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! ***

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Advent in our family…

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Are you finding that time is moving too fast this December? Maybe it always does, but this year there seems to be less time somehow. It’s probably due to the fourth Advent Sunday falling on Christmas Eve and there only being three weeks this Advent in which to do all the crafts, reading and baking that we enjoy.  I don’t feel we have done as much as I would have liked to and it’s almost Christmas!! Can it be!?! As I mentioned in my last post, I base our activities around the four weeks of Advent and having one week missing feels like a loss, strange as it may sound! I will have to make up for this in the Twelve Days of Christmas, methinks…

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We have just entered the third week of Advent:

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

We made some bird food today, combining lard and various seeds and grains and pressing them into festive moulds. We plan to hang them up with red ribbons tomorrow once they have properly set.

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We also strung some popcorn and cranberries onto thread to make the bird feeding station more festive and hopefully the birds might like to have a nibble 🙂

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I have a lovely pattern for making felt reindeer that we would like to try from this inspiring Christmas craft book. I think that’s all we will have time for this week as we all still have some Christmas elving to do too!

Last week, we did a couple of super easy crafts based around plants:

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

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Every Christmas my eldest daughter and I used to make heart shaped ornaments (using cranberries and wire) to hang in the front windows of our previous home, but since moving, we haven’t. As we are properly settled now, we decided that we missed making them, so we made a couple.

 

The girls made some simple pomanders with oranges and cloves, which we have hung up by our back door and make a beautiful addition to our decorations.

 

We also made pretty ornaments for our Christmas tree, using beans, pulses, spices and plenty of glue (!)

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I found the idea in LandLove Magazine and my youngest daughter particularly enjoyed this rather messy, but enjoyable craft. We cut the shapes out of card, punched a hole in the top, so they could be hung up, and glued everything on. My eldest daughter only made one because she really wanted to play by herself, so it was good that my youngest had something to keep her amused for a while and I joined in of course 🙂

 

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My eldest likes to play on her own more now that she is getting older and her sister sometimes feels sad about it….that’s when crafts come in handy! 🙂

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It just happened to be frosty for a couple of nights last week, so we made an ice window. I placed a few flowers and leaves in a bucket of water with some string hanging down into the water and overnight Jack Frost performed his magic 🙂 Sadly they don’t last long here, but we did enjoy the sun shining through it all morning.

We also went on a couple of excursions – Tis the season :-).

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We attended the Glow Wild Festival at Wakehurst Place on Thursday evening. Friends had recommended it to us and we were not disappointed! It was gorgeous! Totally magical, enchanting, wonderful! We arrived at 5pm and you have a half hour slot in which to start the magical journey around the garden.

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Each family receives a lantern at the beginning – the girls chose purple – and you are led around the garden by a myriad of beautiful willow lanterns and sculptures.

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We also walked around a river lit by fiery torches with Indian style music playing in the background. It would have felt like India, but for the cold weather!

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It was an extraordinary sight and must have taken a great deal or time and effort to organise and set up. The photos cannot do it justice, but I wanted to share them anyway.

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The lake was full of glowing water lilies and we cooed at all the animal sculptures.

 

It certainly brought out the child in me – I felt so excited and transported back to childhood wonder. That is something very special 🙂

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Trees and snowflakes were also projected onto the Mansion house -it was so magical!

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And at the end, there was a lovely little spot for sharing hot chocolates, roasted chestnuts and toasting the best marshmallows ever 🙂 A delight for all the senses.

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We loved it so much, we went back with my mother on Saturday to revisit it. I think we shall bring my mother next year as she was visibly impressed and could do with a bit of wonder in her life 🙂

 

On Sunday, we met up with our dear friends at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. We meet up every year on the third weekend of Advent and always enjoy a lovely day out.

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The house was decorated for Christmas and we enjoyed exploring it and imagining how the sociable Mrs Greville would have lived and entertained there.

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The girls especially enjoyed looking at the servants quarters and dressing up 🙂  My youngest particularly loved the housekeeper outfit, complete with key chain! (reminscent of Mrs Medlock’s uniform in The Secret Garden)

 

We were fascinated by the old gadgets including an old Singer sewing machine and the rather antiquated and heavy vacuum cleaner!

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We put up both of our Christmas trees  (we have two artificial trees – one from when the children were little – that is now in our family area at the back with all our home made ornaments on it – and this taller one, which we treated ourselves to last year and is much more realistic. We rarely have a real tree as we often go away before the New Year and it doesn’t seem worth sacrificing a tree for such a short time) and spent some time decorating them and adding the lights (never my favourite part!!!), It feels so festive now with all the twinkling lights filling the house.

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On the Nature Table, things are filling up. Joseph and the donkey have joined Mary. Plants abound and animals are arriving this week and will soon be followed by the shepherds and inn keeper, in time for Christmas Eve.

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My daughters’ Nature Tables in their rooms are also filling up and they delight in the ‘elves’ bringing them a new addition every night.

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On both, Mary looks like she is laying on the donkey – but she is perfectly comfortable I am told! 😉

We are going to have a little pre-Christmas gathering of friends here on Friday afternoon – a mulled apple juice, spicy biscuit kind of thing with womenfolk and their children – craft group members present and past 🙂 Everyone is bringing something, so the catering should be minimal. I feel grateful to have the space to host a gathering of this sort. We shall no doubt make a few biscuits, mince pies and sweet treats 🙂

We are also taking our first trip to the cinema on Friday morning to see White Christmas. My eldest has wanted to go to the cinema for a little while now and I have been finding it difficult to find a film that will suit both my daughters. They watch some DVD’s at home – ones I know will be suitable – but going to see a film in the cinema (where there is no escape from the noise and action) is another thing altogether. My youngest particularly takes things in very deeply and can get nightmares from the wrong sort of film (my eldest was the same, but has outgrown it  somewhat), so I am very wary about taking them to see a film that I don’t know. They know this film well, so I think it will be the best start we can make to our cinema-going. It is a dementia friendly viewing, so we will no doubt be the youngest there, but that suits us fine. We are looking forward to it!

Well that’s my round up of the past week or so. I am still working on the little teddy bears….I decided to remake them from scratch as I wasn’t able to keep a tight enough tension on 2mm needles, but I think I have got the hang of it now (more or less!) I have been enjoying some cosy late-night knitting. watching Christmas DVD’s and they should be ready for the New Year, if not before. Wish me luck!!

Before I go (because I doubt I will make it here before then), I would like to wish you ALL a very Merry Christmas!!! Wishing you a peaceful, joy filled time with a generous sprinkling of magic! 🙂 

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Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

December already!

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It’s Wednesday evening, my daughters have broken up from school and I finally have time to reflect on what we’ve been up to since I last wrote…in November!….Goodness, how can it be that we are already in mid-December! The last week passed in a bit of a blur with a sickness bug affecting all our family in turn. I became sick on Monday (missing my usual spot for writing here) and by the time I was feeling better on Wednesday, my youngest took over and we spent a whole long night in and out of the bathroom 😦 This weekend it was the turn of my eldest. I think we are all on the mend now and are hoping to stay well for the rest of December!!!

Somehow we have still been keeping up with our Advent traditions. This period is so precious to us, we wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂  I wrote at length about these traditions here, but here are a few glimpses:

We have been reading our Christmas books– we found a use for the failed papier mache lantern – it’s now a beautiful bowl to hold our Christmas book ‘lucky dip’ 🙂

All the different ways we mark the passing days of December/Advent.

Mary is travelling on her Star path towards the stable. Due to illness, we have had a few false starts (!) and she has remained on a particular star for a couple of nights…but we help her catch up 🙂 We dim the lights before bedtime, light the candles (according to the weeks of Advent) and sing “Mary’s Starpath” as one of my daughters moves Mary forward to the next star.  It creates such a beautiful reverent mood, I really appreciate it.  As you can see, the path is filling up slowly; with crytals and golden shells (placed in the  first week of Advent) and pinecones, little trees and golden hazelnuts this week. Toadstools are on their way 🙂 These are added by the “elves” overnight, both to our main Nature Table in the lounge and to my daughters’ own Nature Tables in their rooms. The elves have been known to forget (especially when they don’t want to disturb sick children!) but generally they know how important their job is 😉

Steiner attributed each week of Advent to a different Kingdom and I base my Advent activities and additions to the Nature table around this:

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

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

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

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

This Advent, there are only three weeks in total due to the fourth Sunday in Advent falling on Christmas Eve, so we will start the arrival of the animals to the Nature Table a little earlier so there is enough time to add the humans too!

In the week of stones, I don’t usually do too much craft-wise as the children are still at school and there are a lot of things to organise and events to attend at this time. I do always give the girls a rock to crack (with a hammer) on one of the mornings and they each receive a lovely crystal (I cover the crystal in white clay and leave it to harden).

We sometimes make clay or saltdough ornaments, but due to illness, we had to forgo that this year. No matter…

This week I have a couple of crafts in mind based around plants. I will report back in  my next post. I feel this post is going to be long enough!!!

So to rewind, we had our Gnomes Bonfire on the evening of 30th November to bid farewell to autumn and decay and make way for a peaceful light-filled Advent. We let go of all the dry leaves, acorns and conkers we had collected on our autumn walks and warmed ourselves by the fire accompanied by warm drinks and spicy biscuits 🙂  The girls set the gnomes up and took over  most of the procedure this year. These traditions are so deeply ingrained they always know what to do 🙂

I  felt a strong urge to tidy and clean the house thoroughly in preparation for Advent: It helps to set the mood to one of anticipation when the decks are cleared and the energy is lifted. Things can get quite tired looking at the end of a season, I find.  It is always a joy to set the Nature table up for a new season and there is no season I love more than Advent 🙂

The girls wrote their letters to Father Christmas which the ‘elves’ took during the night. The elves also filled our angel Advent Calendar with ornaments to adorn the bare branches over our Nature Table.

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On the 2nd December we had our school Christmas Fayre. We helped set the Fayre up on Friday and my husband did the cooking, as he has done for many years now.

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The school looked really fabulous, all decked out in homemade goodness. I always feel so proud of our school at this time of year, when everyone pulls together to make it happen.

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We baked some cakes for the cafe as every family does. My daughters were keen to be involved.

I love that my youngest felt she needed to wear high heels for this 🙂

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As I mentioned, my eldest daughter had a stall in the Children’s Market.

She sold most of her doll skirts and paper angels and all of her needle felted baubles and window stars and made a grand total of £75! She paid a percentage to the school, paid me back for the materials and gave her sister some money to treat herself with and there was still £55 left for her. She was delighted as you can imagine. The needle felted Christmas pudding my youngest made was one of the first things to sell, so she is considering making more for next year….plans are afoot already 🙂

St Nicholas paid us a visit on 6th December. The girls put their boots out by the back door and were richly rewarded.

“Our” St Nicholas always brings nuts and clementines and a little present. This year he brought a festive glass and a special coin, which the girls were intrigued by.

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We like to read this book about dear St Nicholas and his helper Ruprecht. It is in German – it’s a shame it isn’t translated yet.

The girls have also been making presents for their teachers and “secret santa” presents for a particular classmate. They both decided to needle felt something as they were already in the rhythm.

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When my youngest started to feel better, but was still too weak to go to school, she sat on the sofa and felted this very cute Christmas elf for her classmate!

Her teacher is receiving another Christmas pudding that she made a little while ago.

For her “secret santa” gift, my eldest needle felted a snowman, with a felt top hat.

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She cut a circle of felt out and cut a smaller circle out of the middle. She used the ring of felt for the brim so it fits snuggly over the snowman’s head and used the  small circle for the top of the hat. I helped her cut out a rectangle to create a tube for the middle section. It came out really well I think.

Both of these were made by attaching two polystyrene balls to each other using a cocktail stick – my eldest daughter’s idea. I do feel proud of how they come up with these lovely ideas. They need very little help and what they make is of a really good standard – I am always impressed.

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My eldest needle felted her teacher a bauble for her Christmas tree and also gave her one of the beautiful paper angels, that her teacher admired when she popped in to see the children’s work at the Fayre. She was pleased.

I am glad my eldest managed to make these on Saturday morning before she became ill as there was no time between then and now, with all the end of term festivities, carol service, plays etc. It has been a full time and is good to have a little outbreath now from all the activity and errands and take our (favourite) place at home; doing crafts;  baking and enjoying lots of cosy reading by the fire. My kind of happy 🙂

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I have been writing my Christmas cards when possible.  Somehow I made an error when I took my letter to the photocopy shop to be copied. I asked for 20 copies of the 4 double sided A4 pages I had written, which would have been 80 pages in all. I agreed a price and the chap said it would take a little while, so I went for a walk. When I returned, I noticed a huge pile of coloured paper collecting on the tray next to the photocopier – he had thought I wanted 80 copies!!! Eeek!! I don’t have 80 friends to send this too – it really is only for my friends abroad. Ooops! What a waste of paper. Of course I paid him as I had agreed the price. I think we shall be using the paper to keep warm this winter 😉

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In between illness, the girls have been helping me with packing presents for a couple of friends abroad and for our relatives.They have been busy little elves with the wrapping paper, cellotape and lots of stickers!! 🙂

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Well that’s some of my news from the last couple of weeks. To finish, I just wanted to share these fab handmade socks that my daughter came home with from school today!

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Rainbow socks – a girl after my own heart 🙂

As for my own makings, things aren’t going too well. I am having second thoughts about the teddy bear making for Christmas. I chose some yarn for the dress and shoes, but knitting it up, it just doesn’t suit the teddy’s colouring 😦 Sob! I have ordered some more yarn to see if I can find a more suitable colourway. Fingers crossed! Not long to go…may have to be a New Year’s present….

Hope you have had a peaceful and joyful Advent so far. Enjoy all that the season has to offer. Many blessings. 

Creative time …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They look so pretty, I had to display them 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

           Materials:

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

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

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4. Pin the pieces together along the length.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joining Teresa at the Really Crafty Link Party