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 🙂

Memories of Christmas 2017

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It is the sixth day of Christmas and the New Year is almost upon us so I thought I would pop in to share a few of our Christmas memories from this year.

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We made it to the cinema on the 22nd to see White Christmas and it was a lovely experience for us all. I have never been so immersed in the film (I am usually knitting or multi-tasking in some way!) and I found it very funny and heartwarming. We had a break half way through too so we could stretch our legs and have a drink and munch on the popcorn we had brought with us. T’was fun!

We had friends over later that afternoon so we spent some time baking and making sweet treats on the 21st December, which was enjoyable – both the baking and sampling 🙂

 

The stars and heart biscuits are a German recipe. The Germans I know bake a wide variety of delicious “Plaetzchen” (in their hundreds) during Advent to offer around at their cosy Advent get togethers. I have memories of looking into the biscuit tin with wide eyes, not knowing what to pick first – you are so spoilt for choice! I imagine I took a fair few! 🙂 Many have ground nuts in them, which mine do too, instead of flour which makes them nice and chewy – yum! We also made more carob sweets ( I shared the recipe here) and date truffles (the recipe is here), which were both suitable for our guests who are gluten intolerant/vegan/avoiding sugar.

 

For us, Christmas really starts on Christmas Eve when we attend a Christingle Service at a local church. The service is geared towards children and there is a lovely storyteller who weaves the story of the Nativity beautifully. We never grow tired of it. Each child is allowed to add a figurine to the Nativity scene at the front of the church and they also each received a Christingle. The service always sets a reverent mood which we appreciate.

Of course the children were also eagerly anticipating Father Christmas’s visit. We follow his journey using the Norad Santa Tracker and we always leave him and Rudolph a snack.  Father Christmas has a penchant for Baileys we think 😉 Before bedtime, we spent a little time sitting by the fire singing all the carols we know and other Christmas songs we enjoy before trying to get the girls to bed – hmmn…needless to say they were rather too excited to have an early night!!

We were up bright and early and the girls ran into the lounge with glee to discover that the magic had happened overnight- I just love to see the wonder in their eyes. With my eldest being eleven, I am very conscious that this could well be the last ‘magical’ year for her, but I think she has a strong wish to believe, so you never know….I think I was over twelve….time will tell.

 

The magic also happened on the Nature Table as we welcomed dear baby Jesus to the stable.

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The shepherds (and sheep!) arrived the next day

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and the Kings started their journey to Bethlehem and will arrive at Epiphany.

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We spent a really peaceful Christmas Day in each others company. It was lovely to have a slow day after a busy Advent. We opened presents, had a delicious breakfast made by Daddy and went out to see a brass band perform Christmas songs at a bandstand half an hours drive from where we live. We do this every year for a change of scene and some fresh air and it is a really fun experience as the conductor gets everyone dancing and interracting with the band in various fun ways. We brought along some coffee and Baileys (for the adults) and mulled apple juice for the girls and some home made biscuits of course 🙂

 

Then we came home to eat lunch, followed by several games of charades – we do love a game of charades 🙂 As it grew dark, we went for a walk around our area to look at the Christmas lights, singing a few carols as we walked.

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And later that evening, we cosied up on the sofa to watch a ballet film performance of the The Nutcracker  (from 1993 with Macauley Culkin) on YouTube. We found it a couple of years ago and it is a really lovely film for children to watch at this time of year, especially if they don’t have access to the Ballet locally. My daughters love the costumes and dancing and the choreography and casting is great. Very magical.

As for homemade presents, I actually managed to finish the Teddy Bears on the 23rd December!!! It did surprise me!  It was a close call and I promised myself I wouldn’t be up late on Christmas Eve finishing them off as I was last year, so I was open to finishing them off by the New Year, but somehow it all fell into place. A little Christmas Miracle 😉

My daughters love them so it was worth redoing them from scratch; starting again just over a week before Christmas – eek! Anyway without further ado, Meet Milly and Molly 🙂

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Milly in the green is a little smaller than Molly due to the green yarn knitting up differently, but no matter.

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I added little ribbons to their heads so they appear more feminine. I wasn’t sure about the way they looked initially as I was making them so quickly, but I am happy with them now. The main thing is that the girls are smitten 🙂

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The girls sewed and knitted us some little presents. They didn’t have much time, but we were really pleased with what they made.

 

A double sided gingerbread house for Daddy from our youngest daughter, complete with little gingerbread man and lady and a gingerbread lady for me.

 

Our eldest daughter knitted me a hairband and made Daddy a cute felt snowman.

We also spent Boxing Day by ourselves because the girls wanted to spend the whole day in pyjamas and we realised we were craving this sort of family time. We saw a couple of friends on the 27th and 28th, which was a nice contrast. We also took our friends for a walk in our locality to look at the lights including a model village that some people had set up in their front porch in aid of charity.

 

I must say, those model villages do bring out the childhood wonder in me – I could have gazed at all the detail for hours! 🙂

Well, I had better be going as we might be heading to sunnier climes tomorrow. The trip is in  doubt at the moment, despite being all packed, as my husband might be coming down with something and my mother can’t go as she is ill (we have been on several winter holidays where my husband has been ill for the entire time – poor him 😦 – so we won’t risk it if he isn’t well tomorrow morning….) So I am still unsure where we will see the New Year in. I wrote about how we celebrate New Year’s Eve here incase anyone is looking for some nice ideas of how to make it more meaningful.

Well, I shall leave you now and wish you all a wonderful New Year 2018! May it be a blessed year for you all. 

Linking with Ginx Yarn Monthly Link Party and Crafting on at FrontierDreams.

In Sickness and in Health…

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As I sit here writing, the warm sweet smell of cinammon and apples is wafting across from the kitchen. I am making a fourth batch of apple sauce 🙂

My daughters have just returned to school after a week of sickness (colds/viruses) and the house is quiet once more and I have some much needed head space.

I went for a walk in our local park this morning, where I delighted in all the seasonal changes.

I haven’t been on a solo walk for quite some time. Autumn is definitely in the air now. I picked a few more blackberries (to add to our porridge when the days get cooler) and some rose hips (to dry for tea making). Foraging wild food on my walks is always an added bonus. 🙂

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Before my daughters became sick, I had a couple of days to myself in which to sort the house out and I started to do some home sewing. I have all kinds of plans for making things for our home. September is like that for me: I feel the need to nest a bit and make things cosy and colourful for the colder months ahead when we shall be spending much more time indoors. I suffer from SAD  as I explained in a previous post and this time of year is very challenging for me emotionally, so I like to surround myself in uplifting colours and sights.

To that end, I have started to make some log cabin style cushion covers for our dining chairs. Our dining chair cushions have been ragged for quite some time but as they are tucked under the table I keep forgetting about them (out of sight, out of mind and all that)…Anyway I am pleased to finally have some time in which to update them.

I have a big box of colourful fabrics that I have saved for patchwork purposes (leftover from old projects) and am pleased to finally use some of them. I have chosen to do two distinct blocks of colour: one block in pinks, reds and purples and the other in greens and blues, which are all colours that are in our dining room/family room (we like things colourful here!)

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I managed to make four cushion fronts before my daughters became ill and later, when they were feeling up to it, I sat down with them individually so they could choose the fabrics for their own cushions.

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So I have made six fronts and now need to buy some batting to back them with before I can continue. That will involve a trip to town later this week I imagine. I have plenty of left over fabric for the back of the cushions, so I am mainly recycling fabrics we already have, which is always a good feeling! 🙂

I took some photos whilst making them and may write up a tutorial if I get a chance. They are easy to make once you get going and I love the cheery look of them :-). Let’s see… I still need to catch up on my Road Trip posts!!!….

Eventually I would like to make some more for our sofa and for the girls’ “little house”, but first I need to make two pairs of curtains for our long back doors. I have had the material a while but the project had to go on the back burner. Now that the nights are drawing in, I really feel the need for some curtains so we can retreat from the darkness. The fabric is a pretty floral fabric that I found in a local store at a reduced price. More on that next time hopefully.

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I have started work on a short sleeved pullover for my eldest (for her October Birthday). My daughter chose purple yarn for it – it will be the fourth item I have knitted in a purple shade this year! 🙂 I am at the point where it’s just knitting all the way down. I shouldn’t think it will take too long. I would like to make her a patchwork skirt too with some of the fabrics we have. Let’s see.

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My daughters spent most of last week resting (and coughing and sneezing..) In a way it was nice that they were ill at the same time as they were good company for each other, cuddling on the sofa, doing a bit of beading, watching cosy films and when they were feeling a bit better – on and off – playing together. They continued work on the bead curtains they are making for their “little house” in the garden. We now have seven beaded strings and probably another two will suffice. It’s been a great way to use up all those random beads we have accrued over the years.

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Later in the week when they were feeling a little better, my eldest did a bit of reading aloud of this book that she is enjoying. Her reading has really come along which is encouraging.

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and we looked at Alphabet Cards with my youngest which we all enjoyed.

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She is just at the stage of learning three letter words, like cat, hop, mug etc. My eldest enjoyed teaching her and it kept them happily entertained for a little while.

We love these cards – they are so beautifully vibrant. As there are not many letters included in the pack, I photocopied the front of the cards (several at a time), stuck coloured card to the back and cut them out to add to our selection.They are more muted in colour, but it is good to have a lot more letters to make words from.

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We also have the Grimms Number Cards. I think I may need to do some more photocopying of those too at some point.

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We got ourselves a puzzle of the U.S.A. and have been enjoying finding where all the individual States are and looking at the States we travelled to.

I imagine we will know the position of all the States by heart at some point!!! 🙂

Another thing we do when the girls aren’t feeling good is drawing silly pictures for us to laugh about. We make up animal pictures, using bits of all kinds of animals

This pig has a cow body, horses tail, ducks bill, leopard’s neck, meerkat’s ears, the front legs of a chicken and the back legs of a guinea pig! 🙂

As for all those apples I mentioned in my last post, I have been making a few things with them including apple cake, which I made as a treat for my daughters to enjoy with some mulled apple juice, hoping to raise their spirits.

They also love fruit leathers so I made some with our dehydrator. They are really easy to make, either in a dehydrator or at a very low oven temperature:

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  • Puree your fruit – I used apple sauce and very soft pear for one of them (with a squeeze of lemon to preserve the lighter colour) and applesauce and cinnamon with a couple of blueberries for the other.

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  • Pour the pureed liquid onto special non stick drying sheets (or if dehydrating in  the oven or on a hot summer’s day, pour the puree onto a flat non-stick baking tray used solely for this purpose or a flat baking tray covered with cling film)

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  • Dehydrate at 57 F for approximately 4-5 hours. Check after four hours.
  • When it is dry to touch all over, pull gently at the sides  and slowly roll it off the tray as shown below:

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  • Cut the fruit leather into strips and roll up into individual portions

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Enjoy – yummy! 

NB: Make sure the outside edges are thicker than the inside as the outside dries quicker.

Last but not least I made spiced apple chutney, which is a favourite of ours. I am planning to go round with a jar to our neighbour who kindly gifts her windfall apples.

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Because I love to share all that is good 🙂 the recipe is as follows:

  • 1 kg cooking apples
  • 3 red chillies
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 heaped tbl chopped fresh ginger
  • 500g demerera sugar
  • 700ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • grinding of black pepper
  1. Peel and chop the apples and finely chop the onions.
  2. Remove the seeds from the chillies and chop finely.
  3. Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil.
  4. Cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  5. Spoon into cleaned sterilised jars and place a sterilised lid on top. I sterilise my jars by washing them in warm soapy water and then placing them on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 160C for 15 mins. I wash the lids and cover them with boiling water before they are used. 
  6. Place a small greaseproof paper circle on top of the well filled jar and turn upside down. Allow to cool. Label.

          Makes 6-8 small jars 

Well, that’s a round up of what we’ve been up last week. The girls are back to good health now, so hopefully I will get around to more of that home sewing 🙂

Sharing with the crafty folks at the Frontier Dreams Crafting On

 

Elderflower season

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The elderflower season is upon us! To me, the arrival of the elderflower heralds the beginning of the summer months; bringing with it memories of warm, relaxing days, drinking elderflower spritzers, eating sun ripened strawberries and watching tennis at Wimbledon…

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I just love the frothy whiteness of the blossom at this time of the year – it really is a joy to behold.  I have been picking several umbels each time I go for a walk and have been busy making elderflower cordial, cold water infusions and drying the flowers for tea. What a foraging treat!

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Elderflowers have some wonderful properties: they are both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so can help alleviate the symptoms of colds, flus and other viruses. They can also help with the symptomatic relief of allergies and boost the immune system. I always use the berries in the autumn to make tinctures and syrups for winter illnesses. Last year the berries were quite scarce, so I had to used dried berries. I am hoping that the abundance of flowers this season will lead to a bumper berry harvest in the autumn. Fingers crossed!  In the meantime I will enjoy the gift of the fragrant elderflower.

Ideally elderflowers should be picked in the morning on a bright sunny day. The flowers should be nice and white and open with no browning and should be picked from an area away from traffic as they, like all natural things, absorb pollution. Only take a few flowers from each tree so there are still plenty of berries for autumn foraging and to feed the birds in the autumn and winter.

I tend to suffer from hayfever around this time of year, so I thought I would dry some elderflowers to drink in tea when I experience hayfever symptoms as I heard it can help.  I laid them on a baking tray in an airing cupboard (so in a dry place out of direct sunlight) but you can also lay them on cardboard or anything like that. They should dry within a week. I removed the stalks and  am storing them in an airtight container for future use.

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I have also made a couple of bottles worth of elderflower syrup for us to enjoy. I tried making a sugar-free elderflower cordial last year, using dates, in two different ways, but we didn’t really like the results very much. One was very fermented and no doubt healthy, but it didn’t get drunk so no one gleaned the health benefits!! So this year I decided we would use sugar.

The cordial I made is a modification of two different recipes. One had far too much sugar in it for my liking and the other assumed you boil the water and sugar first and pour it over the elderflowers, which I hadn’t done.  It has worked out well I think. There is still plenty of sugar in it so it should keep well, but it’s probably not very immune boosting! 🙂

The main thing is that we are enjoying it – and drinking in all that lovely sunshine!

Anyway, this is how I made it:

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  • Cover the elderflowers and lemons with water and soak for 24 hours (or a little longer if you forget about it!)
  • Sieve the water solution into a measuring jug, discarding the flowers and stems. Pour it into a big pan, keeping track of the quantity of liquid you are using.
  • Add 250g sugar per litre of water – I added 500g to my 2 litres of water
  • Bring the sugar solution to the boil and simmer on a low heat for twenty minutes.
  • Pour into clean, sterilised glass bottles using a funnel.

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Enjoy!

Not long after making this cordial,  I went to a party and drank an elderflower infusion, which is essentially elderflowers covered in water and left to infuse overnight. The flowers and stems are removed in the morning. What remains is water infused with the delicate sweet flavour of elderflowers. It is a light, fragrant drink and sugar free!

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Being sugar free, it doesn’t keep long like the elderflower cordial, but I have been making infusions every couple of days as I really enjoy them and am sure they make an immune boosting treat! 🙂

Oh I do love foraging – nature provides us with everything we need;  if only we knew how to recognise and use the herbs and plants that grow so generously by the wayside like our ancestors would have done. I intend to find out more 🙂

On another note, whilst I am writing about summer beverages….

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We  have been enjoying fresh mint tea from the copious supply of mint in our garden and on hot days, we have been drinking iced water with cooling mint and lemon slices. So refreshing! Our mint attracts a particular moth that tends to lay its eggs on the mint. Last year the mint was doing so well but by July and August, it had been bitten to shreds and looked a sorry sight 😦 I fear the same is going to happen this year as there are dozens of mint moths on it at all times.

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I have collected some sprigs to dry indoors, to store for mint tea and flavourings

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but for now we are making sure we enjoy it in all kinds of salads and drinks before it is no more. I am not sure how to prevent the moths from laying eggs. If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear from you!

I hope you too are enjoying all the delights of the season. 

 

Easter crafting

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I suspect this is going to be rather a long post but it is my first Easter post here and I always tend to have a lot of things that I like to share, so please bear with me 🙂

We had a rather busy week; resettling at home after our holiday and seeing friends, but I also made sure we had some nice leisurely mornings at home doing some Easter-themed making.

Wednesday was baking morning and we made these Easter inspired bread rolls.

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On Thursday, the theme of the day was ‘eggs’. We blew lots of eggs and got very light headed (!) especially as my youngest wanted to blow five eggs, just for her!

We tried dyeing them with natural dyes, but it wasn’t a great success story – rather disappointing in fact 😦  so we decided to paint them instead.

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I particularly love this egg my eldest decorated.

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She was using an egg that my German great aunt Heidi (her namesake) painted for us (below) as an inspiration and it worked out beautifully I think.

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In the afternoon, the girls sat down for some needle felting in the garden. We needle felted a few Easter eggs (needle felting onto polystyrene egg shapes) to hang from our Easter tree branches,

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and both girls worked on their secret Easter projects for each other – they sat back to back so they couldn’t peak at each other’s top secret work!

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On Friday, we had a friend over to play in the morning and in the afternoon their gift making continued whilst watching a new film (to us)  Easter Parade with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland (and the gorgeous Peter Lawford – a childhood crush of mine!!) We love musicals and when we watch a film, which isn’t too often, it is usually the old fashioned variety. The girls loved it and have been singing the tunes ever since 🙂 I grew up watching musicals with my father, so it is nice to share them with my daughters.

On Saturday morning we made some date truffle ‘eggs’, dipped in carob powder and coconut shavings.

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Usually we shape them into a round, but this time we tried to mold them into little egg shapes instead. When I find a sweet recipe that I think will work, I always change it to suit us and add in as many goodies as possible to up the nutritional content. Here is our version:

  • 200g medjool dates
  • 200ml filtered water
  • 200g mixed nuts and seeds – I used pumpkin, sunflower, chia and hemp seeds and various nuts
  • desiccated coconut
  • carob or cacao/cocoa powder

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Place the dates with the water in a small pan over a low heat.

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Use a fork to gently  mash the dates up as they soften.

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When they are soft and ‘smooshed’, use a hand blender to make a puree.

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Mill or chop the nuts and seeds finely (I used a spice grinder). If you like more crunch, only grind a little. I don’t grind the chia and hemp seeds as they are so small and add some texture.

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Once cooled, add the puree to the nuts and mix well. You can add some dessicated coconut or carob/cocoa/cacao powder at this point if you like.

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Take little portions of the mixture and roll into a ball – it is a bit sticky. That’s fine.

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Roll the ball in some dessicated coconut and shape as desired

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Or roll it in cocoa/carob/cacao powder and do the same.

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A lovely refined sugar-free trip for all the family to enjoy – Yum!

In the afternoon we went to a National Trust Place with friends and enjoyed a challenging trail there. It was a beautiful sunny day and so good to get out and about with friends. It is always a blessing when our friends’ children get on with ours – it doesn’t always work out that way. When it does, we all have a lovely time. Hurrah!

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And now finally onto our Easter Sunday family traditions. We are not a particularly religious family. We believe in a Mother/Father God and often converse with our Guardian Angels, but we don’t attend church regularly and rather find our spiritual connection in nature and in creation. Easter for us is a celebration of spring and new life. We have a book about Jesus and the resurrection, but my eldest finds it too distressing, so we choose to focus on nature instead: on the return of the flowers and new buds, on the planting of seeds that will produce food to sustain us; on the birth of new life all around us: the birds, lambs, young fox cubs and so forth. There is strong message of hope and renewal in nature at this time. The World is Good.  We are never closer to God than when we are creating, whether it be a new baby, a piece of music, something beautiful to enhance our homes or a healthy meal to nourish our families. Just showing up here, I feel closer to the creator who I believe wants us to share and spread the goodness. Of course these are just my thoughts and we all have our own way of looking at things that works for and nourishes us, but this is the spirit in which we celebrate Easter; spending time in nature, creating and sharing our gifts with each other.

In preparation for Easter and so the ‘Easter Hare’ knows where to find us, we decorate the garden with plastic Easter eggs that we bought in Germany.

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On our Easter table, I like to keep things simple as much as possible with a white table cloth, a light yellow cloth placed on top and a yellow candle. A kind friend gave us these stackable eggs/chicks last year, which I suspect will be a permanent feature here at Easter.

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I made us a fresh set of napkins as I felt we needed them and I love light yellow floral fabric at this time of year.

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In our family area, I always try to create a special festive atmosphere, so our mobile over the table has Easter eggs hanging from it and some wool in Easter colours looped around the wicker hoop.

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I hung a homemade paper garland on one of our large back doors,

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and an artificial forsythia garland (which we have had for years and love), complete with clip on butterflies, on the other back door.

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On the Nature table the animals were joined by their young on Easter morning

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and a felt caterpillar on a felted leaf (that I made at our school Parent and Child group many years ago) metamorphoses overnight into a butterfly that hangs from our Easter tree – a lovely symbolic gesture for a very young child, that my children still appreciate today.

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The branches are hung with small wooden Easter eggs, many of which come from my own childhood and Easters spent with my lovely German grandparents.

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I hide several small felted eggs around the nature table to be found and put into the little baskets that Mother Earth and her children are looking after.

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And here is the Easter Hare!

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I bought him at a flea market in Germany as the Easter Hare is a tradition there. Here people talk more of Easter bunnies, I find.

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We also have an ‘Easter tree’ as I mentioned, which is basically a vase full of branches that we foraged from our local park, hung with decorated Easter eggs and some little clip on birds. If Easter is earlier, traditionally the branches would be forsythia twigs, but I had to make do with an artificial forsythia branch amongst the bare branches. It still looks pretty i think. This is a German tradition I believe, at least that is where it comes from in my family. It is such a joyful sight. 🙂

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On Easter morning, we enjoyed a visit from the Easter Hare. ‘He’ was out early in the morning hiding eggs all over our garden, followed not too much later by our daughters searching for them! It’s really is just as well there isn’t much time lapse between the two as seagulls are notorious for stealing Easter eggs from gardens here (!) so the ‘Easter Hare’ musn’t come too early, but equally not too late to be discovered! It is a fine line ‘he’ treads 🙂

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My daughters still use the Easter baskets they lovingly made in Kindergarten.

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They wrote the Easter hare a card each and left some hay and a carrot out for him with a basket full of plastic eggs that ‘he’ tends to fill with nuts and raisins.

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He also hides chocolate eggs, which Daddy and I have been sampling (!) whilst the girls enjoy the little carob Easter eggs they found in their Easter boxes.

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I fill these little boxes with a few small gifts placed on some coloured wool. Our daughters are always delighted to see what surprises are in there.

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They typically contain some carob eggs, a carob lolly, a couple of tiny toys and/or some kind of craft material or jewellery and something small made by me – the girls are generally easily pleased, thank goodness!

As for homemade presents, at school, my youngest made this Easter basket

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and my eldest made this fired clay hen bowl and spoon set.

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My eldest made her sister this needle felted hen and chick duo,

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and my youngest sewed this little felt hare for her sister

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I made us all some little egg hats for our Easter breakfast. Here are the two I made for my daughters.

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I tried to find a simple pattern to fit the medium-sized eggs that our hens lay, but after trying a couple in vain, I made up my own version which fits well. My daughters were delighted. They are very much into pom pom/bobble hats right now, so I thought they would go down well 🙂

In the spirit of sharing, the instructions for our little stripey egg cosies are as follows:

Using aran yarn and 4.5mm needles, 

  • CO 21 stitches
  • Knit 4 rows

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  • Knit one row, Purl one row (twice) – 2 rows per colour

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  • New colour : K1 K2tog, K4, K2tog (three times)  17sts 
  • Purl row
  • New colour: K1 K2tog, K3 (twice), K2tog, K4  14sts
  • Purl row

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  • Cut the working thread to 15/20cm and using a tapestry needle, take the thread through the working stitches.

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  • Pull the stitches together and secure by sewing both sides together

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  • Continue to sew the two sides together all the way down the hat, making sure the colours are matching on the way down.

To make a tiny pompom, wind some yarn around your finger

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  • Remove it from your finger and place a length of yarn under it. Tie it round the small ball of yarn and secure
  • Take some sharp scissors and cut the closed ends open.

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  • Leave one long thread and use it to secure the pom pom to the hat

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I made this one for my good friend Debbie – fifteen minutes well spent! 🙂

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As a Easter present for us, our daughters did a short play, which we really enjoyed.

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They were the Easter Hare and his able assistant, complete with bunny ears and pom pom tails. I really enjoy their ideas and there was singing (of course!)

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Apart from the Easter egg hunt in the morning and the play later on, we just had a quiet day at home enjoying each others company.

On Monday we greeted a new visitor, Dotty! She is a working springer Spaniel, who has come to stay with us for a week whilst her owners are on holiday.

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She is a darling. So so lively, but also so affectionate and fun. It is hard to be melancholic with a dog around, so I think she is good for the children! We think of getting a dog, but are undecided, so it is helpful to see the implications of having a dog without leaping in blind. Our chickens weren’t too impressed with a dog running around the place for starters!! I have never heard such a commotion from them before!!

Well, it is time to close this post now. I do hope you have had a peaceful Easter and are enjoying all the goodness and wonder of springtime, with plenty of spring crafting thrown in 🙂

Joining Nicole for Crafting On

 

In the second week of Advent

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

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

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

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Mary has moved several steps forward along her star path.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The recipe is as follows:

120g flour

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

30g unsalted butter

60g coconut sugar

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

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

Yum! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For the eldest fourteen year old girl

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

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

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

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

Peace and Joy to you all. *

 

 

 

 

Making this week…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Press them between two clean tea towels with the heel of your hands to extract some juice, but not too hard to break the middle. I did this with paper towels (my tea towels aren’t clean enough right now!)dsc06078
  • Arrange the orange slices on a metal rack ( such as a cooling rack), so that the air can circulate around them when they are drying in the oven. I used to use a baking tray, but I found they stuck a bit. If you do, turn them regularly.

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

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

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

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        Ingredients:

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

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

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

*  Turn off the heat and spoon into the moulds.

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

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This makes 25-30 carob sweets

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

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

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

Joining Nicole at Frontier Dreams

 

 

What to do with all those eggs…

Monday is baking day in our weekly summertime rhythm. Our chickens Lily, Ruby and Delilah generously present us with two to three eggs every day.

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Sometimes we find it rather a lot to keep up with – my daughters aren’t so keen on eggs now they know where they come from!! 😦 so we often gift eggs to friends, teachers and neighbours and of course we enjoy them ourselves. It is nice to share the bounty.

Today the eggs were overflowing out of our bowl ( we need a basket methinks…)  so we thought it was a good time to do an egg-themed bake. We chose to make these coconut macaroons as you need six egg whites for them! We also made jam tarts from this book with some of the egg yellow and I used the rest to make tofu fingers.

The girls pretty much made them themselves with some direction from me. My eldest daughter took charge of the macaroons. It was a bit of a messy business, but they did really well and the macaroons are really soft and chewy and very moreish!

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My youngest was in charge of rubbing the butter and flour for the jam tart bases ( her older sister is highly sensitive and the feel of flour on her hands is deeply unpleasant for her ). C really loves getting her hands dirty so she had a great time!

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H helped her sister with the jam and cutting out the tart bases. Didn’t they do well!

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Both recipes are sugar free, using honey instead. Needless to say my daughters were delighted with these two sweet treats today!

A big thank you to our lovely ladies ( seen here scratching about in the gravel outside their coup, looking for tasty morsels no doubt!) We love their quirky selves 🙂

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Going to camp

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My eldest daughter  just left for her camp out with Class 3 of our local Steiner ( Waldorf) school. She will be away for three whole nights. Last summer she was just away for one night and daddy went with the class, but this time she is going without us. She is nine.

One of the subjects in the third year of the Waldorf curriculum is farming: the children have been spending a morning every week working at a local community allotment; gardening and caring for the chickens and their teacher has been reading the Little house books to them when they have their snack every day. Children of this age group question everything; how things work; why things are as they are and the curriculum meets them at every stage in their development.

The children have just completed their main lesson block about farming and as a culmination of this they are going to stay at a biodynamic farm in the South East. It is going to be a big adventure for them:  they will be getting up early to milk the cows and will be responsible for feeding the chickens, helping prepare their own meals, digging a compost toilet (!) and they shall  be attending talks, asking questions, going for nature walks and of course playing lots of cooperative games with campfire songs and stories in the evening. Sounds lovely – I want to go!

It has been a bit fraught here these last few days as her little sister  has been very anxious about her big sister going away and H herself, although very excited about this big adventure, was also showing signs of nerves and having nightmares again, so there has been a fair bit of family discord. Sometimes the build up to things is more difficult than the actual event itself I find.

I am hoping we can keep C entertained these next few days as she will be missing her sister terribly. They are so close. I of course am going to miss her too. I got quite emotional yesterday evening at the thought that we wouldn’t see her for three days and that this is just the beginning of many many little steps away from home, getting bigger as they get older. But at these times I remind myself of the wise words of Khalil Ibrahim in The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

For it is our job to prepare our children for the future, to encourage them to take risks, to seek their purpose.

On the crafting front, I thought it would be nice for H to have a few homemade things to take with her to remind her that we are thinking of her and she is always in our heart. She needed a camp pillow, so I made her one like the one here.

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I am about to start making one for C as she was feeling very left out anyway.

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I also knitted up a quick cowl for the cold nights round the campfire ( we are in England after all!) as both girls have had their eye on my Drop stitch cowl. I cast on less stitches to make it a better fit.

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As you can see they are happy with them. C likes to wear hers pulled down as that is the look she was used to with my one! It is such a lovely quick knit. I did two in two short evening sessions watching Call the Midwife. Joy!

And then I baked a cake last night for the children to share at camp. All parents have baked something, so there should be plenty of cake to go around. I used our own beetroot in this beetroot seed cake recipe here

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I had to omit egg due to egg allergies in the class and used ground linseed instead:  Two tablespoon of linseeds and six tablespoons of warm water replaces two eggs. Leave to stand for a few minutes before using. I found this in here. It works well. I also replaced the sugar with honey to make it less sweet. It has worked out pretty well, if a little crumbly, but still very tasty.  The original version is delicious! I often make it for cake sales at school.

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So now for three whole days with just one daughter. We are planning a fish and chip supper down on the beach one evening as C loves that and we haven’t done it yet this year…now to think of some more plans to make C feel she isn’t missing out terribly and that having us all to herself is actually a treat!

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Joining Frontier Dreams and all the other crafty folk at  KKCO.

Simple sugar-free cookies

I try to keep the amount of sugar in our diets to a minimum ( it suppresses the immune system and rots teeth ). We avoid refined sugar as much as possible, apart from the occasional ice cream or slice of cake when we are out.

We do enjoy an occasional sweet treat though, so I use honey mainly as a substitute and occasionally maple syrup, xylitol or coconut sugar.

Our most easy recipe for a quick batch of cookies, that the children can make by themselves with a bit of guidance is this:

Oaty cookies – makes 12-16 

  • 1 cup of flour ( we use kamut or gluten free as one daughter cannot tolerate wheat)
  • 1 cup of oats ( or buckwheat, barley etc)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup oil ( we use coconut oil mainly or olive oil occasionally)

Then it’s up to you what you would like to add. We usually add a good handful of seeds, a tablespoon of milled linseed, a teaspoon of chia seeds, some goji berries, chopped dates, apricots, cranberries or raisins and a tablespoon of coconut shavings. We love them with chopped mixed nuts but these aren’t allowed at school so we usually stick to seeds instead. Occasionally, I add some grated apple or chopped banana to the mix or cacao nibs. Cinnamon is also a nice addition.

  • Mix the flour with the oats
  • Add all the nuts, seeds and fruit
  • Melt the oil over a bain marie if using coconut oil.
  • Add the oil and honey to the mix and stir well, smooshing the bananas if using.
  • If the mixture is too dry, add little splashes of cold water until you can bind the ingredients.
  • Form into balls and press onto a cookie sheet.
  • Bake in a pre- heated oven at 180 C for 10-15 mins until light golden brown.

They really can be made with whatever you have to hand. Today I made the cookies using buckwheat flakes, kamut flour, coconut oil and honey with dates, banana, coconut, all kinds of seeds and cinnamon (with a few cacao nibs thrown in at the end to make a few for the grown ups).

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There is probably a teaspoon of honey per biscuit, so they are not very sweet but as my children are not used to shop- bought biscuits or sweets, they are very pleased when i make them. My husband is too!

They are delicious and nutritious every time and low in fat and sugar, so a winner we think.

Yum!