Yearly Class Plays – every year each Class performs a play for the rest of the school and their parents, which ties in with one of their Main Lesson subjects. The play forms part of their Main Lesson for half a term and the children work hard together; painting scenery, making props and some costumes and advertising their play.  This year, my eldest (in Class 5) performed a play of “the Adventures of Odysseus” to tie in with her studies of Ancient Civilisations and learning Ancient Greek.

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My youngest (in Class 2), performed a play about St Francis of Assisi to tie in with her studies of the Saints. They were both superb and the children felt they were part of something very special.

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School festivals – festivals are such a lovely way to mark the the passing of the year and reflect on seasonal changes. They range from special assemblies around Easter and Christmas, to Maypole dancing and jumping over a little fire at Midsummer.

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Lantern walks in November, as the light dwindles, are another highlight of the Early Years calendar and continue for a few years in the main school.

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The Festivals are particularly beautiful in the Kindergarten years when parents are able to participate in the festivities. The children are all very much involved.  

 

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My youngest daughter serving strawberries and cream at the Early Years ‘Strawberry Fayre’ festival  in her last year in Kindergarten 

So those are the highlights, now to tackle some of the Misconceptions of what a Steiner school is:

  • “A free for all Attitude”  –  Steiner Education was designed to educate the “whole child” in “freedom”, which has been misconstrued as a ‘free for all attitude’. This is absolutely not how a Steiner schools works. Children know their place and boundaries for behaviour in the classroom are clear, including expectations of respectful behaviour towards classmates and the teachers. The teacher is in charge and the children are led and held by them. Parents are free to speak to the teacher as often as they need to and there is an open line of communication so things can be tackled early on if necessary.
  • ” A load of hippies” –  If being a hippy, means believing in a peaceful, respectful environment for your child, then I’m fine with that! The school has rules and regulations, just like any other school. There is a code for dress and behaviour. It is not a democratic school. The teacher is there to guide and inspire the children to achieve a high standard of work and behaviour.
  • “Children just play” – In Kindergarten much free play is encouraged. There is a rhythm to the Kindergarten morning, with a walk in the park, followed by circle time, free play, the occasional seasonal craft, a snack, tidying up time and outside play, followed by story time. The children are encouraged early on to contribute to the class; by tidying away the playthings, accompanied by a song and they also help lay or clear the table at snack time. They learn a sense of responsibility and their place in the class through contribution. The ages are combined from 4yrs to 6yrs and the younger children learn from the older ones whilst the older ones are happy to inspire the younger ones by their example. It works very well.  There is no academic work at all. Instead the children have time to evolve as human beings, through their play: Play is considered “a child’s work”.

From school age, play is reserved for the playground and children are expected  to care for the classroom as part of their daily routine. There are movement games but this is all structured by the teacher. 

  • No discipline – this again is not the case at all. Teachers are very much in charge. Parents can approach teachers to speak about their children in detail and children can voice concerns, but ultimately the teacher is in charge and the children can relax and get on with their work. It is a school after all!
  • Not academic/scientific – the Steiner curriculum differs from that of mainstream education and this continues into the Upper school, where pupils will also study for GCSE’s. Although children do not study the three sciences separately,  the curriculum includes science from Class  6 onwards and several children from our school have gone on to study engineering and excel in their fields of interest. Sixth form colleges welcome Steiner pupils because of the broad curriculum and the children’s thirst for knowledge.  

I am so grateful that I was guided to the school so early on in my children’s lives, but it is never too late to give your child the kind of education that meets their need for a creative curriculum, that lets them grow and learn at a pace that suits them, without being overloaded with targets, SATS, homework, because after a long day at school, shouldn’t a child have some free time to download what they have learnt!?

So many of us were impoverished in the way we were taught as children. I for one, would have loved to have been Steiner educated. Being sensitive, creative and an observer, the competitive environment of a Public school killed my joy of learning: It was all about outcomes and exams. I withdrew and although I have come out whole, with very good grades,  it did nothing to build my confidence or self esteem to tackle the big wide world.

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My eldest selling her handmade gifts at the school Christmas Fayre. 

The way the world is going today, we need to find more ways to support the creative thinkers, the entrepreneurs, the inventors as we will need them even more for our future survival.

 

Big catch up…

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It is now almost two weeks since my children returned to school, after a three week Easter break. I can’t believe I haven’t written here for well over a month! 😦 There just hasn’t been a spare moment to dedicate to the luxury of writing here. Any spare time has been dedicated to essay writing and I have had other pressing matters to occupy my time and headspace too….

But finally, here I am and it’s so good to be back 🙂 I am going to write a single post about the past month, because time is short these days and I don’t know when I will write again. I do hope to get back to posting weekly and even finishing off my US travel posts (!) but right now I am doing a lot of writing for different reasons, so we shall see… I live in hope! Anyway, in the unforgettable words of  “the Sound of Music!”

 Let’s start at the very beginning…

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughters were both in a play in the final week of last term. In Steiner (Waldorf) schools, each class puts on a play every year and they form part of their main lesson for half a term. The children learn their lines remarkably quickly and it is a wonderful achievement that they can be proud of.

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My eldest, who at 11 years is in fifth grade, has been learning about Ancient Civilisations this year (amongst other things) and the class has also been taught some ancient Greek, so it was decided that they would put on a play of ” The Adventures of Odysseus.”

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There was chanting in ancient Greek and great passion and action. The play was really well put together and the scenery was painted and designed by the class. Such an achievement. A boy in the upper classes even did the lighting so there was plenty of atmosphere too.

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The children really did themselves proud and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  They put on three shows: one for the lower and middle school; one for the parents and one for the upper school, with some of the middle school children choosing to see it again!

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My daughter used to be very shy and only wanted small parts in plays, but she has been growing in confidence every year and asked for a bigger part this time. She did a marvellous job, speaking clearly and with feeling. I was so proud of her. Steiner (Waldorf) schools are such a great environment for bringing out the best in a child. I am a passionate advocate for this type of education.

My youngest daughter, who at eight years old is in the second grade, has been learning about the Saints this year. The class put on a play about St Francis of Assisi. The children did two performances: one for the classes and one for the parents and took on two different roles, one in each performance. My daughter was due to be a baker in the performance we were watching, but at the last minute she had to take on the role of a Nun, as one of the children was ill and they all had to swap around .

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Luckily the children all know each other’s lines (more or less) so she did really well. I was very impressed by the way she stepped in. She is also quite shy at times, but she didn’t want to let anyone down. It was a wonderful play with proper scenery, costumes and good humour.

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Easter came right after we broke up from school, which felt rather strange as there was no time for Easter crafts beforehand.

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We did do a little egg blowing and decorating one afternoon as the girls insisted on it but we were all out of breath after one egg, so we left it at that !!

We stayed at home for the whole holiday, which is quite unlike us as we love to travel and see new sights and sounds, but it felt like the sensible option; having a young puppy and wanting to get her settled. We saw plenty of friends over the three weeks.

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 and had a sleepover party with a friend each, including a fun trip to the circus.

We have also spent time getting to know Millie better. She has doubled in size and is such a sweetheart and so friendly with people and dogs. We feel truely blessed. She is happy as long as there is a soft spot to rest, including cushions fallen under the table, a bundle of wet laundry or a pile of leaves. These are all a perfect resting spot! 🙂

She is surprisingly fast and loves nothing better than running on the cliffs with the children or going for country walks. Some have been very muddy, bless her heart!

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As for Easter, we had a lovely quiet weekend, just the four of us. The Easter hare paid us a visit and the children were delighted to find this little rabbit statue left as a surprise. 🙂

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There wasn’t much time for present making, but my daughters still managed to make each other a gift in secret. My eldest sewed her sister two skirts for her toys, using this pretty fabric.

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My youngest was very specific about what she wanted to make for her sister, so with my help she created a little garden for two felt rabbits and some needle felted Easter Eggs. She made it all by herself, except for my cutting out the felt and sewing the grass to the base on Easter Saturday evening (!) due to time constraints. The vision was entirely hers 🙂 Her sister was truely delighted and enchanted by it!

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They also made us a few very simple ornaments for the Easter tree.

And of course there were cards for us and for the Easter hare 🙂

Considering they only started their work on Good Friday, I was really impressed by their efforts and determination!

Unfortunately due to my studies and other matters, I did not find a spare moment, (where I had the time or energy) to make my daughters anything 😦 I did give both girls a meditation shawl as they have long wrapped themselves in mine when they feel tired or unwell and I always fill their papier mache eggs with a few goodies, which they appreciate.

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It was a joy to finally decorate the Nature Table for spring and bring out fresh green cloths and soft yellows to reflect the colours in the outside world. I was also pleased to be reacquainted with the flower children I made last year  🙂

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We also made our usual carob sweets in Easter moulds

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and coverered date truffles  with dyed coconut shavings.

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We used:

  • A teaspoon of spirulina powder mixed with a little water for the GREEN
  • A teaspoon of turmeric powder mixed with a little water for the YELLOW
  • Hand squeezed grated carrot for the ORANGEY/YELLOW
  • Hand squeezed grated beetroot for the PINK – a messy job indeed!
  • Squashed frozen blackberry juice for the PURPLE

We needed very little of the ingredients to achieve the desired colour. Once we were happy with the colour, I placed the shavings in our dehydrator for a couple of hours to dry them.  A low oven would also work.

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After rolling the date truffles in the coloured shavings, we stored the rest in a jar so we can ‘jazz up’ Daddy’s birthday cake this week 🙂 A healthy option to sugary sprinkles and fun to make besides!

Apart from Easter things, we have been on several lovely walks.

Spring is finally in the air, although today is freezing!

The sight of the new buds, the catkins, the carpets of wood anenomes, the wild primroses, celandines and violets filled our hearts with joy. It has been a long bleak winter – the flowers are such a welcome sight!

We have been renewing our love for the Herb Fairies series, now that all the fresh herbs and flowers have returned for inspiration 🙂

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We picked some violets on one of our walks and have pressed them, drawn them and done some colouring in. We also made some pretty ice cubes (for a party we are having this weekend), and stirred up some violet and dandelion honey, that the girls have been enjoying this week.

 We have a full week coming up; with my husband’s birthday on Wednesday, the children need to finish their costumes for a Children’s Parade on Saturday, after which they will have friends over for a sleepover and if that’s not enough (!), we are hosting a party for Daddy on Sunday! Yes lots to do and to look forward to 🙂

I am sorry for the long absence. I hope to be back soon! I have missed it far too much to stay away so long again 🙂 This space reminds me of all that is good in my life and that joy can be as simple as a walk in nature, a cuddle with a puppy or sweet times spent with my family or friends. And with that I leave you with a lovely photo of my youngest and Millie on a recent hot and sunny day 🙂

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PS: For friends who visit regularly, I passed my exams really well! So pleased and kind of surprised, (considering how little time I managed to revise for). I must know more than I give myself credit for 🙂

Winter takes another flight and we take the leap….

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Once again, I didn’t manage to carve out any time for writing in the past couple of weeks. At the beginning of the year, I was full of ideas about blog posts I wanted to write and I promised myself that I would finally finish my last two travel posts  (yes, I do still plan to write them!), but thusfar none of this has materialised. 😦 It is just the way life has panned out this year….

We are slowly recovering from another bout of coughs and colds. The bugs are tending to linger on rather this year. I had hoped that the very cold spell we had would have killed all the bugs off, but they seem very persistent. My eldest still has a fever on and off, poor love.

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After enjoying some wonderfully warm spring days and feeling spring energy stirring within us, winter has taken another flight. It has been snowing over the past couple of days and is still bitterly cold. We even made a little snow lady, Erica 🙂

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My eldest reminded me that it was sunny on Candlemas (Groundhog) day, so it’s not really surprising! 🙂

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The snow hasn’t been deep, but it’s been compact enough to go sledging a couple of times. The Friday before last, my eldest and I went to the local park with our sledge after school on the off chance that the conditions would be suitable and luckily we were pleasantly surpised. We have a nice wooden German sledge that hasn’t seen much use, so it was a pleasure to take it out for a spin. 🙂 There were only a couple of families out as it was dinner time and getting dark, so by the time we left, we had the slope to ourselves. It was great to do something fun with my eldest, just the two of us. Lately we have rarely had the opportunity and I know it benefits us both.

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The week before last was quite eventful:

On Friday, we celebrated our wedding anniversary – 18 years – my, how did that happen?! Although we were both full of cold, we spent a lovely day together; looking at campervans :-), eating (tasty spicy foods), drinking (shots of lemon and ginger – very potent!) and mooching around town. It was just so nice to talk and be together. We haven’t managed to keep up our fortnightly dates for a while due to illness and other circumstances, so it was precious time spent together. We are hoping to get back on track with our dates as it is important to have fun together.

On Sunday, it was Mother’s Day. None of us was feeling ‘on form’, but my husband and daughters still made an effort to spoil me; with cards and a couple of sweet presents. I was very touched.

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I love my new cheery teapot for loose leaf tea and my new cup with its rounded sides – so wonderful to cradle in my hands. 🙂

 

My youngest made me this heart at school : she sanded the wood, hammered in the small nails and wove her chosen thread colours around the heart. A labour of love 🙂 My eldest has yet to finish her gift she says.

Speaking of an eventful week, on Saturday, we picked up our new puppy Millie!

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We have discussed at length over the years whether a dog would fit in our life or not and after much debate and discussion, we decided it was now or never. Our daughters are old enough now to be involved and help with a puppy and still have many more years at home to enjoy with her.  We made it one of our New Year’s Resolutions! Funnily enough, we have since discovered it is the Chinese “Year of the Dog”, so it feels even more apt that this is the year we took the leap! 🙂

We picked her out from her litter the Saturday before and the girls spent the week busily preparing for her arrival!

 

She is a Cavapoo; a mix between a miniature poodle and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We did a lot of research before reaching a decision, because we wanted to be sure we found a compatible dog for our guinea pigs; without a prey instinct and a dog that didn’t need excessive amounts of exercise and was easy to train!

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She is nearly 11 week and is a real sweetheart. We are smitten! The first few days, she slept a lot and didn’t eat much. We think she was missing her family of origin, but she is much more active and playful now. Unfortunately she had an upset tummy the whole week, so I took her to the vet on Friday to be checked out. He gave her an antibiotic injection and some probiotic medicine and we hope to see some improvement soon. She found visiting the vet thrilling; meeting other dogs and being doted on by animal lovers. Everyone commented on her sweet temperament, for which we are most grateful.

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When we go out, we have been carrying her in my big knitting basket or in a baby sling as she is still too young to be put on the ground outside. She has been enjoying the view and being close.

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She has also travelled on the buses, been cuddled and doted on by numerous children at the school gates and even enjoyed a quick trip to the supermarket the other day, when our cupboards were bare!

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I have been trying to study inbetween attending to her. Luckily Millie still enjoys frequent naps!

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She will nap wherever she finds a cosy body! 🙂

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It had been so cold, we had to invest in a little jacket for her, as she is going to work with my husband three days a week and he works outdoors. The girls tried some dolly jumpers on her too, which are still rather large! At that point I started to fantasise about the jumpers I could knit for her next winter (hee hee!)

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She has even had her first taste of snow and seemed unphased by it.

 

I hope I haven’t gone overboard with the photos! I have really noticed how even the (seemily) hardest characters seem to soften when they meet a puppy. It is a real leveller and in so a real gift.

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In other news, my eldest, who is in the Fifth Grade of a Waldorf (Steiner) school, finished a Geography project on The Lake District. Each child had to choose a region of England to write a detailed project on. Their project needed to be beautifully illustrated and they had to design a poster and construct a model of the area. My daughter made a papier mache model with my husband.

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They presented the project to their class and once again, individually, to the parents  one evening last week. We spent 7 minutes talking with each child about their chosen project and sampling food from the area, that the children had brought in. My daughter made some Grasmere Gingerbread, with crystallized ginger and brought in some Kendal Mint Cake to share. It was a really fun evening and all the children talked confidently about their subject.

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I really appreciate how my sensitive children are building their confidence in this setting and how Steiner education encourages the children to be supportive of each other’s work. I was petrified of presenting anything as a child and still am, even as an adult (!), but my daughter took it in her stride and was more than happy to talk to the parents in this intimate, relaxed atmosphere. It was so lovely to see and it feels good to know she is in the right place.

And now we know so much about the region, we really must try to visit at some point this year – maybe with our campervan-to-be?! 😉

And last, but not least, my youngest finished her third knitting project: a little kitty 🙂

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And that’s the round up for the past couple of weeks. As for me, I am currently  making a couple of simple monk’s outfits and adjusting a Greek dress for both my daughters’ plays next week.

I haven’t been making much for pleasure, but I am planning to get back on track as I am feeling like creativity is rather missing from my life right now and things don’t feel in balance in that way.

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I hope you are finding plenty of time for creativity and are keeping well and warm!

Joining Crafting On at Frontier Dreams.

 

 

Warmth in the cold

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Finally, I am finding a pocket of time in which to write. It feels like ages, since I was last here and I must say I have missed it. As I wrote in my last post, we have been suffering from illness over here. As soon as I recovered – literally the day after I felt my energies return slowly, my husband went down with a heavy virus, from which he is only just recovering, almost three weeks later 😦 so all of February has passed in a bit of a blur….

Today is the second day of March and we have snow!!!

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It is so absolutely thrilling for us, having resigned ourselves to another winter without. What a gift! My daughters have been running outside first thing in the morning, to play in the snow and although there hasn’t been deep snow, they have enjoyed making snow angels, building miniature snow bears 🙂 and drawing a snowman on the snow covered pond…and throwing snowballs of course 🙂

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They had an afternoon off school and went sledging with Daddy (while I was at college). We have certainly been enjoying the snow covered world in all its beauty and wonder.

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Only the other day, as we walked around our local park, we felt that spring was in the air; the birds were very vocal,  the daffodils were out and the sun felt warm on our skin. I wondered about setting the Nature Table up for spring, but luckily didn’t have the time, as finally our winter scene has come to fruition. 🙂

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We may even have more snow tonight. Hurrah!

So let’s see what we have been up to in the last few weeks…hmmn…

We had our half term break after my husband came down with illness, which was lucky, in a way, as we didn’t have to rush off anywhere early in the morning and I was still not totally recovered energy-wise. We had a lovely break really: slow days, lots of cooking, making and baking and seeing friends.

After three weeks of illness and also missing Candlemas, I thought it was important to spend lots of time doing nice things together; to reconnect and to find the joy in family life again. We finally rolled some beeswax candles, that I had ordered for Candlemas and my daughters decorated them with beeswax hearts that they stamped out of these thin beeswax sheets.

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On Valentines, we went overboard with hearts, pinks and reds!

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For breakfast, we made pancakes and heart shaped waffles with fried apples and cinnamon which we all enjoyed.

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We also did a lot of baking – jam tarts, ginger biscuits…

and heart shaped rolls for dinner with pink (beetroot) soup!

I noticed that the girls really appreciated all these touches and they were very much involved in the making of all these edibles. I also made our favourite carob sweets, this time adding a cranberry to the middle and some chopped nuts, which made them extra special, we thought.

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I love these happy photos – the girls insisted on wearing the heart ‘crowns’ that we made with friends many moons ago (basically felt hearts, threaded onto red yarn).

We made each other gifts for Valentines.  My husband was in bed all day, but we opened his presents for him and put them, and his cards, by the window in the hope that it would make him feel loved.

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Below are the presents my eldest made us. My youngest made her sister the heart with the penguin on it,  so we all got a heart! There was a distinct dolphin theme for Daddy 🙂

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Here are my presents 🙂 Can you tell the girls know I love purple?! 😉

I  managed to knit up a couple of quick hearts for my daughters in the two nights beforehand. I didn’t have time or the headspace for anything more creative. They are pleased with them, which is all that matters!

My daughters also made cards for all the animals, including our guinea pig Bubble and our hen Delilah who died last year. Delilah’s has been laminated and is by her grave.

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Gosh just noticed how creased the tablecloth looks here – eek! 

The hens also have theirs laminated to hang by their coop!

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They still have their Christmas lights and baubles up too! Bless them they are so cold out in the snow, they have stopped eating and are just huddled up together looking miserable 😦 Any tips are very welcome.

My daughters have been playing lots and there were various scenes set up all over the house and garden! Things were feeling a bit chaotic, so I had a big tidy up today to create some order again. When the girls came home after school, they remarked on how much better it felt – like a clean slate.

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They have also been drawing lots and just being creative, which is always nice to see.

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We saw friends in the afternoons on quite a few occasions over half term, which was lovely, after having been stuck at home and reclusive for a few weeks. The girls enjoyed some dressing up with a friend in a local museum. 🙂

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Last week was a busy one for me, with lots of study and trying to sort our car out (the insurers wanted to write it off because of the cost of repairing it, but I have now found a local garage that will do the repairs mid March, with second hand doors, so hopefully that is now sorted.  It does annoy me how easily they write a perfectly decent car off  though….)

After the girls returned to school on Tuesday, I only had four days in which to study ten subjects in preparation for a mid-term exam – Cytology, the Skeletal System, the Muscular System, the Respiratory System, Cardiology, the Blood, the Digestive System and Digestive Pathologies, the Lymphatic system and Skin and the Endocrine System… you get the picture!!! Quite a bit!! I had hoped to have the weekend for further study, but my husband had not recovered yet, so I only managed a couple of hours each day really. This sort of intense study doesn’t suit me at all. I had another intense study session on Monday and my head was buzzing with all the information I had studied, so I had an early night and felt all I could do was trust and hope….

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The next day, it had snowed overnight and the world looked so peaceful and pretty, Unfortunately that didn’t mean peaceful traffic and there was a fair bit of tension involved in getting to the exam in one piece with the icy roads!! The UK is never prepared for snow!!

I think the exam went o.k, considering the fact I didn’t have enough time to study everything, with illness and half term and family life. I certainly had to reduce my expectations of doing well!!!

Afterwards, I took a walk outside to try to calm my system down and was so happy to hear the crunch of snow underfoot and to feel the crisp fresh air on my face.

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I missed out on sledging, but I enjoyed a walk around the college campus to take in the beauty of it all and breathe in deeply. I experienced a sense of deep peace, which I have not felt for a while. What a gift.

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Wishing you all a peaceful, gentle time, whatever the weather!