21 November 2014


At this time of year I buy myself a new diary.  I am a paper diary girl, I have tried using electronic diaries but they don't work for me. It is not about being able to touch the diary it is about how it is laid out and what you can see at a glance.  At the beginning of this year I researched the dates of many festivals and celebrations writing them into my diary.  I was not organised enough, for much of the year, to observe or celebrate any of them until the Autumn and a new rhythm.  Autumn in many ways was a good time to start this, there are many festivals in the autumn and they are have sent us all on an interesting journey one which I hope we will continue for a good while.

Autumn Equinox - 23 September

We celebrated this at home on our own and with our friends at Forest School the following day.  The children already know a little about the tilting of the world in relation to the sun but we talked about what happens on the Equinox, that the days and nights are the same length in the northern and southern hemispheres.

During our music session we came up with a rhythm to clap and drum.  At this equinox the dragon, an ancient energy symbol representing Earth energy, dynamism, Fire, will and courage was invoked to carry the Fire energy in to the inner realms, to activate the Fire within.  The dragon goes underground for the Winter and our rhythm was a dance to send the dragon to sleep.  We wrote out our achievements for the year and any hopes and dreams for the coming year.  At Forest School we planted tree seeds in pots and shared food together round the fire.

Rosh Hashanah - 25 September

This is the Jewish Festival of New Year.  This was a new festival and new religion for the children.  I found two books in our local library one about Judaism and one that had a page on this festival.  We read the books together.  At lunchtime I made some apples and honey traditionally eaten for a sweet New Year.  We also watched a short video.

Michaelmas - 29 September

This is the feast of St Michael.  We celebrated this with friends for the first time last year.  We reminded ourselves of what this festival is about and why it is celebrated.  Having just celebrate the Equinox we talked about the similarities.  The symbolism of the Dragon in both festivals,  St Michael subduing the dragon.  We read a Michaelmas story, The Most Beautiful Dragon in the Whole World (under the third heading, eight from the bottom) and a poem.  We joined our singing group to continue our celebrations, singing songs, making dragon bread and sharing a meal together.

Dussehra - 3 October

This is a Hindu festival which is celebrated for nine days, culminating with Dussehra on the tenth day.  It focuses on the harvest, the end of the monsoon and the triumph of good over evil.  For us is was an introduction to another religion.  We read about Hinduism and about how this festival is celebrated.  We watched a short video.

Sukkot 8 - 15 October

This is the Jewish Harvest Festival, when the homes ancestors make in the desert during the flight to the promised land are remembered.  Shelters are built, the Sukkot, and decorated and all meals are eaten there for the seven days of the festival.  We read about this festival and watched this video.

Diwali - 23 October

This is a festival celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs, some celebrate it as a five day festival.  It is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the victory of light over darkness.  We lit candles and shared food, we read about the festival and a story that goes with it.  We made Besan Ladoo a sweet treat that is often eaten at Hindu festivals.

Samhein - 31 October

We were away for this festival so we had a small celebration with Forest School when we returned.  We shared food around the fire, burnt our worries, made a mandala with leaves, berries and branches in which we placed our hopes for the new year.  At home we remembered our loved ones and the those that are no longer with us.  The children and I had a long talk about their Grandfather who passed away last year, we talked about our happy memories of spending time with him.

Bonfire Night - 5 November

We always attend a local bonfire and firework display, but my children knew nothing about the history of why we light bonfires and fireworks.  We read several books about Guy Fawkes and the history behind this day.

Guru Nanak - 6 November

This is a Sikh Festival to celebrate the birth of the founder of the Sikh religion.  I introduced the Sikh religion to them, we watched a short video and we talked about our own celebrations at Christmas.

Martinmas - 11 November

This is another festival that we has previously celebrated with friends.  We reminded ourselves of what this festival is about and why it is celebrated.  We learnt some simple lantern songs in the morning as part of our music at home and read a story St Martin's Light.  Later on we joined our singing group to continue our celebrations, singing more songs around a fire, taking our lanterns for a walk and sharing food together.

Kathina - 13 November

This is a buddhist festival.  It marks the end of the rainy season and period of retreat for monks.  The monks are given an offering of material to make into robes.  We talked about the monsoon and the weather in Asia compared to that which we have here at this time of year.  We read about the festival itself and what it means to buddhists.

All of these have been a gentle introduction to many topics, to religion, to festivals, to cultures, to countries.  As we find more about each of these I hope that as the years go by we can develop our own knowledge and build these into our rhythm to find what fits and works for us.  We spend as little as half and hour to most of the day devoted to learning depending on what else we were doing and how interested we all were to learn more.  It is by no means and exhaustive list.  We will be finding out about St Andrew for the end of this month to complete our list of Autumn Festivals.

We have a small collection of books that we use these include:

What I Believe by Alan Brown
A Calendar Of Festivals by Cherry Gilchrist
Children Just Like ME: Celebrations by Anabel Kindersley
Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred
All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling
Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large
Festivals Together by Sue Fitzjohn, Minda Weston and Judy Large

The library is our greatest resource.  We have used many books for each of these festivals.


As Winter approaches we will be considering the following festivals that take place in that season:

Advent - Starts 30 November
St Nicholas Day - 6 December
Hanukkah - Starts 16 December
Winter Solstice - 21 December
Malid al Nabi - 3 January
Twelfth Night - 5 January
Wassailing - 17 January
Candlemas - 2 February
Valentines - 14 February
Imbolc - 16 February
Shrove Tuesday - 17 February
Lent - Starts 18 February
Chinese New Year - 19 February

Rather a lot and we may leave some this season and observe them next time round......

19 November 2014


As the parent of a child who loathes Parties I have come to expect that my eldest would not want me to hire a hall and invite a crowd of children to engage in lots of noisy games.  This year his actual birthday fell on the day we go to Forest School, he wanted to go to that but asked if he could also go birdwatching and meet up with his best friend.  What we ended up with were three days of 'celebrations'.  The birdwatching was fantastic we visited a local RSPB reserve, the birthday boy really wanted to see Bitterns and Bearded Tits but it seems that neither were willing to come out of their hiding places even for a birthday but we did see an Otter swimming and a Kingfisher fishing, not bad really!

Ten seems like a big milestone for me I can remember being ten myself, memories that are strong and vivid.  Double digits.  Is that really significant given that most of us remain in double digits for the rest of our lives?  It feels like I have been a parent for ages, but yet it seems to be yesterday that he was born.

Ten years he has been guiding me, holding my hand on this most difficult of journeys being a parent.  As a first born you are always forging the way, I am a first born too, as is my mother.  I know I get it wrong, often.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience and understanding which you have in bucket loads.  I read what I wrote last year and so much of that is still true but yet changed.

You stand back and wait, never rushing in.  Pausing and thoughtful.  When you are ready you will engage, but in your own way.  Somehow you always make that fit into what is happening even if it is not quite the same as everyone else.  It works they let you in, you have subtly shifted things without anyone really noticing.

You have made bread this year.  First with friends and then just you and me in our kitchen.  I never, never thought I would see that day.  You hate that kind of activity always have.  I thought my heart would burst when I watched you for the first time, slowly (as is your way) engaging with the dough.  Checking it out.  Pressing and touching.

It has been a hard year for you this one.  Your beloved grandfather died not long before your ninth birthday.  You miss him greatly and we talk about him often.  You want to keep his memory alive.  You have been asking many questions about him and his life before you were born.

You have started to write.  Not long stories but writing nonetheless.  I knew you would when you were ready and ready you are now.  We are taking it slow.  I don't want to put you off.  You are compiling a book of memories of your grandfather, word by word, page by page.  I hope that you can make friends of writing and not be put off it like so many boys seem to be.

We have read many books together, I love that you still love me to read to you.  I have introduced you to poetry and you love them, listening for the moment the best way to engage with them in my book.  Your books are still strewn here, there and everywhere a trail of where you have been sat reading.

You are kind, thoughtful and generous

Happy Birthday my love

17 November 2014


...this week of...

...happiness celebrating a tenth birthday, birdwatching with the children, friends over for the afternoon, a weekend away, a beautiful Martinmas celebration

...sadness that my mother in law is possibly going to be alone over Christmas

...creating a hat, a birthday cake, a cardigan, a list of things to make

...reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 267. Hello Kitty is... Little Red Riding Hood, 268. Orange Juice, Peas! by Lari Don, 269. Maisy goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins, 270. Why Chameleon Changes Colour, 271. I'm really ever so not well by Lauren Child, 272. One Ted Falls Out of Bed by Julia Donaldson

...learning about birds, soil types, wolves, Martinmas, Kathina

...thinking about my brother

...wondering if I can make it to my first Orchestra rehearsal this week, life keeps getting in the way.....

...hoping to make it to the yarn shop this week, I failed to get there last week!

...of looking forward to a quieter week

14 November 2014


Some of my earliest childhood memories are wrapped up in kitchens, those of my mother, and grandmothers especially.  The shiny navy blue cupboards of my mothers' seventies styled kitchen,  the belfast sink in one grandmothers kitchen where you could stand and watch the huge array of birds feeding in the tree just outside the window, the light and airy kitchen of my other grandmother it was a big room and always full of people and steam.  One thing I don't remember from any of those kitchens, at the time, is the recipe books.

The recipe book market is huge.  In 2011 it was worth £87m up from £20m in 2006, a huge percentage increase.  It appears to be an industry that has been little effected by the internet and free recipes.  Who doesn't love a good cookery book?  My grandmothers and mother had recipe books but not in the volumes that I have and my mother has now.  They had some for baking and all had a book where they would write their own recipes down, collected from all manner of places.  I have no idea what happened to either of my grandmothers books, they would be wonderful to read through...........I have gone for a more modern method (at the time) of recording recipes I collect I have a card index box not quite so interesting to hold in your hand and read through but it works for me.  How do you store recipes you collect?

I have written here before about meal planning.  I do it in advance partly to prevent the rabbit in the headlights moment when you realise that tea should really be on the table by now and partly because it saves money only buying the ingredients you actually need.  It also means that I can whizz round the shops super quick which has to be a bonus too.  My meal planning involves a piece of paper, a list of vegetables we are going to receive from our local farm share co-op and sometimes a pile of recipe books.  Despite having three shelves of books full to bursting with recipe books (they often fall on the floor) I don't consult them that often.  If, as we told, the recipe book industry is thriving why is it that we as nation have so many people who cannot cook.  Who have no idea what constitutes a healthy meal, who fill their trolleys week after week with ready meals.  Perhaps they have their shelves of recipe books but like me they don't look in them and use them for inspiration.  Now don't get me wrong I don't cook every meal I make by making up the recipe, I do use my books on a daily basis but I have a tendency to cook the same, or at least similar meals each week.  I have been trying hard lately to consult my wonderful collection of books more often.  To introduce at least one new recipe a month sometimes more often especially as my youngest has commented a few times recently, 'not this again!'

Some of my recipe books are like old friends, they are familiar and comforting, you know that you will find what you want on their pages.  I do find myself returning to the same books time and time again, they are the ones with the stained pages and damaged covers.  Those that don't get used often or at all are usually given away especially when I have my eye on a new one there is no room of any more on my shelves.  They are stored on three small shelves in my kitchen.  They are actually in part of the house which was originally the hall.  When we moved into our house someone had kindly knocked down a few internal walls, it makes the house seem bigger and it is much much lighter.  This means that we have no wall at one end of our kitchen it flows into the hall.  To the left of these shelves is where the doorway to the dining room is except we don't have a door there anymore just a big hole. Perhaps one day I will take you on a tour of my kitchen!

So my favourites?  Well the book I use the most is the Leiths Vegetarian Bible which appears to have been renamed as the Vegetable Bible, a close second is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, both these books look a little battered now.  I also have a very well thumbed and totally falling apart copy of The Cranks Recipe Book this was my very first vegetarian cookbook the date inside informs me that I purchased the book on 07.11.91 around the time I started to stop eating meat.  I actually bought a second copy of this book recently (a charity shop find, it is no longer in print) as I am not sure how much longer my original copy will last.  I have never been one to write in my books but I was looking at a copy of this book at a friends house recently and many of the recipes had wonderful comments added to them, friends they had shared food with, additions and changes to make next time they made something.  I rather wished I had done the same..........

Do you write in your recipe books?  What are your favourites books?

12 November 2014


Autumn is nearly over (where I live anyway).  The trees are virtually bare and the temperatures just above freezing most days. Frosts are a regular start to the day.  So I thought I would put together a collage of my favourite pictures from this autumn as we head into the dark and grey of Winter.

10 November 2014


...this week of...

...happiness gifting a birthday present, catching up with friends, tidying the garden, visiting my brother.

...sadness thinking about my brother and the horrendous accident he survived, the obstruction in the road was going to lead to a prosecution by the police they have claimed the lights were stolen the night before so the police have dropped the case.

...creating a music bag, two fabric baskets, a pattern for a wrap, a cardigan now off the needles, a hat,  some bunting, peg people for Martinmas

...reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 261. George and Flora's Secret Garden by Jo Elworthy, 262. Skip through the Seasons by Stella Blackstone, 263. The Gunpowder Plot by Liz Gogerly, 264. Bonfire Night by Clare Chandler, 265. Life Stories:Guy Fawkes by Clare Chandler, 266. April Underhill by Bob Graham 

...learning about Spiders, Yew trees, Samhain, Sikhism, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, Shapes

...thinking about pumpkins and how many people actually cook with the pulp they scoop out or just throw it away, such a waste when so many in the world are starving.

...wondering if I have left it to late to plant the rest of my spring bulbs

...hoping to make it to the yarn shop this week I have lots of purchases I need to make!

...of looking forward to celebrating a tenth birthday in our house

07 November 2014


Autumn is fading.  The temperatures are falling, many trees are now bare.  The dancing of leaves is slowing, they lie still, weighed down by the recent rain, the wind ripples over their surface teasing them.  They are beginning their slow journey returning to the earth.

We remember the hot summer days behind us, filled with warmth and light, our hearth is now this provider its heat and light wrapping us up through the dark cold of winter.

A time of reflection.

Loved ones no longer with us, but always in our thoughts.  Those that have given us a country at peace, reminding us it hasn't always been thus, giving us hope that one day those in conflict will find peace.


A man rides his bike to work, it is dark.  At two metre he sees an illegal obstruction barring the way he goes in and bounces out. Wonderful strangers offer comfort.  The road to recovery will be long.  My family breathes out, we have been spared.

May peace be with you.

Prompted by writealm