21 November 2020

Sixteen

We celebrated a birthday in this house a week or so ago.  I am not sure where the time is going these days, I can't believe it is over two weeks since I last posted.  My life is full and happy at the moment but writing blog posts seems to have taken a back seat, crazy really when I have so much to post about!  Anyway, a birthday.  Cameron turned sixteen.  We had a quiet celebration as is his wont.  I took him to meet a friend for a very cold mountain bike ride, he was lucky that despite lockdown that was allowed, that was all that he wanted, he has never had a birthday party with lots of people, he loathes that kind of gathering for himself.  As he celebrates his sixteenth time round the sun, I write these words for him.

You are so much taller than me, about four inches now.  I feel so short when I stand next to you, like I have shrunk and you have stretched.  Your hair is long and still blond, down to your waist and you have this particular way of flicking it over your shoulder to get it out of your way.  Your voice has stopped that squeakiness which I know you found funny, flipping between high and low mid sentence, it has now dropped completely.  Your eating carries on a pace.  I am not sure where you put it all as you are still stick thin and weigh less than me, I am sure you will fill out in time if your appetite continues as it is now.  

You continue to be an amazing employee, the glowing praise I hear from your employers makes me so proud.  You get yourself up every morning to deliver newspapers to houses in our village.  It is has given you so many skills, some of which you may not even realise at the moment.  You are wise with your money, saving most of it.  You bought yourself a very expensive mountain bike this year, it cost £1000 second hand, it took you months to save that amount.  You love your bike and look after it with such care. When it needed some work doing on it that you couldn't do yourself you had the money to pay for it.  We were so lucky to get it back the day before our county went into full lockdown.  You had some amazing bike rides with your dad during that time, gone for hours, exploring the hills around our home.

Lockdown hasn't bothered you.  You love your own company and are happy to while away hours in a book, or hanging out online on the computer that you have also bought for yourself this year.  You were offered part of a PC from a friend, you consulted your Uncle, the computer knowledgeable member of our family, over whether it was a good buy.  You researched what you needed to buy and saved your money to build it into a gaming PC of your own.  You put it together yourself and solved the problems you had along the way.  I have noticed this year that when you get a problem you quietly get on with sorting it, in the past you have thought that you couldn't do this and have stopped at the first hurdle with lots of noise and frustration.  I hope the resilience you have built for solving problems this year will stand you in good stead, they are useful skills to have.

You interest in design has continued to grow this year, you are always drawing, mostly cars.   You have decided that you want to develop your art and design skills and are considering a college course for next year.  It might mean that you have to take some exams to get a place.  I thought this would put you off, but it hasn't and we are now working towards a couple of exams.  You have a place on a virtual open evening at the college next month when you hope to find out more about the course you want to do and what you will need to get a place.  If you do go it will be your first step into an educational establishment since leaving nursery age 4.  It is a big step which you are taking in your stride.

We left you overnight on your own this year.  You cooked your own tea and got yourself up for work in the morning.  You were offered the option to stay with a friend but that is not what you wanted.  You loved your time by yourself and were so proud of your cooking.  You have not shown any interest in it before, I am so glad that you were able to make yourself a meal, one that you made up with ingredients you chose.  You loved that it was so tasty.

You continue to be a delight to be around.  I love your wit, your humour, the words you come out with that have me doubling over in laughter.  Your dry and caustic way of looking at the world which is not hurtful or poking fun.  Meal times are such fun especially when you and your sister get going!  Your relationship with your sister has shifted this year.  You have needed to change the way that you interact with her, not wanting to play the games that she wants to.  It has taken a while but you have found the middle ground that you both need, most of your time together is spent talking with small amounts of play.

You have great taste in music, I love the artists you have introduced to me in the past year, widening my already eclectic tastes still further.  I love that we can share our love of listening to music and that you have found genres of music that you love.

You continue to be my greatest teacher.  I am so grateful for your continued patience with my mistakes as I learn to be the best parent I can be.  It feels like your seventeenth year round the sun is going to be a year of big changes for us both.  I am so proud to be your mum, happy birthday my love.

03 November 2020

Sustainable Living October


This blog has always been about living life in a mindful and intentional way, for me this means that most of the decisions we make have been thought about carefully, even if we decide to continue as we are a decision has still been made.  When we take a product from a shelf in a shop or tap a button on a screen, should we stop and think about how it has got this point before we do so?  It can be hard to make decisions over many aspects of our lives, we are often far removed from the means of production and it can be hard to find out how this operates.  Maybe we shouldn't be thinking is there a more sustainable replacement for something, rather do we really need it at all?


To help me keep on track I have come up with some words that I will be using to keep my decision making mindful and intentional, and my life in general as sustainable as I can make it.  If you you want to join me you would be most welcome, either using the same words for inspiration or your own that are more meaningful to you.  These are the words (you can read my thoughts behind some of them here and here) that I have been using in October: 


Nourish
I bought a new to me cookery book this month, one that I thought would be perfect for the autumn and winter months.  I have made several dishes from this book this month and they have all been delicious.  Some are a meal in themselves some you need to cook a little something extra, well I do here with my teenage son with hollow legs!  I love that you put everything in one dish and put it in the oven where it does its thing.  

I have been baking more this month as a result, the oven is on already so why not?  I love the smells that waft through the house when you have something baking in the oven, I have realised that I am an autumn and winter baker.  I seem to have had a lot of bananas that were in desperate need of eating up this month, getting to that almost black stage which is perfect for baking.  We have had several loaves of Banana bread and I found a delicious banana and cacao granola recipe in one of my recipe books too, each batch does not last long!


Lessen
A few years ago we were given a piece of furniture by a friend who was moving house.  It is one of the few pieces of furniture we own, so much we have built into our house.  It sits in Alice's bedroom and amongst other things it houses my yarn and some of my fabric.  It was always a pain trying to find anything in there, I always want the things that are at the back!  I knew that whatever I bought would not fit the space in such a way to make the best use of it so I have long wanted to make something, I think this project has been on a list in the back of my diaries for the last three or four years!  The cardboard box that held the fabric in was slowly falling apart, I had to be really careful each time I took it out as it was in danger of falling apart completely.  I bought the outer fabric for these storage boxes, the lining was from my stash, they are also lined with a iron on interfacing which stiffens it slightly (although they collapse inwards when they are empty).  I sewed handles on to the front of the boxes to make them easier to get in and out.  I originally had the left and middle parts of the cupboard and I measure up to make boxes for those two parts.  When I came to put them in I had failed to notice that there was a post right in the middle of the middle part of the cupboard - oops!  Alice had a few bits in the right part and she has kindly taken over the middle.  As a trade off she has most of the small shelf which you can just make out in the rather dim photos (it has been really dark here this month), as I was able to put most of the stuff I had stored there into my boxes.  I am pleased with the way these have turned out and it makes it so much easier to get to my yarn and fabric now.

Thankful
We were due to fly abroad at the beginning of November for a month.  We have been waiting to find out what would happen with our flights this month.  They were finally cancelled about ten days before we were due to fly.  We had already made the decision that we would not travel, even if the flights went ahead.  The cancellation meant that we were entitled to claim a refund should we want to which is what we decided to do.  The company that we booked through have been amazing, the customer service has been fantastic, I cannot fault it.  Our advisor has kept us informed with what they were doing throughout the process, even when they had no information to give us they still contacted us to let us know they were keeping an eye on things, I always felt I was in safe hands.  It would be lovely to be able to travel again at some point in the future, when that time comes we will be using this company again.


Create
I finished my hat that I started last month it has become my new favourite.  I am still not sure about the very pale pink, I ripped out the initial colour I used (that is also in the middle) as it just did not show.  The section above this where the decreases start was rather confusing in the pattern.  A search through other projects suggested that others had gone their own way at this point so I did too.  I am not sure how I managed to knit the pattern from this point, when I thought about it too hard I made many mistakes!  There is a part of my brain that just knows when something is right but if I was to try to explain it to anyone else I would be hopeless.   The light colour of this hat was the remaining yarn from my shawl, I still have lots of it left, so I will be looking for other projects to make with it, maybe some mitts?

Grow
My garden has become pretty dormant this month.   I have not harvested a single thing.  The leeks are nearly ready to eat and I am pondering whether to leave them other the winter in the hope that they might grow a little fatter come the Spring or to eat them now.  My cabbages and broccoli are well established and will now over winter in the garden also ready for the Spring.  I really need to get into the polytunnel for a tidy up and to pot out the kale and pot choi that I have in pots as it will more than likely continue to grow over the winter and hopefully provide me with some greenery over the winter months.  I have been neglecting my garden this month!

My sunflowers waited until October to flower!  One is in the photo at the top of this post.  I have never known them to flower so late, I thought they were not going to flower at all this year.  By the beginning of last month they had finally started to grow small flower heads, I think the warm spell we had in September was just enough to give them the energy to flower.  They were a cheery sight as the temperatures started to drop.



Sanctuary
Despite the very wet weather this month I have managed to get out at least once a week, sometimes more for a walk.  We have had a beautiful display of autumn colours this year, so often we will have a blustery storm early in October and all the leaves will be blown off the trees before they have had a chance to put on their wonderful display.  This year the storm waited until the end of the month.  There have been some days when getting out of the car or the house has felt like a rather crazy thing to do as the rain was coming down so hard, but get out we did and we have had some wonderful walks.

Learning
I have been listening to many podcasts about the election in North America, I cannot profess to fully understand how the election works but I feel that I understand more than I did at the beginning of the month.  I would like to extend my thoughts to all my North American readers as you enter into this time of election and uncertainty.  I hope that whatever the future holds it is brings with it the certainties that so many of you have been writing that you need to have in your lives as this tumultuous year draws to a close.

Fun
It was my birthday this month, I am going to post about that in a separate post, but it has been a month of celebrations for me.  I realised early on this year that my plans to have a big party were probably not going to happen, so I sent out an invitation to a handful of friends to ask them if they could spend some time with me to help me celebrate.  I have been out on walks, paddle boarding (new to me) and had some lovely phone conversations with friends who live far from me.  I have not quite managed to organise all the meet ups yet and this latest lockdown will mean that they will have to pause.  I have loved this intentional time with my friends, uninterrupted conversations with lovely people what more could I ask for?

Thank you once again for reading through this very long post,  I realise that it may seem that I do an awful lot, I suspect you do to, if you were to write it all down like I have here.  You are most welcome to join me, either use the same words or your own which mean more to you, let me know in the comments below and I will head over and have a read.  I will post my Sustainable Living November roundup on Wednesday 02 December.

31 October 2020

Sowing Seeds


We are now halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice a time some call Samhain (pronounced sow-ein), a halfway point of the dark days, a halfway point of our resting and recharging that I talked about recently.  I am hoping, weather permitting, we can have a small Samhain celebration this week.

I know that this is also a time that some celebrate Halloween, I am not a fan.  As a child it wasn't as big an event as it is now, but people dressed up and had parties, I found it all rather terrifying, now, as an adult I don't feel a connection to it all. I know that so many do and have a great time dressing up and maybe also making mischief, it is really not for me.

We can really see the visible signs that the earth is slowing down, the leaves are providing us with their stunning visual palate turning the most beautiful colours and falling from the trees.  I love to watch the leaves as they make their descent, have you noticed that each tree's leaves have a different way of making their to the ground?  Have a look when you are next out and about amongst the trees.  They and other plants are nearing the start of their period of dormancy.

As we, in the Northern Hemisphere, continue to move further away from the sun our temperatures will continue to fall, bringing with it the frosts, that some might have already had, and later snow, some parts have already had some of this too.  These colder temperatures bring with it the death and decay in the plant world, an important part of the cycle of their life.

Whilst the earth is resting and recharging we can reflect on all that it has provided for us over the past year.  We give thanks, for the rain, replenishing the earth and sustaining life.  I know for some parts of the world rain is in short supply and in other parts they are flooding with so much rain.  We must learn to adapt our behaviour and how we manage our resources to be more resilient to the changes in the weather so that we are ready for droughts or flooding.  We give thanks for the abundant harvest from the earth, the food and medicine it provided to sustain our lives.  When we stop and think for a moment about all the food that we eat it has all been provided by our beautiful planet, it is so amazing.  We give thanks for the air that we breath sustaining our lives, allowing us to speak and sing.  This is another resource, like water, which we cannot live without and which we must adapt our behaviour.  I am so lucky to live somewhere with really good air quality the air tastes so different to me in built up urban areas, places that people are living and moving around in all the time.

While the earth rests we too should use this time to rest, giving us a chance to renew and replenish our energies.  We can use this time to think of new plans and new beginnings, for sowing the seeds of our future in our minds and storing it until the time of the light and warmth returning.  A seed of a something you want to do, to be, to learn or adventures you want have.  We are not going to use this time to set them in motion but to incubate them and let them start to take some shape.

We can also use this time to reflect or start to clear our minds of our fears, troubles or insecurities those thoughts that we go over in our minds.  It is a good time to start the process of letting go of them, perhaps by writing them down or drawing them, whatever way works best for you.  If you have access to a fire, perhaps in your house keeping you all warm, you could burn them as a way of helping you to release.


For Inner Tranquility
Quiet I bear within me
I bear within myself
Forces to make me strong
Now will I be imbued
With their glowing warmth
Now will I fill myself
With my own will's resolve
And I will feel the quiet
Pouring through all my being
When, by my steadfast striving
I become strong
To find within myself
The source of strength
The strength of inner quiet
Rudolph Steiner


Our strength, our inner strength is what will carry us through this period of dark, dormancy and rest. It will help us to release our fears, we have started that journey bringing them into focus and recording them, maybe you have burnt them in the fire, now we need to make peace with them to help us move on.

Our inner strength will guide us to a seed of a new beginning, one that we will take within us and allow it to sit there quietly, as a seed does in the earth awaiting germination and development.  When we are nearing the end of this important time of rest and recharging, allow this seed to come into focus in your mind ready for you to take forward into the Spring, the light and the earth warming once again.

27 October 2020

A Peek Into my Day

Outside my window, it is raining, again.  Thankfully the wind has stopped blowing although it has removed most of the leaves from the trees.  The beautiful Autumn display is no more, it will be back again next year, it is lovely to know that that is a certainty in this uncertain world.

Around the house, there are wetsuits drying after a swim at the end of last week, the remains of my latest sewing project waiting to be cleared up, books on most surfaces as the cooler weather brings them off the shelves and into laps.

I am wanting to do some more sewing over the coming month, I am thinking about various projects that I could do.

We finally got confirmation that the flights we had booked way back in January were cancelled.  We really did not want to travel so were hoping that this would be the outcome, we are thankful that we will be entitled to a full refund.

In my kitchen it is relatively tidy for once, there is nothing soaking for a future meal, just an empty tub waiting for homemade granola to made to fill it once again.

Now that my shawl is finished I have cast on two more larger projects, I am creating two cardigans, one in 4ply and one in Aran/Worsted weight yarn. one for a friend and one for my daughter.

Today is a fairly quiet day at home with people coming to us, tomorrow will be a day with lots of driving, I am going to drop my husband at work and Cameron for a bike ride with Explorer Scouts, they are in opposite directions.  I also need to go and pick up the veg box in the afternoon.

My husband has re-arranged his leave now that we are not going abroad, we will have him at home with us for two weeks at the end of November.  We are not making any plans at the moment but we are pondering various options that we hope might be possible for things to do together.

I bumped into someone I haven't seen for ages on Saturday, her daughter attends the same gymnastics club as Alice, I discovered whilst talking to her that she is now doing online French tuition (she was teaching French in a school but got made redundant last year), I am hoping that she will be able to continue with Alice and Cameron's French, their old class stopped for lockdown and has not restarted.  

The pile of books on my bedside table is growing so tall, there are so many books that I have started and not finished, I have to be very careful when I remove one to read it.  I have gone back to reading one at time now, currently I am reading When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté.  A fascinating read about the effects of stress on our bodies.

My favourite quote at the moment is Do small things with great love (Mother Theresa), this feels really important to me right now.

Tomorrow both the children have plans to do things with friends, I am looking forward to some time to myself at home, something that doesn't happen very often these days as very few of our home ed groups and meet ups have restarted.

In the early days of lockdown when all our lives were turned upside down, I found comfort in being present, living in the moment and not thinking and looking ahead.  Now that our lives have changed again I still trying to hold on this as much as possible, I am learning to go with the flow much more and being in the present moment.  It is not easy but it feels right when I achieve it.

The weather forecast is atrocious for the end of this week, I am wondering whether the plans we have made will still be able to go ahead.  Spending most of the day outside in heavy rain in late October is hard work but it can be fun if you are wearing the right clothing.  There is nothing quite like coming home to a cosy warm house after a cold wet day.

I am wearing dark blue jeans and my favourite hand knit sweater, it is a cold day today and this jumper was calling to me from my baskets.  

One of my favourite podcasters, Katy Bowman, released an episode this week the first in months I am listening to it as I start my day.

A Peek into my Day.

20 October 2020

It was worth the wait.......

 

Way back at the beginning of September I shared a peak at the shawl that was off the needles and waiting on buttons.  I had bought the twenty five that were in stock at my local sewing shop and they were going to get some more in, so I could purchase the five that I needed.  When this has happened in the past it has been a couple of weeks, but we are not living in normal times are we, several weeks later and there were still no buttons.

They were having great difficulty getting any more stock, compounded by the fact that most weeks that I went in the staff did not really know what was happening, the owners of the shop were not around on the day I visited for over a month.  When I finally spoke to the owners, a week later she had got hold of some.  She was very worried that they were different and I would not like them.

I prefer them to the original ones I bought, which were yellower and not so interesting.  These are slightly stripped and are a much better match to the yarn.  I am told they are made with olive wood, I love that no two are the same.  I had to remove the twenty five that I had already sown on, very carefully so as not to damage the yarn.  At one point I thought I had pulled a hole in the yarn, but I was looking at the buttonhole band not the button band, oops!


I could of course have bought some buttons online but I like to look at them, feel them and check them for size.  I also love my local sewing shop, it is a treasure trove of fabric and notions, I am so lucky to have such a good shop in my local town.  They also only charged me for the extra five buttons and trusted me to remove and return the twenty five I had previously bought.  I love that I am a valued enough customer that I can do that.  

My shawl is slightly longer and narrower than the suggested finished measurements, it is almost long enough to be a blanket at 160cm (63") x 66cm.  I bought the yarn at a local -ish yarn store, it is their own yarn.  Its is wonderfully soft and has the perfect drape for this shawl.  I had quite a bit of it left and have already knit a hat and am now pondering what to knit with the rest.

The buttons that I waited so long for are on one of the short sides and halfway down one of the long sides, the other half is button holes.  The other short side also has buttonholes along its length.  There are many ways to wear this shawl, I love buttoning it up and making it into the poncho, I have also been experimenting with draping round my neck, I am sure I will find many other ways to wear it.

Pattern: Everyday Shawl

Yarn: Methera in Natural Grey

Joining Kat

15 October 2020

Creating a story sack

In my last post I mentioned that I had recently made a story sack.  I have made a few of these in the past and shared some of them on here.  When my children were small they loved to bring these home from the library Alice, in particular, was always really disappointed that we could only borrow one at a time.  

A story sack is such a clever way of getting more out of a book than just reading.  Now that Alice is older I can see why these sacks were so appealing to her,  she has really struggled with learning to read, letters and words were a mystery to her for a long time.  Story sacks are a bag of books, props and sometimes a game on a theme, a thread from the main book in the sack.  The props are toys that enhance the main book.  

In this story sack is just one book, I didn't have time to find a second one, it is part of a series that my children loved when they were smaller, and a few props that Alice and I made.  Percy the Park Keeper looks after a park and spends lots of his time with his friends the animals who live in the park.  Percy and the animals are often to be found having fun together.  In this story they are playing hide and seek, one of the animals choses a hiding place that has unexpected results.

Percy and his animal friends are all needle felted.  Alice made Percy, and between us we made the other animals.  I made a small bag to keep them all in.

I am lucky enough to have an independent bookshop in my local town.  Some of the story sacks I have made have been based on a particular book, more usually I browse through the children's books to find a story that lends itself to be made into a sack.  I love this type of project and am glad that my nephew loves his first story sack, as I am sure that I will be making him more in the future. 

07 October 2020

Sustainable Living September


This blog has always been about living life in a mindful and intentional way, for me this means that most of the decisions we make have been thought about carefully, even if we decide to continue as we are a decision has still been made.  When we take a product from a shelf in a shop or tap a button on a screen, should we stop and think about how it has got this point before we do so?  It can be hard to make decisions over many aspects of our lives, we are often far removed from the means of production and it can be hard to find out how this operates.  Maybe we shouldn't be thinking is there a more sustainable replacement for something, rather do we really need it at all?

To help me keep on track I have come up with some words that I will be using to keep my decision making mindful and intentional, and my life in general as sustainable as I can make it.  If you you want to join me you would be most welcome, either using the same words for inspiration or your own that are more meaningful to you.  These are the words (you can read my thoughts behind some of them here and here) that I have been using in September: 


Nourish 
I was so happy to find out that my local farmers market would be starting again this month, I have really missed this wonderful source of food for us.  It was wonderful to chat to the farmers whose stalls I visit, it was like being amongst friends again.  I do hope this is able to continue through the coming months.  I bought two large red cabbages, one of my favourite vegetables.  I have two jars of sauerkraut fermenting in my pantry, they were made a fortnight apart, the first jar will be ready soon.  It has been a long time since I was able to make this.  

I have been doing a spot of foraging this month, first blackberries I managed to pick about 10lbs in two trips.  We had a delicious blackberry and apple crumble with some apples that were kindly left on our doorstep by a neighbour.  The rest have gone into the freezer to be used over the winter on those days when we really want at pudding with our meal.

The other berry I picked were elderberries.  The children and I went for a walk in a local wood to celebrate the autumn equinox.  We didn't go with the intention of doing any foraging, the elder trees were dripping with berries and as we walked past them I felt this pull to pick some of the berries.  We were careful to take only a few from each tree leaving the rest for the birds.  Having never made elderberry syrup before I had to do a bit of research to find a recipe.  I was keen to make it without using refined sugar, it gives me a headache if I eat or drink food with it in and I wanted to be able to drink whatever I made.  The elixir as the family is calling it, its rather good.  This is the recipe that I used:

Elderberry Syrup
1 cup of Elderberries
4 cups water
1 cup honey
1/2 cup brandy
Spices to flavour (I used cloves, star anise, cinnamon and turmeric)

Simmer the berries and spices (I put mine in little bag so it was easier to take them out after cooking) in the water for about half an hour until the liquid is reduced by half, strain and allow to cool a little.

Return the liquid to the pan, add the honey and heat gently to melt.  Finally turn off the heat and add the brandy leaving the lid off to allow the alcohol to evaporate.  You don't have to use alcohol, it acts as a preservative if you are intending to store it.  I had 3 cups of berries so I knew that I would need to store mine for a while as it made a large quantity, I used half the amount of honey (1 1/2 cups) and it is plenty sweet enough for us. 

Lessen 
We eat a lot of mustard in this house, so much that I usually buy it in bulk through a wholefood supplier that I use. When the last tub was running out I realised that I was going to have to buy something else as a stop gap as there was not much else we needed to buy in bulk at the time.  I scoured the shops in our local town to find a mustard that did not contain any sugar or preservatives and couldn't find any.  I am not sure why I had not thought of before but I ended up making my own.  It was so incredibly easy that I will not be buying mustard again, ever.  I have made a couple of jars now and will keep tweaking the ingredients to find a recipe that we like.  I can't find the recipe that I used as the basis of my experiments but if you search for recipes online there are many to choose from.  You basically soak mustard seeds in a liquid for a day or two unit the seeds have absorbed the liquid, once that has happened you process most of the seeds in a food processor and then add the seeds you have taken out and store in the fridge.  


Thankful 
I have been so grateful for my friends this month.  I had a wonderful day out with two friends to celebrate the equinox, it was an unseasonably hot day.  We spent many hours talking and walking with a long pause to share food.  I have also had time with other friends too who have supported me and listened in ways that have been so healing and nourishing for me.   The messages that are sent in between times are so important in my day too.  Just a few words, so that you know that someone is thinking about you can make all the difference to your day.


Create
My shawl is still waiting on buttons, it seems there is a supply problem somewhere along the line.  I managed to talk to the owner of the shop this week and she is going to look into it, I am hoping that I will be able to source some soon, it is now cool enough for me to be able to wear it, but it looks a little odd with six buttons missing!

I am continuing to knit the hat that I shared in my last post, I think I may have ripped out as many stitches as I have knitted in the last week.  I made a mistake and didn't realise for a couple of rows, then when I had corrected that and knit several more I decided that the colour of one of the yarns didn't work so I ripped that all out and changed the yarn.  A couple of rows into that yarn and I made another mistake!  So another row had to be unpicked.  I am hoping that is the last of the mistakes for now....

I also made a present from my nephew who celebrated this third birthday this month, with a lot of help from Alice we created a story sack, a bag with a book and some 'props' in this case needle felted characters to enhance the story as you read it.  I will share the complete creation in a separate post.  My nephew loves the story, it is his new favourite particularly as it comes with its own bag which he can carry it around in.

Grow 
September is often a month for gathering in the last of the summer produce from the garden.  This month I have had the last of the courgettes and cucumbers, they lasted right until the end of the month but I can't see anymore growing now.  It is a little too cool for that now.  Those plants have all provided a good steady crop for us this year without a glut.  I welcome a glut of courgette as I have grated and frozen them in the past but that was not to be this year.  I have cut 6lbs of rhubarb and frozen that, there will be more to cut before it stops growing for the year.  I have also harvested the garlic, every clove that I planted has produced a bulb, some of the cloves are huge, they are currently drying out a little so that they can be cleaned before I plait them into a rope for storing/eating over the coming months.  I need to purchase cloves for next year soon and get them in the garden in the coming weeks.  They are one of the easiest things to grow and we usually get a good harvest each year.


Sanctuary
We have been swimming outdoors in lakes and streams a lot this month.  It was lovely when the temperatures rose for a bit, it makes getting changed a little more comfortable.  I got a thicker wetsuit this month and it has made all the difference for the amount of time I can stay in the water.  It is so magical to swim with the sun on your face and the beautiful scenery to drink up as you move through the water.  It helps me to get things into perspective when they are troubling me and it is great exercise too especially when you have to walk uphill to get there!

Learning 
I have read a lot this month about the effects of the uncertain world we live in and the effects that is having on us all.  There is always a level of uncertainty about the future but the balance feels like it has tipped at the moment doesn't it?  I have been thinking about this a lot this month and the certainty that I can bring into our lives as a counter balance.  It seems to be working, in the main, I am focusing on the parts of our lives that I can have control over, taking each day at a time and not thinking ahead unless I absolutely have to.  There is is something rather wonderful about living in the present, it makes you be present so much more.

Fun 
There have been so many things that have been fun for me this month.  Swimming outdoors, lots of walks with friends, celebrating my wedding anniversary, so many things that have bought light into a world that feels so heavy at times.  During the week the only time we are together as a family is in the evenings when we sit down for a meal together.  At the beginning of the year when we were all so busy very often these meals were, by necessity, a rushed affair, people needing to be somewhere else meant that they were not terribly relaxed.  Now we all sit together and slowly enjoy our food, we talk about our day, we laugh, make jokes and it has become a part of the day that I look forward to, a time to enjoy each others company and relax.

Thank you once again for reading through this very long post, it is posted a little later than I would normally, this past week has been really, really full for me.  I am sorry that I have not visited any blogs for a while, I hope to have some time to do that in the coming days!  I realise that it may seem that I do an awful lot, I suspect you do to, if you were to write it all down like I have here.  You are most welcome to join me, either use the same words or your own which mean more to you, let me know in the comments below and I will head over and have a read.  I will post my Sustainable Living October roundup on Sunday 1 November.

26 September 2020

Finding beauty in the ordinary

I love the view from my house, sometimes we can see for miles, sometimes, often at this time of year, it is hazy with fog.  A sunny early morning in Autumn will often give us a few special minutes, the near hills bathed in a beautiful light which makes them look golden.  I happened to look out the window at just the right time this morning, minutes later and everything looks less saturated, the contrast gone.

So many things in life can be fleeting, moments that we notice and take into our memories.  Special because they are fleeting.  They are a balance to all that is happening in the world right now, does anyone else feel like they are in a world where things don't feel real?  My decision to stop reading the news has rather backfired in the last few weeks as I have no idea what the rules are where I live, they seem to be changing every day.  I have friends who live in a different county who seem to have different rules.  The home educating community seemed to have fallen through a big hole until someone found a reference to us hidden deep in a government document which may now be out of date, who knows?

An evening swim at a local lake followed by tea on the shore with the sun setting, bathing the lake and hills in a beautiful golden light was a perfect way to end a long and anxiety filling day.  I am slowly filling our days, making sure that we have a balance of time at home and time out and about each week.  When I read my diary for the beginning of this year I can feel a rising of panic.  How on earth I managed to fit in all that we used to do, I have no idea, I know that I absolutely cannot go back to that life.  This pause we have had to take in our lives has been good for me, it has made me reflect on what is really important to me and how we shape our days and weeks.

The start of Autumn means we changed our seasonal table this week, we keep the pieces for the other seasons in shoe boxes, I love to get these down and be reunited with them again.  They are all homemade either by us or gifted to us by friends over the years.  I spent a lovely hour with Alice tidying away all the summer bits, giving the table a really good clean and then arranging all the autumnal bits.  We are going to make a few autumn inspired fairies over the next few weeks, the table is already pretty full but I love to make something each year.


We have been welcoming Autumn into our house for the past few weeks with Autumn stories during our daily morning gathering when we also read poems and sing together.  We have started lighting our candle too, I love this gentle light.  I have been doing a morning gathering with the children for years, it has changed over that time, I love the constancy it has threaded through our lives.  It brings us together to start the day, although these days it is more usually at around 10am and some of us have been awake and busy for a few hours.  It marks a change in intention, more focused, a time to think about the day ahead and maybe the next few days.  On a Monday we use this time to talk through the week, the plans that are already in place and things that the children want to do.


We had an autumn equinox ceremony in a local wood this week.  We chose the day based on the weather forecast at the beginning of the week, when the day came round the forecast had change somewhat.  We still went out and I am so glad that we did, it has been a long time since we visited these woods.  When the children were really small it is a place we went to often, we spent a least one year visiting every month to observe the changes in the seasons.  It used to take all day to walk around, short legs getting tired and needing to stop often.  So much to look at, feel and smell, mud to squelch through.  We picked elderberries this time.  We had not planned to do that, they were carefully placed in a rucksack pocket and survived the journey.  They have been brewed into a large quantity of elderberry syrup, the family are calling it the daily elixir, we are hoping it will keep coughs and sneezes at bay through the coming months.

Now it is the weekend, that time of breathing out and having a pause.  This one is stretching out ahead of us completely empty, our plans to go and visit relatives, were quietly shelved.  In the current circumstances we felt travelling so far was not wise.  I love weekends like this, particularly as my next two are really full.  I am hoping that we will be able to do a swim somewhere, the weather forecast is currently making that a possibility.  

I finally chose a pattern for a hat.  I had forgotten how much l love to knit fair isle, I am sure my technique is clunky and not very efficient, but it works for me.  I have managed to get the perfect tension this time, it has become instinctive which is important when we want to master something isn't it?  I know that knitting is not something that we are all able to master but doing the things we love and enjoy has never been so important to have in our lives than this current time.  I do hope that you are able to make the time for those things in you life too.  So a weekend of swimming and knitting what more could I ask for, I hope your weekend is filled with lovely things too.

21 September 2020

Finding Balance


It is the time of Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere,  (for readers in the Southern Hemisphere you can read my post about the Spring Equinox here) that special day of the year when the daylight and darkness is the same all over the world because the sun is directly over the equator.  It heralds the beginning of its journey south and where I live in the Northern hemisphere, we will be getting less and less sun over the coming weeks, our days will get shorter and our nights longer.  It is the start of Autumn, the door way to Winter, a time for us to prepare for the change in the earth's energy.

The Colour of Autumn
The world is full of colour
Tis Autumn once again
And leaves of gold and crimson
Are lying in the lane
There are brown and yellow acorns
Berries and scarlet haws
Amber gorse and heather
Purple across the moors
Green apples in the orchard
Flushed by glowing sun
Mellow pears and brambles
Where coloured pheasants run.


This is a time to be thankful to the abundant earth and all the resources we harvest.  We take our Earth and the gifts it gives us so freely rather for granted, it can be hard to maintain a strong connection when we are so far removed from the means of production.  We need to do all we can to change the thoughts of those that think they can continue to take, take, take without heed to the consequences.

This is a time to be thankful for the rain which will fall in greater abundance in the coming weeks and months, however annoying and tiresome we find it, it is doing an important job replenishing the soil.

This is also a time to give thanks to all those wonderful people we have in our lives and who we spend time with, be it face to face or online, for their support and connection.  We are so lucky to live in countries where we have freedom to communicate with whomever we wish to and have the choice over how we do this.

As the summer fades away and autumn takes its place, so too does the light.  This is the time of diminishing light with days that can be gloomy, the clouds heavy with rain.  For many animals this is the start of a period of rest, either by hibernating or sleeping more and eating less.  It is also a period of rest for the earth, the leaves fall from the trees and plants as they preserve their energy within and enter their period of dormancy.  Would that we could sleep or remain dormant through this time, but our lives don't fit that pattern.

I know I have been guilty of resisting these dark days and of wanting the light and warmth to return as quickly as possible.  By embracing the darkness we too can preserve our energy, we too can slow down allowing ourselves to recharge, like the earth.

If it is your thing a Root Meditation is a lovely way to feel connected to the Earth.   Sit somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.  Imagine there is a tree behind you, you are leaning on it, feel this tree at your back, firm and strong.  Feel its energy, energy that is flowing through down into its roots.  Now begin to feel your roots reaching down into the Earth spreading out like the roots of the tree.  Feel those roots holding you firm.  Feel the earth's energy flowing through you.  Inhale the nourishment, absorb the clam.  Breath in and breathe out.  Feel your breath rising without any effort at all.  The breath of life, like day and night, like the tides, like the seasons, in and out, in and out.  All is in balance.

So lets look forward to the time of darkness and embrace it into our lives.  Lets be kind to ourselves, give ourselves permission to rest and do less.  Lets reclaim the balance within each of us which can get lost in the busyness of life in the warmer months.  As the circle of the year turns we will be able to head into Spring in six months time, recharged and bursting with energy.

Whilst we are in this time of resting and recharging we can reflect on our achievements throughout those recent warmer months, look back and think about all those amazing things we have done however big or small.  This is not a time to be starting big new projects but rather to think and plant seeds in our heads of where we would like to be, to go, to do in the future.

We can also use this time to let go of things, de-clutter your house and give away those things that are no longer of use to you.  De-clutter your minds and let go of ideas or values which no longer serve you, that are troubling you or causing you pain, listen to and trust your inner voice for guidance and wisdom. Find a way that works for you to release them, maybe writing them down and burning them.

I hope you will move into Autumn with more strength, embracing rather than resisting the dark.  I hope you will be kind and gentle to yourselves.  I hope you can find the time each day or week to rest and be still to enable your body to recharge and reclaim any balance lost.

16 September 2020

A Peek into my Day

 


Outside my window it is cloudy and warm.  Once again the distant hills are obscured, this seems to be a bit of a theme on the days that I choose to do these posts!  We have had the warm temperatures return, warm for here, after a very cool and damp August.  I am hoping it will last the week as is forecast, in this last week of the Summer.

Around the house there are swimming bits drying from a late evening swim at the beginning of the week, part finished craft projects waiting to be picked up again, several parcels waiting to be taken to the post office by Cameron when he goes to work in the morning.

I have read on many occasions about people choosing a word for their coming year, I read something recently about choosing a word for a season, a month or day.  I love the idea of a word for a day, something to carry you through, particularly on those difficult days.  I am thinking of words that I could write down on small pieces of paper to put in a jar, I will keep it by my bed and each morning will take one out to be the word that carries me through the day.  

We are still continuing to swim outdoors regularly, at least once a week, sometimes more.  I am so thankful to live in a beautiful area where this is not only possible but makes the swim even more special as I am surrounded by wonderful scenery too.

In my kitchen there is once again three bananas going black waiting to be baked into banana bread, a bag of pears slowly ripening, a thoughtful gift from a friend, a bowl of fat waiting for the purchase of more bird seed, so that it can be mixed in and put out for the birds who love it and the washing up from dinner.

My mittens are off the needles and need the ends weaving in, actually I think it is just one end left to weave in, I really should get on and do that.  Now I am creating a hat using some leftover ends of yarn that I found in my stash.  I had a bit of a needle fail as my circular needle came apart near the tip, I have glued it but not that well, I only need to knit a few more rows before changing to a bigger size, I do hope it lasts long enough to do that.

Tomorrow is a day out for us, well nearly a whole day, I am going all over the place. The Archery range with Cameron, dropping Alice for a piano lesson, doing the shopping, going for an acupuncture appointment and then picking Alice up from a friend's house on the way home.  I could do these things on separate days but it would make the week really full and not very flexible so we are trialling doing them all on one day, it seems to working ok for now, I just need to come up with a simple and quick meal for tea as we ate at 9pm last week!

It is my birthday next month, one of those birthdays where the age ends in a zero, a new decade for me.  I am pondering a few ideas of what to do now that we have new restrictions in place, it has put paid to some of my very simple plans!

My birthday plans are being further complicated by the fact that we have flights booked to travel in November.  We booked them back in January when COVID had not reached these shores.  I am hoping that BA releases it policy, for flights during the period we are due to fly, very soon, which will allow us to decide what to do as we are not at all comfortable with continuing with our plans and would like to change them at minimal or no cost to ourselves if at all possible.  We were due to be away for a month which my husband has booked off work, we don't want to take a month off in the UK but would like to take some time off and if possible have a holiday in the UK at an alternative time if we can but there is not much of the year left now to rebook the time.

I am still reading the books I mentioned last month and have added a fourth one to the list!  A Long, Long Life of Trees by Fiona Stafford, it is not like me to be reading so many books at once.  It is a good light read for the end of the day when I do most of my reading.  The other books tend to be read during the day, which doesn't happen very often, they will be on my reading pile for a long while, I think.

One person can't do everything, but every person can do something is my favourite quote at the moment, I remind myself of this as we navigate through this incredibly difficult year we are all experiencing.

I am looking forward to meeting up with two friends at the weekend, it is something that we try and arrange to do every six weeks and I hope that we can continue to do that for the months to come.  It is so nourishing and restoring.  We try and coincide our meet ups with the wheel of the year festivals, it is the equinox next week so we will be celebrating what this time of the year means in our lives. 

The current restrictions here in the UK have just made it even harder for home educators to get together, I am learning to accept that this is likely to be the new normal for us for some time to come.  It is hard enough to forge a different path in life without having to justify why you are doing what you doing when you are out and about.  The restrictions are so confusing it makes it difficult to know what we should be doing, and where you draw the line on what is defined as educational, and what is social, gathering.

Cameron is interested in going to college next year to do an art based course.  I am wondering how long I should leave it before contacting them as I know that they are still grappling with restarting their courses for this academic year.  It would be good to know what they will require him to have in terms of exams etc and get those organised.

I am wearing navy leggings and a tunic top with large 70s style flowers in blues and greens.

I have spent quite a bit of time listening to Podcasts today,  there are some I always listen to whenever a new episode pops into my feed, Code Switch is one that l am listening to and learning so much from.

A Peek in to my day.

09 September 2020

Replenishing and Nourishing

Thank you all for the lovely comments on my last post,  I am glad that you all enjoyed the photos of my part of the world.  My cup is still full from that adventure, it has been further filled by another swim on Sunday, this time with my whole family.  The weather forecast was even better than we expected, once again I swam with the sun on my face the whole time, it makes such a difference, that little bit of warmth, especially when the water is so cold!

I know that wild swimming is not everyones cup of tea, it is good to make the time in our lives for those things that replenish and nourish us isn't it, whatever that looks like.  In recent years I have come to realise how important these things are in my life.  There is a pressure in society to always be busy and productive but this isn't helpful or useful if that leaves us feeling tired and worn out all the time.  I am still holding onto hope that COVID will slowly start to turn the tide on this pressure and we will start to value those things that can't be measured.

So onto another pastime that fills my cup up, knitting.  My shawl is not ready to share more than this, I am still waiting on buttons to come into stock at my local sewing shop, I have sown on the the 24 buttons that I have, I bought 25 but one has mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the house....I need another five, I just need to be patient.  The weather has warmed up here a little so I am not in need of this right now, but I do hope they come back in stock in time for when the temperatures eventually start to drop.

In the meantime I have a whole skein of this wool left over.  I think the amount I needed would have taken me a few metres over the skeins that I used, so the fifth was a just in case skein.  I have been ratching through my stash and found some small balls of yarn, mostly left over from other projects, that I think will work to make some kind of colour work hat, I am still looking at patterns.  I also need to do a few swatches to work out which colours and yarns would be suitable and work together.

My hat is now off the needles and finished and I have been stash diving again and found another yarn for some mittens.  I actually had the ball band from this yarn so I could work out how much I had left without resorting to guesstimating with my, not terribly accurate for the job, weighing scales.  I have a set of traditional kitchen scales, you know the sort with weights.  When I was weighing the yarn for the hat I realised that the scales are not terribly well balanced which is fine for cooking as long as everything is wrong together it won't matter, but for weighing yarn to work out how much I have left, well it is a best guess.  These mitts are a really quick knit, for me, I am sure some people could do them both in a day!

So my knitting is all about small projects at the moment, Alice needs a new cardigan, the last one I knit is now too short in the arms and she has worn it so much she has worn through both elbows!  She is really reluctant to part with it, I need to see if I can get the same yarn and knit the next size up.

I have some birthday knitting to do for a friend, it was my present to her, to knit her a cardigan.  Covid has made it difficult to sort this, but we have finally chosen a pattern, now onto the yarn......it is a 4ply knit so I am keen to get this on the needles soon as I am really slow knitting up in such thin yarn.

What replenishes and nourishes you?

Joining with Kat this week.

05 September 2020

A Solo Adventure


Yesterday I found myself with some time without the children, none of our usual home ed groups are up and running again yet so this is highly unusual at the moment, in fact I cannot remember the last time I had so much time to myself.  I could of course have dropped them off at their friends house and returned home, I could of spent the day pottering at home probably not doing very much, as is usual when I am free of distractions.  How is that we long for those times when we can just get on with things and not be disturbed, but when that time comes we can never remember all those things we wanted to do?



Having established that one friend was not free to meet up, I realised that I didn't want any company I wanted to go out for a walk on my own with my thoughts and the beautiful scenery as my companions.  I woke on Friday morning with that as my plan but not knowing where I was going to go.  In and amongst sorting food for the day for all of us, doing the laundry, some yoga and taking delivery of a large food order from a wholesaler, I made plans for where I would go.  I needed a lie down in a darkened room by the time I had sorted all that, not the adventure I had in store for myself!



As with everything I do there is always something to do on the way, having dropped the children at their friends house, I met with another friend to drop off some flour.  The large food order I mentioned was not just for me, I run a food group with the wholesaler and co-ordinate orders for several friends through my account.  Only one person had ordered this time, nearly 150kg of flour, it completely filled the boot of my small car and coated everything I put in there afterwards in a layer of white dust!  Having dropped off the flour I had to head into town to run a few errands that I had forgotten or not been able to do the day before. I was glad to finally get to where I was going to walk from, my time rather reduced by all the jobs needing my attention, but here I was all set to go.  



Well not quite.  I wasn't sure if I was going to have to pay for the car park I wanted to use, a quick look online before setting off didn't answer that for me.  I have a pot of change in the house which I keep for such times, except, you have guessed it, that is the one thing I had left at home.  My purse held a few pennies and the machine did not take cards.  Whilst I sorted my stuff I thought about what I should do, there was no where else to park, if I parked elsewhere it would mean a change of plans.  So I found an old receipt, my purse was full of those, and wrote a note explaining why I did not have a parking ticket in my car.  Finally, off I set.



I had chosen the location based on the weather forecast.  It was meant to be very wet in my part of the county but drier further west so that is where I headed.  I know a forecast is a best guess, on this occasion it was a pretty bad guess, almost as soon as headed off, the heavens opened.  Not just a little rain but a full on deluge.  Luckily I was walking in the trees at this point (the clump you can see in the photo above) so I didn't get too wet.  It was very drippy though as the rain filtered down through the tree canopy.  The path had been laid with stones in part, which are always a little treacherous in the wet, I nearly went flat on my face at one point early on, not a great start to my walk.  Treading more carefully I made my way up through the trees.  One of things that I love about walking on my own is the wildlife that you see as you quietly walk through the world, I was rewarded with many delights, including a red squirrel that was half way up a tree looking at something above it.  Annoyingly it was too dark for me to get a good photo as it stayed still like that for ages.


My destination was this tarn, the local word for a small lake, where I was going to have a swim.  It had rained a little more on my way up to here and the wind was rippling across the water in small gusts.  I hoped the rain would stay away whilst I got changed, I don't mind swimming in the rain, in fact I rather enjoy it, but getting changed in the rain is no fun at all.  The weather had other ideas for me as once again I was hit by strong winds and lots of rain, I was starting to wonder if this was such a good idea.  I sat it out for a while until it stopped and the sun came out and stayed out for my whole swim.  I would be lying if I said it was warm in that water, it wasn't, it was cold but so refreshing.  I managed 15 minutes in the water before deciding that I was cooled enough that I ought to get out. I needed to be able to get myself out of my wetsuit which I can't manage on my own if I get too cold!  The sun on my face was wonderful, as was the beautiful and wild surroundings.



Having got myself into many layers of clothing and drunk some soup I was still feeling a little chilled.  The tarn was pretty much surrounded by sloping land creating a bowl shape that was carved out by glaciers millions of years ago, I thought a walk uphill would help to warm me up.  As I squelched my way uphill I could feel the blood running again and my temperature started to rise.  I walked up to a high point and was rewarded with magnificent views and strong winds trying to blow me off my feet.  I could see rain blowing through the neighbouring valleys. The skies flickered from moody darkness to bright sunshine.



As I headed down to the car my thoughts, which have been swirling a little this week, were calm and still.  I felt happy and content after my adventure even it was slightly bonkers, it has filled my cup back up, I am ready to face the world and all it throws at me for the coming week.