02 March 2015

Slow Living

It is always lovely to look back and reflect on what you have done over the previous weeks or months, taking stock, observing changes and celebrating achievements.  Even better if you can join together and see hat others have been doing too in their part of the world, blogging is a wonderful way of making the world a smaller place.  Christine over a Slow Living Essentials started this wonderful reflection and has now passed the baton onto Linda at Greenhaven for the monthly link up here are mine for February...

...nourish I have porridge for breakfast every morning in the winter, complete with some mashed banana and a teaspoon of slippery elm.  I have been meaning to soak the oats for some time now as I was sure that I had read somewhere that the oats were more digestible if you did.  I was intermittently remembering to soak them until I read an interesting blog post about soaking your oats and I knew that I had to try and remember.  I have taken to setting an alarm on my mobile phone to remind me to do this, until it becomes part of my evening routine.  The porridge tastes so much better for it, I soak mine in water and a dash of cider vinegar, but I am yet to be convinced that it makes me feel any better but maybe the benefits take a while to be felt?

...prepare I have a second alarm on my mobile phone to remind me to do something each evening and that is to feed my sourdough starter.  A few years ago when Alice was small I had a sourdough starter which I managed to keep going for a number of years.  Sadly, for reasons that I can no longer remember, that starter died and I had to throw it away.  I have been meaning to start one again for some time now but to get one going you have to feed it every day for a number of days, we were away quite a bit in January so it became a February job.  It is is looking and smelling good and I hope that in March it will be ready to make and bake bread with it.

...reduce my small pile of clothes that I mentioned last month got a little smaller this month.  I made a pair of trousers for Alice from an old pair of mine.  You can read how I did it here.

...green I have posted before in these refections about my uses of bicarb, I make deodorant, washing powder, dishwasher powder, carpet deodoriser, and wash surfaces with it.  I also use it to wash my hair in place of shampoo.  I started by using a recipe that I found on the web, a few months later I tweaked it slightly, then when I started swimming regularly it all went to pot and I had to add a Vitamin C rinse at the start.  There are many websites that give you advice which is based on the individuals findings but I have found that these don't really work for me.  There are so many factors to think about that it is likely that every person who washed their hair in this way would use a slightly different method.  So if you have ever tried it or are considering doing so then the only advice I would give is to persevere and keep trying different quantities of bicarb and water (and cider vinegar and water to condition if you are doing that too) until you find the one that works for you.  If you live in a hard water area then the bicarb will not dissolve as well in the water so it will not work that well. If your hair is getting very dry, reduce the amount of bicarb, if your hair is getting very greasy then reduce the amount of vinegar.  It is important to remember that what you eat effects your hair too!  I wash my hair once a week using this method, I have long hair ( a couple of inches below my shoulders) and I can wear it down all week.

...grow we have a few edible plants growing in the garden at the moment.  The snowdrops have been delighting us with their presence for a few weeks but no other bulbs have made an appearance, yet.  My rhubarb that I split late last year seems to have survived the hacking and all three plants have started to sprout.  I have cleared the polytunnel of all the plants that have died over the winter and it is now ready for Spring sowing, there are a few salad leaves that have survived the winter which we are enjoying with our meals.  I have bought all my seeds for the year now and am ready to go when the weather warms up.  Inside my sprouter is providing us all with some crunch to go with our winter salads.

...create I always do more of this in the Winter when there is nothing to do in my garden, so I have been trying to think about some of the Spring projects to make for all the birthdays coming up at a time when the garden is also pulling on my time.  I have made the pair of trousers mentioned under 'green', I made a skirt for Alice, some more coasters like those that I share last month and a shawl that I cast on last month is now ready for blocking before being sent off as a gift.  I also ripped all the stitches out of a cardigan I had been knitting for myself and cast on a different pattern with the same yarn.  I knew that I if I carried on I would be knitting something that would not be worn so despite it seeming like a lot of effort for little gain I knew it was the right thing to do.

...discover I have been planning a topic based on the solar eclipse that we will have in our part of the world in March.  As well as thinking about learning for the children I have also been finding interesting books to read for myself.  I have started a trilogy of books which are fiction based on historical facts. I have really enjoyed reading the first one this month and look forward to reading the other two books in March.

...enhance several people have mentioned in the last month or so that it would be lovely to have a home ed camp this year at some point.  We have been talking about doing this for a few years now, so I decided it was time I did something about it.  I have been making enquiries of various campsites to see whether they will accommodate such a group and hope to advertise it to my fellow home edders soon.

...enjoy we have been to a new home ed group this month, it has been running for a while but we haven't been as I wrongly thought it was going to be a really long drive.  We have made several new friends and hope to make this a regular commitment in our week.

27 February 2015


I am so lucky to live in a country where words are freely printed.  This month I have read a lot of them, from a wide variety of different books, some I have loved, some I have been left wondering why I read to the end.  Do you do that too?  Somehow it feels wrong not to finish a book I have started which I am not hating but not really enjoying it either.  Perhaps it is just me........

I started the month with a self published book that was written about an area near to where I grew up.    A Handful of Straw by Mary Rensten centres around a small village in the early 1700s where an old woman is accused by other villagers of being a witch.  The accusations eventually lead to a trail.  It was a fascinating book, not just because of the familiarity, to me, of some of the places mentioned but because it was a window into a world of the past.  There were many wonderful details in the narrative which were glimpses into what life was like for some at this time.  The connections, thoughts, beliefs,  conditions were all mentioned in some detail.  The novel is based on a trial that did take place and many of the characters actually lived at that time they are joined in this novel by some that are fictional.

My random finding of books in the library occasionally turns up a real treasure, I picked up Secrets from Chuckling Goat by Shaun Nix Jones because I was intrigued by the title.  It was a fun, interesting and at times thought provoking read, an American city girl who finds true love, in her forties, with a Welsh farmer.  The book is written like a diary, and is based on the authors own diary although when you read it you wonder how she found the time to keep a diary on top of everything else she was doing.  There were many things in this book that struck a chord with me.  Her writing about how were are loosing touch with nature, how import it is to make the time to grow food and cook, bake and preserve it ourselves,  the importance of real food to nourish and to keep our health.  The cycles of nature, producing compost to nourish our soils, to growing our own food which we eat and produce compost.  There is also interesting discussions on milk, kefir and sourdough.  There are recipes and a happy ending after a nasty health scare.  A lovely read!

I have a few unread book on my shelves, one in particular that I am not sure how I came to acquire but it has been there for a few months waiting to be read.  Letters to the Midwife is a collection of letter and unpublished writing to by and from the author of the incredibly successful books that started with Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth.  I have only read part of her first book, dipping in and out randomly reading chapters.  Its not that I don't like it or I find it an overwhelmingly difficult subject matter but that I have my own memories that make reading it hard.  The author Jennifer Worth was someone who was very influential in my life when I was growing up.  I visited her house every week in term time for years.  If you have read the blurb in the front of the books you will know that after leaving nursing she turned to music and became a music teacher.  She lived (until she died) five minutes from the house I grew up in, she taught my mother to play the piano my siblings and I would play elsewhere in her house during the lesson.  Later I had lessons too which only stopped when I left home at eighteen.  She introduced me to many composers and their music through my lessons and the concerts that she would take me and a small band of other pupils too on regular basis. I came across her first book when I was pregnant with my second child, my midwife was reading it, I couldn't quite believe it was the same person but the photos in the book confirmed it.  I thought about writing to her and am sorry now that I never did, but others did and this is a delightful book of correspondence.

I have never been one to read books that are labelled as bestsellers or have won awards, I have always been rather put off by the hype.  Nominated for an award (the Booker) for her first book Clare Morrall is not an author I have read before, but if you are nominated for an award then your books must be worth reading, wouldn't you think?  So I tried one of them, The Language of Others some of the writing in this book was good, but not good enough, for me, to outweigh the rather lame plot.  I found it rather dull, despite this I still read to the end.........

Reading a book that is not what you expected is rather a knock to one's confidence, it makes me wonder at my ability to choose books in the library, so I was naturally hesitant to start the other book I had chosen at the same time.   So when I started to read it and find that it is in written in dialect, Scottish dialect to be precise, I was lost for words.  The last book I read in dialect was Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, it took me forever to read it.  But I found myself loving the dialect (this is not book to read with constant interruptions) and once I had been reading it for a while, it was hard to put this down.  Gone are the Leaves by Anne Donavan is a coming of age story set largely in Scotland in a period unspecified but is probably medieval.  The main character has a wonderful way of looking at the world, at odds with the rest of society, she is unlearned (in the eyes of her contemporaries) but yet, to me, so wise.  The story moves to Europe with twists and turns that had me hooked.  It was well worth persevering with the dialect which was singing to me, in its beauty, by the end.

In some way I came full circle with the last book I read this month.  A novel set in the 1600s, a work of fiction based on historical fact.  I have been planning a topic for March based around the solar eclipse that will take place on the 20th of the month.  It will be no surprise to me if you didn't know there is going to be an eclipse.  The best place to view it, a full eclipse,  will be the Faroe Islands, further south it will be a partial eclipse, around 90% in the North of the UK and around 80% in the South.  As the UK media is south centric it has yet to be deemed newsworthy.  Excuse my wee rant but sometimes it feels like there is little of interest to the media north of Birmingham.  Now where was I?  Ah yes, a topic based round the solar eclipse.  As well as finding learning ideas for the children I thought it would be fun to learn too so I had a hunt in the library to find any books that were were based on the solar system and/or astronomy.  I ended up with a wonderful book, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark which is part of a trilogy starting in the 1600s with Kepler and Galileo, as well as being an interesting read about life at this time it was also a fascinating introduction to the history of astronomy.  Both of these scientists were making amazing discoveries but they were at odds with the times.  The Sun revolved around the Earth, as set down in the Bible and believing the opposite was a heresy punishable by being burned alive.  I am really looking forward to reading the next book about Sir Issac Newton and Sir Edmund Halley, I hope the library has a copy............

...if not then I am going to read something completely different which I have been meaning to read for a while Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.


I was interested to note that many of the books that I read this month were from very small publishing houses.  Perhaps I should be making note of this when choosing books as they were ones that I thoroughly enjoyed.

25 February 2015


Oh February you are a hard month to bear.  Cold to start with, cold at the end but in the middle warmth accompanied by heavy grey skies.

It seems that the poem we read for Candlemas was right....

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will take another flight
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again  

...we had a fair and bright day on Candlemas

I had hoped that I would be showing you lots of sign of spring today but there are few in my part of the world and the light this month has not been conducive to taking photos.  So I offer you a lone crocus and a few hardy primroses from my garden, I am always amazed that flowers this delicate looking shows us their beautiful blooms in the snow, and the snowdrops which are everywhere and have lasted for weeks.

Perhaps March will be the month for signs of spring?  I do hope so.

23 February 2015


...this week of...

...happiness sharing dinner with friends, finding a new home for some books that we didn't want anymore, finally making it to a new home ed group and loving it, hearing owls calling

...sadness at the 'news' this week concerning three teenagers, on the one hand I admire their passion on the other I can't help wonder if it is misguided, we only know what we hear in the news.....

...creating a shawl, unravelling a project and starting something new with the yarn, ideas for a cardigan

...reading Gone are the Leaves by Anne Donavon and The Sky's Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark and to my children The Railway Children by E. Nesbit and a fable about Chinese New Year.

...learning about Shrove Tuesday, Lent, Chinese New Year, archaeology, Romans

...thinking about a home ed camp 

...wondering about how to celebrate the many festivals in the next few weeks

...hoping the sourdough starter I am making works

...enjoying this

...looking forward to helping to build a bender at the weekend in our Forest School woods

20 February 2015


Back in November, that seems a long time ago now, I shared some of the festivals we had learned about and observed in the Autumn.  As the Winter draws to a close and Spring is slowly beckoning us with its bloom it is time to share those we have learned about, celebrated or observed over the Winter.  I shared a list at the end of my post about Autumn Festivals which seemed very long at the time, I didn't think we would have time for them all but we did and added some more!


I was a bit late with my planning of how we would observe/celebrate Advent, only doing my research a few days before it started.  In the end it didn't matter as the research I did will now stand us in good stead for future years.  My hesitation, I am sure, was down to the fact that I was unsure of how Advent should fit into our family.  I read as much as I could, mostly on blogs, about how others observe and celebrate this time of year, finally settling on a lovely festival attributed to Rudolph Steiner although there seems to be some dispute as to whether he did create it or not.  Anyway each week of Advent has a theme, a festival, which we used as the focus of our learning each week.  We created a star path as a visible sign of time passing.  A large star for each of the Sundays and a smaller star for the other days.  We kept these in a small bowl on our seasonal table laying out a new one each morning when we also lit a candle.  The path wove its way from the bowl round the candle to our wee tree.  We read about Advent and learnt a song which we added a verse to each week.

Week One - Festival of Stones

During the week we read stories nine and ten from The Festival of Stones.  We placed rocks and minerals from our own collections on our seasonal table and identified them during the week (or tried to) we also learnt about how they were formed.  We live in a mineral rich part of our country so we look at some geology maps of our county, including what was mined and where.  We visited a local museum which has an excellent exhibition of local rocks and minerals which includes a time line.

Week Two - Festival of Plants

We read stories 11 and 12 from The Festival of Stones.  I decided to focus our learning on trees for the weeks as this would enable us to take out learning outside.   We read a few pages from the Earth section of this beautiful book learning about what the Earth Kingdom has meant to our ancient ancestors.  We read the Norse myth about Yggdrassil.  We learnt about the Holly Tree, writing up facts about the tree to share at Forest School.  We went for a walk in a local wood to learn to identify trees in Winter.  We added plant finds to our seasonal table, replacing the rocks.

Week Three - Festival of Animals

We read stories 13 - 16 from The Festival of Stones during the week.  We changed our seasonal table replacing the plant finds with animals (not real ones!) and some of the things we get from animals such as wool, silk and honey.  We leant about animals that hibernate and why they do it.  We made bird food which we hung out for the birds and went birdwatching at a local nature reserve.

Week Four - Festival of Humankind

Over the course of the week we read stories 16 - 28 from The Festival of Stones.  The rest of the week was slightly different to previous weeks as we were away from home.  Our festival was about being with family, sharing food together and enjoying their company.  In the years that we spend Christmas at home I will think about how to embrace this.

During the four week of Advent we also learnt about and observed some other festivals:

St Nicholas Day - 06 December

St Nicholas was a gift giver and is celebrated in many forms around the world so we discovered when  we read about who and how this day is celebrated.  We found a story to share and made some spicy biscuits which we shared with friends.

St Lucia Day - 13 December 

St Lucia is the patron saint of Light.  This Swedish festival which I remember celebrating as a child.  We read about how Children celebrate this day, a story behind the celebrations and made some Lussekatt using the recipe from this book.

Hanukah - 18 December

This is a Jewish Festival of Lights that is celebrated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kisler.  We read a story about why this is an important time for Jewish people.  We learnt a simple song and made potato latkes.

Winter Solstice - 21 December 

The shortest day of the year, a day worthy of celebrating in my book as the days get longer thereafter!  For the past few years we have celebrated this at a friends house but she was not well enough to host this year we missed the lovely party.  We put up our Christmas decorations on this day, we watched the sun rise and set and we burnt our worries on a fire we had in the garden.


Mawlid an Nabi - 03 January

The birth day of the Prophet Muhammad which is an important day for Muslims.  We read and found about the Prophet and Islam, which was new religion to the children.  We read some lovely stories which promoted some interesting discussion.  We also learnt a traditional prayer, sung to the Prophet on this day.

Twelfth Night - 06 January  

The twelfth night after Christmas Day, we talked about the Story of the Three Kings and read the Baboushka story and a delightful short story in this book.  I made a Gallette de Rois, a delicious pie which is traditionally made in many countries on this day.  My recipe was a Nigella Lawson one from   this book.

Plough Monday - 12 January

This is an old tradition which I discovered when I was researching the next festival.  In many ways the two traditions are interlinked and I can't help thinking that they are really one and the same but took place in different parts of the country depending on the nature of the agriculture.  On Plough Monday farm labourers would tour their local villages raising money and work, often in disguise as they could be mischievous in their endeavours.  If you would like to know more you can read about it here and here.

Wassailing - 17 January

There are, it seems, two versions of wassailing.  One that involves singing to raise money when work was scarce and has evolved into our tradition of carol singing, this took place prior to Christmas.  The other involved the blessing of the apple trees to ensure a good harvest.  We had a small ceremony to bless the apple trees in the the small wood were we meet for Forest School.  We sang a song, blessed the tree and shared some hot apple punch together.

Imbolc - 01 February

Our Imbolc celebrations were a little subdued this year as we were all feeling rather sick.  I made a seed cake using the recipe here (scroll down it is at the bottom of the page) which was lovely.  We also made some Brigid crosses using reeds, not our usual jolly celebration.

Candlemas - 02 February

A day for blessing candles, for noticing that candles are needed less as the days are lengthening.  We read a story about the slow return of the warmth and light.  I would like to make candles in future years but I need to make sure I order the bits in time.......

Valentines Day - 14 February

I have never looked into the history of day and was unsurpassed to learn that there is much conflicting information as to its origins.  I made a few lavender hearts which I gave to friends along with sachets of Love tea.  I have year to divide fi this is a festival/tradition for our family, it has always been one that has long lost its true meaning and seems to have been taken over by commercialism.

Shrove Tuesday - 17 February

This is another festival that has lost its meaning to many, taken over and renamed, in the UK anyway, as Pancake Day.  However in discussing its origins it sparked off an interesting discussion about the food we eat..........we did make and enjoy eating pancakes!  Next year I am tempted to make these as suggested by Camilla.

Chinese New Year - 19 February

A very important time of year for Chinese people as we discovered when we read about this festival.  The festivities last for two weeks ending with a Lantern Festival.  It is a time for family and sharing of food.  We read a fun story about how the animals came to each be given a year, 2015 is the year of the sheep.  We had a stir fry for tea and made some almond biscuits which are traditionally made at New Year.

I know that Lent started this week but it has been too busy to fit it in.  We are going to learn about this next week, when there are no other festivals, this will complete our Winter Festivals.

I acquired some wonderful books to help us celebrate these festivals, some this year and others in previous years:

The Winter Book by Rotraut Susanne Berner (I didn't pay that much for my copy!)
While the Bear Sleeps by Caitlin Matthews
The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson


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

St David's Day - 01 March
Hina Maturi - 03 March
Purim - 04 March
Chinese Lantern Festival - 05 March
Holi/Hola Mahalla - 06 March
Mothering Sunday - 15 March
Spring Equinox - 20 March (along with an solar eclipse)
Palm Sunday - 22 March
April Fools Day - 01 April
Easter Sunday - 05 April
Passover - 06 April
Songkran Baisaki - 13 April
St George's Day - 23 April
Beltain - 01 May
Wesak - 04 May
St Michael's Day - 08 May
Rogation Sunday - 10 May
Whitsun - 24 May
Oak Apple Day - 29 May

As always seems like rather a lot, we will fit what we can or what takes our interest.........

18 February 2015


I have had an old pair of my trousers languishing for some time in a drawer waiting for me to do something with them.  I mentioned this drawer last month.  They were worn out completely on the seat but the material everywhere else was fine, I was loathe to throw them away.  They came to may attention again when I was hunting for the trousers to make the coasters I posted about recently.  I wondered if I could make a pair of trousers for Alice*, not being a sewer who follows patterns I made it up as I went along.

First up I laid a pair of her trousers on top of mine and cut straight across the fabric two and half inches above the top of the waist line of the smaller pair.  The two and half inches is the allowance I made for the waistband.  This gave me two tubes of fabric.

I then measured from the crutch to the bottom hem on Alice's trousers, measured this on one of the tubes and turning it inside out cut the seam from the top to that point, repeat for the other leg/tube.

Turn one leg/tube the right way out and insert this tube inside the one that is still inside out and pin round the seams that you have just cut (they should be right sides together) and sew.

Then I created a waistline.  Unfortunately my two and half inch allowance had taken me into slightly into the crutch of the original trousers so I didn't have the two and half inches I needed for the waistband.  As these trousers are going to worn for messy outside play in winter I wasn't too precious about how they looked.  Ideally I would have liked to have folded (wrong sides together) a half inch first and then a further inch to create a neatly seamed tube for the elastic to be inserted into.  I just folded the material over and sewed a seam to give me a one inch tube into which I inserted the elastic.

The important thing is that they fit!  An easy pair of trousers.

I have been sewing up a storm this week as I finished off the coasters that I had waiting patiently in a pile, I now have six and I sewed up another skirt for Alice using this lovely tutorial.


* I have decided to give my children names on this blog rather than youngest and eldest, these are not their given names.  My eldest henceforth will be Cameron.

16 February 2015


...this week of...

...happiness creating with friends, making things happen, a play in the woods, shared stories

...sadness words from a friend*

...creating peg people, bread, trousers, a skirt, some more coasters, rows on a sock and a shawl

...reading Letters to the Midwife and The Language of Others by Clare Morrall, and to the children The Railway Children by E.Nesbit, stories about hares, deers, mice and stoats

...learning about knots, mammals, mice, animals tracks, ropes, clouds, adding

...thinking about a project for next month

...wondering about organising a home ed camp in the summer

...hoping to celebrate some festivals this week

...enjoying this

...looking forward to making it to a new group this week.


* I have made peace with this now.