12 February 2016

Bringing in the light

We arrived at the woods in the pouring rain.
We paused and it passed, followed by glorious sunshine.
A low glow, bathing everything in a beautiful golden light.
We had the place to ourselves.................................................or did we?

Line dried washing, the first this year*
It has a very special smell and make this mama very happy.

An earth candle for Candlemas and Imbolc,
celebrated with friends on a beautiful sunny day.
Mid winter has passed, spring is on its way.


*It has been sunny, but has not coincided with washing to be dried.

Joining Suzy for a sharing of the simple things that have fed our souls this week.

08 February 2016

Ticking along

I love going away for the weekend, don't you, especially when it involves spending time with family. Weekends are usually the time in my week for me to catch up on all the jobs that I have not been able to do on other day, it is also a time for relaxing, doing as we please and not having to be anywhere by a particular time, I am not clock watching and thinking about what we need to be doing next.  There is lots to do but it is a different kind of busy.

In order to fit in going away I have had to learn to lower my expectations of myself.  I simply cannot fit it the usual things in, they just have to wait until I can, getting frustrated is a waste of my energy.  We were visiting my brother last weekend, we had a wonderful time as we always do.  There were late nights and little sleep so by Sunday we came home for a rest!  I am not the sort of person who can hit the ground running so I took our rhythm to a more gentle level so that we could all catch up with ourselves.

I know that my quiet might be some peoples idea of busy, ironing, tidying, hoovering, making bread and cutting out a pattern are just some of the jobs completed this weekend.  I had a list.  I always have a list, each and every day, there isn't loads on it every day, just enough for that day, stuff I can achieve.  I find that jobs don't get done if I don't write them down.  It is not that I don't want to do them, it is just my head is so busy with life that I simply forget if I don't write it down, even those jobs I do every week!

The weekend started with the arrival of a beautifully wrapped parcel,  I was so lucky to win a giveaway hosted by Anne on her lovely blog.  I never thought I would make the connections I have through blogging and I feel so fortunate to be able to read so many lovely blogs from all the over the world.  I am always grateful for those that visit here and the lovely supportive comments.  A big welcome to all my new readers over the past week, I hope we can get to know each other too!

So now a new week has started, one that is full to the brim with lovely activities so I best go and get on with them....................

I hope you had a lovely weekend too, enjoy the week ahead!

04 February 2016

Fear of the Unknown

What do you know about living in North Korea, Gaza or Syria? Have you ever had to leave your home and flee your country to find safety?  What these have in common is that unless we have personal experience, our knowledge comes from what we read, it is impossible to know what it is really like.  Words can paint us a picture but cannot give us an experience.  Those words can also voice opinions, sometimes strong ones, based on the writer's beliefs and knowledge, we read those words through the eyes of our own beliefs and knowledge.  I write here about my life, painting you a picture of my part of the world and how I live in it.  A window into my world, from my point of view.  Some of it will be very familiar, but not quite the same, some might be interesting but not your experience.

There has been a few stories in the UK news recently which have aroused powerful emotions and opinions from many quarters.  A recent leaked report into the tragic death of a child four years ago.  The child was known to social services and was home educated.  There have been suggestions in some parts of the media that the authorities had no powers to insist on seeing the child because he was educated at home.  Sadly there was no indication as to which part for the authorities were being referred to.  It is rather unfortunate that whenever a tragic story emerges that involves home education a witch hunt ensues.  Of course it is a tragedy that children are abused and neglected at the hands of their parents or guardians sadly this continues to occur whether or not the child is home educated.  The recent high profile cases here in the UK where children were home educated were not 'hidden' children, they were known to social services it is they who are responsible for safeguarding children's welfare.

I have read that homeschooling* is a refuge for parents who want to abuse, neglect and hot house to the point that they cause permanent damage and I agree this does happen.  The cases are few and far between and represent a minute fraction of the community who educate children outside a school setting.  To tar the whole community with that brush is not only insulting to the majority, but also akin to suggesting that everyone who enters a shop is a potential shoplifter.  The alternative is to change the law and force all children to attend school so that they can keep an eye on children, whilst they have a duty of care to all their pupils, they are not society's watchdog, that is the role of social services.

Home education is not subject to any statutory regulation**.  This always surprises anyone who asks me whether or not I have to produce reports or register what we are doing.  Parents or guardians are legally responsible for their children's education wherever they are educated, that is why schools write reports and hold parents evenings.   We educate our children to provide the workforce of the future, currently UK school children follow a national curriculum and are tested many times during the years they attend schools.  The exams taken at 16 and 18 provide potential employers and universities with a level of attainment of that education.  

I first came across a home educating family when Cameron was about eighteen months old.  I had not given his education any thought at this point, but I distinctly remember my initial reaction, why would you want to do that, are schools not good enough for you.  Fours years working as a clerk to the governors at my local school gave me a good picture of that school and the current education system and I knew it was not for my children.  Home educators have a choice whether or not to follow the curriculum or take any exams.  I have heard it suggested that that makes for a loose system, along with the notion that by not taking exams we are not aware of how our children are coping, what they absorbing or the breadths of their interests or abilities.  This sweeping statement, for me, demonstrates a opinion with a total lack of understanding, just like my initial reaction.

I remember when I first started officially home educating.  I had a very young baby, I was tired and slightly bewildered by what I taken on, made all the more challenging by a government commissioned review into home education that was taking place at that time.  The final report suggested a registration system.  The home educating community pulled together and created history when the highest number of petitions was presented simultaneously on a single topic.  There is once again talk of registration and tighter controls, politics reacting to voices in the media, aided by leaked reports.  I am sure that the home educating community will pull together again but we need to ensure that we do so with integrity and an awareness that many don't have an understanding of home education.


*and here I would like to make an important distinction, I have used the word home schooling here as that is what was said, but many many people who educate outside school do not use the word schooling to describe what they do.  Education is more commonly used.

**in the UK

31 January 2016

Displacement Activity

I have knitted and sewn many stitches this month just not on the one project I really should be focussing on.  The picture of the quilt is the same as earlier this month and not a stitch has been sewn in the meantime.  I am lucky that Cameron is patient.  Quilting is a new project for me and I have reached a stage where I need some time and headspace to sit and work out the next bit.  I don't always get much of either of these, so it is up to me to make sure I do so that I can get started, as I know that once that happens, I will be left wondering why I haven't made a start before!

The socks are slowly growing, I had progressed a fair way down the foot before I realised that I had made a mistake many rows back so I ripped all the stitches out, I am almost back to where I was before.  Frustrating but I least I noticed then and not even further on!

My cardigan is off the needles.  It needs blocking and then the ends, there are many, need weaving in.  I have bought buttons, so I am nearly there.  I am terrible for ignoring projects at this point and casting something else on but I have resisting, so far.............

.........difficult when this pile is looking at me longing.  My latest purchases.   I bought this yarn online, something I rarely do.  I visited my local yarn shops and couldn't find the colours I wanted.  I risked it online, you can never quite tell if the colours are right can you, and I do like to give the yarn a squish too.  I lucked out with this yarn, it is exactly what I wanted.  I am so looking forward to casting these on.  Two new projects!

I made a birthday present for my friend, I will enlighten you in another post and four of these for the children to store stuff in.

So February, you are the month I will get going on that quilt, a cardigan will get finished and hopefully shared, and just maybe something new on my needles.  I am a step down the road of making some clothes for myself, buying a pattern, next I need some time in the fabric shop, alone.  Maybe that might happen too?

Joining Jennifer for the Winter Project Linky Party, head on over and see what others are making and creating this Winter.

27 January 2016

Respite from the Grey

A New Year is like the first page in an unread book, one full of promise of a new journey into the unknown.  The last weeks of 2015 were grey, the sky covered in heavy grey cloud day after day, the rain poured, there were odd days of clearer weather but they were so few and far between that they were all too easily forgotten.  I had high hopes for Winter, that it would be cold with wide blue skies but by the middle of January I was beginning give to give up hope.  I don't usually let the weather get the better of me but it was, then it all changed.  It snowed, and with it came sunshine, blue sky and light.  We soaked it all like sponges, revelling in its beauty.  Driving home on the best of the days it was hard to concentrate on the road, the fading evening light on the snow covered hills was magnificent.  It has gone for now but those few days were just what I needed.

Although the weather took a while to give us a fresh start we got straight back into our rhythm, and like a pair of your most comfortable shoes, it was a good place to be.  The children have been asking to incorporate working towards Scout badges into our learning and we spent some time back in November looking at the badge requirements and which ones they wanted to work on.  So our new project this month has been all about the Weather.  There is a practical requirement and by sheer coincidence we were given a lovely weather tree by a friend, I had seen these on other blogs but have not been able to source one anywhere and now I don't need to!  Cameron has made a wind vane and a simple rain gauge and we have been finding out about wind, clouds, temperature and pressure so far.

We have a second new project which I shared the barest of details of and left many of you guessing what on earth we were doing.  Its basis is in nature a subject at the core of all that we do.  Despite our interesting weather, the British have a fascination with it, it is what we talk about incessantly but it does give us much to talk about!  We spend time outside every week.  I am not going to share much more for now as there isn't much to, suffice to say that we have greatly enjoyed the first two weeks!

January is always a month that seems to go really quickly for me as we find our way back into our groove, settle in, I blink and it is February.  I love the hibernation that comes with this time of year and, although it can sometimes be busy, it is filled with those lovely things that restore and revive me ready for the Spring and Summer and the, different, busyness they bring.  I do hope the rest of the year is filled with learning, fun and creativity.  I will be back at the weekend to share what I have been making and creating this month.  I hope January and the start of the year has been good for you too?

23 January 2016

Nourishing Relationships

We don't normally take a month off, but during December that is what we did.  Of course part of that was time spent in hospital and the recuperation that followed and then came Christmas.  That time off meant that we didn't meet up with any of our home ed groups/friends and it was good to get back into that groove at the beginning of the month.  Meeting with other home educators is an important part of our rhythm and I work hard to ensure we have just enough in our week.   Too much can be overwhelming and not enough can lead to us having too much of each other which not always a good thing.

What about socialising, is a question that I am often asked of those who have no experience of home education.   I would liken it, in part, to the socialising that you might do outside of work or school, it takes some organising and it probably won't happen if you don't make some effort, initially at least.  This has been the most difficult part of home educating to get right.  In the early days we didn't know many people, now we have a big wide ranging network and I have to turn down many offers, something I never thought would happen!

Humans are social animals, in the main,  I know that some choose the solitary life and I for one love my time alone, but time with others is important to me too.  I have realised recently that the balance that I have worked hard to achieved for the children has also done the same for me.  Unconsciously I have worked activities into our week which feed and nourish us all in very different ways.   Whilst they are building strong friendships, I am too.

It would be easy for me though, to shield them completely from children who are unpleasant, unkind or are bullies.  I am with them all the time, my children that is not the unpleasant, unkind, bullies.  There has been one or two occasions when Cameron has been really upset by other children, he is the more sensitive of my children and struggled with the other children's behaviour as he couldn't understand it.  Alice experienced a similar situation herself a few months ago, a child whom she was always requesting to meet up with completely ignored her until all the other children, also at the meet up, had left.  She informed me when we got home that she didn't want to meet that child again, she didn't like how she had been treated by her.  She has never mentioned her again.

People talk about children being resilient.  I believe this to be true, but only if we give them the confidence to be themselves and be true to that, as a teenager I spent a lot of time on my own for being like that.  As adults we don't choose to spend time with other adults who we don't have any affinity for, so I don't believe that I, or anyone else, should demand the same of my children.  As I watch my children with other children it makes me incredibly happy, not only because they are building relationships, but also gaining such important skills for life, that are possible to achieve outside a traditional school setting.

19 January 2016

In My Kitchen

I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat.  I have posted the occasional recipe here in the past, so I though it would be fun to do a post of what has been going on in my kitchen each month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome.

It would make sense, in the first post of this series, to show you round my kitchen.  It faces North East, has dark counters and dark walls none of which is conducive to good pictures in the Winter.  You would be forgiven for thinking it is a dark cave but there is a big window and the walls are few as it is open plan into the hall and the dining room.  It will have to wait until a lighter month.

The Festive season in our house means eating special food but not overindulging.  I am not a huge fan of many of the traditional foods eaten at Christmas in the UK.  But the good thing about tradition is that you make your own at any time.  I have never made a Christmas cake, my Mum did every year it often didn't get eaten until well into January, I wanted a cake that we could make,eat and enjoy at Christmas so this year I tried Stollen.  I remember my Dad bringing one back from Germany some time in the 80s when they were unheard of in the UK, I thought it was delicious and light, and much preferred it to the heaviness of the traditional rich fruit cake.  The recipe made enough for two very large loaves, Stollen is more of a bread than a cake, that didn't last long, it was delicious.

I got some lovely presents for Christmas all of them exactly what I would have bought for my self.  We exchange presents with some friends who bought me the perfect recipe book.  My shelves are already growning under the weight of recipe books but there is always room for more.  This book is all about salads, 75 recipes.  I love making and eating salad.  I miss them in the Winter months but no more, this book has salads for whole year.  Hearty salads that would be too heavy for the summer are perfect for the winter.  We have eaten a different recipe each week this month and they have all been wonderful.

At the beginning of the 90s I went travelling around Morocco, during my eight weeks there I was sold for camels (but you already knew that) and found interesting presents to bring home.  Two of which were these:

If you have not seen one before it is a tajine we saw them everywhere we travelled, in restaurants, cafes and outside in the streets.  I used it a lot when I first bought it home, but being on the big side* it is stored at the back of a cupboard where it is easily forgotten about.  I was reminded of it recently on a visit to my brothers' who was the recipient of the second one and who cooked us a wonderful meal in his.  You cook with it on a low gentle heat and the unusual shape creates a complete seal, the gentle cooking means that the ingredients soak up all the flavours you add, creating a delicious meal in one pot.  You pile the food up in layers in a cone, the base should be the ingredients that take the longest to cook with the quickest cooking ones at the top, pour over your flavourings and liquids place the cone on top and cook.  You can use this one on the hob or in the oven on a low heat, I have also used in in an Aga putting it in in the morning before I went to work and coming home to tea ready to be served!  In Morocco we saw these outside houses set on a fire bowl of smouldering embers.  We have been enjoying a recipe from this book which a blogger has helpfully created a PDF version of should you want to make it yourself.    In the manner of all good recipes we have adapted it to suit us!

I am going to leave you this month with a recipe that we are enjoying at the moment.  We eat seasonally so this has two vegetables which are regulars in our veg bag at this time of year.  I made this up so I have never measured quantities, I just go by how many I am feeding.  It is essentially two vegetables in a rich creamy sauce, it freezes well so if you do make too much.........we never have any left over here.

Squash, Leek and Feta
Flour -  any
Double Cream
  • Peel and chop the squash into bite sized pieces.
  • Trim and slice the leeks into slices about 1cm thick.
  • Melt the butter on a low heat into a large pan/pot (it is important your pan/pot has a lid with a good seal) and cook the vegetables until they start to soften, stir occasionally to stop them catching you can put the lid on to do this it works well either way
  • Add flour enough to just coat your vegetables, you can use any flour you want for this it helps to thicken the sauce slightly
  • Add the thyme, stir through
  • Add enough stock to just cover your vegetables, I always use vegetable stock as I am vegetarian I don't know how it would taste with any other type of stock, bring to a simmer, turn the heat down very low, cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are cooked
  • Chop feta into very small chunks
  • Add the cream and the feta stir in and cook gently until the cheese is melted
I serve this with mashed or jacket potato.  It also works well as a pie filling with a pastry top.

In the spirit of all good recipes this also works well with Sweet Potato instead of the Squash and a soft goats cheese instead of the feta.


*This one is 30cm/12" wide and 24cm/9.5" tall.

The top photo is the Galette de Rois I made for Twelfth Night.