Friday, November 13, 2015

Feathered Friends

Earlier this week I was upstairs and heard loads of tweeting and chirping. I looked out the window and my neighbours feeder was inundated with feathered friends. My feeder was empty. I was immediately attacked by a bit of feeder envy and decided to remedy that straight away. 

I had been wondering why my feeder was frequented less often these days and had even googled reasons. One of the reasons was to look at what I was offering. If there are other feeders in the area (up to a mile) that offer tastier morsels than you do then the birds would rather visit that feeder than less interesting feeders. My feeder was obviously deemed as 'less interesting'! 

Now I LOVE watching the birds in my garden, they bring me great pleasure, so as I said above, I decided to remedy the problem. I ordered a really nice seed feeder that will keep the seed from getting damp and manky (which is what is happening at the moment). I also ordered some tasty insect nibbles, sunflower hearts - loved by songbirds including my favourite little robins, and Niger seed - there are allot of gold finches in the area and apparently they love Niger seed.

I have spotted a few less common feathered visitors in the garden (if not on the feeder) this week. We've had a Greater Spotted Woodpecker a couple of times this week - no pictures unfortunately as he is rather camera shy.

A Jay boldly poked around in the lawn long enough from me to capture him with the camera.

Another little visitor spotted, who was decidedly more camera shy, was this sweet little Song Thrush, it could also be a Mistle Thrush, they are nearly identical.

For ages it sat in the crook of a branch watching us. I dashed indoors to get my camera, when I returned the bird was still where I had left it in full view. As I raised my camera it flew off - typical! Let that be a lesson to me in keeping my camera close at hand! I managed to get these rather indistinct pictures by following it as it flew from tree to tree and hopped from branch to branch.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Approaching Christmas

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that although I love Christmas, I cannot stand the consumerism that threatens to overwhelm this holy time. It honestly drives be bonkers. 

For many a year in our home we have refused to give into this consumerism disease. We set a modest - cash only - budget for gifts and our food choices are based on what we actually like to eat and on a scale that we can eat without having mounds and mounds of food left over. 

This holiday is, after all, about the birth of our Saviour. It's about Jesus.

For our family it is not about personal gain (expensive gift wise), it's not about  over-indulgence, it's not about having my house outshine my neighbours with lights and decorations. Please don't read that last bit as we don't decorate because we do, we just don't spend vast amounts of money each year on decorations. We re-use the decorations we have had all our married life each year. 

I have to say that the attack from all sides seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Christmas decorations have been in stores since September. Television adverts are setting picture-perfect, simple heart-warming scenes, all to entice the consumer to spend on their products. Christmas movies have been playing on the dedicated Christmas movie channel since October.

As I was pondering over these things, I came across this wonderful article written by a lovely blogger on doing Christmas your way. She addressed almost all the issues that we all face over this Christmas season, she shared how they deal with it. I found it quite encouraging (her article but also her readers comments afterwards) to see how many people resist the seasons trappings and feel free to do what is important to them. I was especially encouraged on the charity collection bucket side of things. Lets face it, they are everywhere at this time of the year. Personally we have two Christian charities that we support that make a huge difference in people's lives, but I still feel like a horrible person when I choose not to contribute to every single open bucket at every single shop entrance! But honestly, it's just not possible to support every-single-collection. I found her statement on how she feels about this issue comforting in a way, and I will try to remember what she said every time I feel overwhelmed with guilt for not popping in some cash or committing to a direct debit for the next year!

Anyhoo, my point for this post is (apart from my own thoughts being clarified through the act of writing it down), that I really want to keep this season focused on Jesus. I want to keep it simple and real, yet make it special for all the right reasons! I don't want our Advent and Christmas to replicate a Hollywood Christmas movie. With Advent being two and half weeks away, I think that now is a good time to reflect on and clarify what Christmas truly means to us as a Christian family and how I'm going to encourage that in my own home.

Blessings to you all...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Homeschooling Is So Much More...

I just wanted to pop in today to show you the cute little paperclips my daughter is busy with for our little Etsy shop.

I am reminded as I put this post together that learning is not just about academics and books. As a homeschooler we are able to follow learning experiences and dedicate time to these that perhaps they would not be able to do if in an ordinary school environment.

These little winter paperclips were listed today. The little mug of hot chocolate has such amazing detail. There is squirty cream, mini marshmallows and a candy-cane.

I have seen such progress in my daughters work since we started stocking the Etsy shop with her paperclips. Techniques have been developed and her creativity has been allowed to soar.

This set was made for a friend of mine. She had seen something similar and asked my daughter if she could make a set for her, and she did.

I really love this little set, again the attention to detail is amazing! She is currently working on two more sets that have been privately commissioned as well as one set for the shop. We are hoping to have that listed by the end of the week.

My daughter has learned how to deal with customers and commissions independently from me. She corresponds with them on what they are looking for and keeps them in the creative loop.

She has had to deal with one comeback and sort it out. She factors in her costs, postage and profit. She is realising how much work, time and effort it takes in maintaining a business, a valuable lesson - in fact lots of valuable lessons are being learnt while building and keeping her business.

I really love seeing my daughters little business grow and I love seeing how excited she gets when she makes a sale - what a great life learning experience :)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Christmas Sewing and A Bit Of Knitting Too.

It's been a busy week somehow - not much extra going on but my hands have been itching to sew and knit so I have given into the urge :)

It's wonderful when you are feeling inspired and I have learnt to take a bit of time out each day and indulge in that urge. So often I make excuses NOT to spend time doing what I want to do and instead fill my time with a never-ending list of household tasks. 

However, this does not always compute to a happier me! I love my home and my role in life, but part of who I am is creative. If that side is not allowed a little leeway every-so-often I feel frustrated.

With Christmas approaching I really wanted to make some decorations. I have a stack of gorgeous Christmas cottons that have been calling my name for a loooong time :) 

Years ago I made some cute little 3D bells for the Christmas tree, I've long since lost the pattern but remembered how to put them together. I drew up my own pattern and got stitching. I want to make some sort of garland with these 3D bells to hang at the bottom of our bed over the festive season.

I extended this idea by cutting out a whole lot of triangles and turning them into Christmas trees that will adorn windowsills. I'm thinking that they will be nestled on some fairy-lights and greenery, perhaps a few holly berries too.

On the needles: Socks. I have lots of yarn that needs knitting up into socks for the winter. I'm currently busy with this lovely blue/yellow colourway of Drops Fable yarn

Now for years and years I have used the same sock pattern - it gets BORING using the same pattern. So a few months ago I tried the Hermione's Everyday Sock pattern off Ravelry. I really loved how they turned out but what I didn't like about this pattern was how tight the cast on edge of the ribbed cuff turned out and I really wanted it longer in the leg.

So I decided to try something completely different. Instead of knitting from the cuff down I decided to try a toe up pattern, but I have not followed the pattern completely as certain bits made no sense what-so-ever to me. So instead of doing the toe the way the pattern instructed I followed a Youtube tutorial for a Turkish cast-on. I really love this method of doing the toe - it's so neat and no need for working that pesky Kitchener stitch. 

The next new-to-me technique was the heel. There are many different ways to turn a heel. Up to know I have only ever worked a flapped heel which is worked in two steps and can be rather tedious.
Flapped Heel
But this time round I decided to work a short-row heel which is done in one step AND is quicker and uses less yarn. It's usually the type of heel turn used in manufactured socks.
Short Row Heel
I LOVE this heel, so quick and easy. Again I used a tutorial off Youtube to help me understand the concept. This short row heel tutorial is in two parts 1 and 2.

As you can see I have also done the toe and heel in a contrasting colour which I love, I plan on doing the cuff in white too. Knitting from the toe up means that I can knit the leg part to the desired length without worrying if I will have enough yarn to finish right up to the toe point of the sock. I prefer longer socks for winter as I wear boots just about all winter long and longer socks feel nicer and give that added warmth.

I have also used two circular needles instead of dpn's and I have really enjoyed knitting them up this way. I'm not sure I'll go back to dpn's, in fact this basic sock pattern that I am using can be completely customised using whatever stitch pattern you want (Rib, lacy etc) So I think I will be writing up my own sock patterns from now on. The socks seem to knit up so much quicker using the circular needles, it's not as fiddly as the dpn's.

More sock yarn: I wanted to knit some Christmas socks but couldn't seem to find the 'right' self-striping colourway (yes, I had a very definite idea in my mind on how my Christmas socks are to look). I found this gorgeous self-striping yarn called 'Joyeux noel' from Stray Cat Socks on Etsy. It was a bit more pricey than what I usually like to spend on yarn but I fear I'm becoming a bit of a yarn snob. I love beautiful yarn and I really appreciate hand spun and hand dyed. I love supporting other Etsy business owners so this was not a hard purchase to make :)

My daughter has requested a pair of Norwegian House Slippers for this winter. These are super easy to knit up and because they are felted, they last an age. To make sure that they last even longer I bought these slipper soles from Amanda Blackwell of Joe's Toes - another small business owner. I loved the little extra touches she added to my purchase.

Have you started any Christmas crafting yet? I'm hoping to make a few gifts so there is no time to waste, I can't believe that there are only 49 days left! Anyhoo - wishing you all a lovely Thursday. See you soon :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

British 'Homegrown' Nature Study Curriculum - And A Special Offer For My Readers

If you have never done nature study in your homeschool before, it can be a rather daunting task to begin. "I don't have all the answers." or " I don't know enough" or even, 'Where do I begin?' are thoughts that often lead us to putting off including this wonderfully rewarding subject in our homeschools. 

The truth is that if you just begin you will find that you are learning alongside your children and that you are building on your own knowledge with each lesson that passes by.

Some of us would just prefer a bit of guidance from others who have been doing nature study for a while. A friend to come alongside us and show us the ropes if you will. If you are a British home educator then you will be thrilled to know that one of our own British home educating moms has put together a wonderful Charlotte Mason style nature study program. I am so excited to be able to share it with you today, this homegrown nature study curriculum, it's a gem to have in our homeschools. 

Of course let me just say at the outset that this year-long curriculum is not only for those on British shores, it is perfectly suited to adapt to your surrounds where ever you may live in the world.

Course of Study: Exploring Nature With Children by Lynn Seddon
Format: PDF download
Cost: $15.00 (regular price but I have a discount code for you - stay tuned to the end)

Exploring Nature With Children has been written by Lynn Seddon, a home educating mum in England. She uses a Charlotte Mason approach to her home education and has written this curriculum to fit in with that.

This is a complete year-long study that guides you effortlessly through the calendar year. Step by step you are given all the guidance you need to complete the nature study lesson. 

I loved that this curriculum has been based seasonally, so October lessons for example cover: Autumn Leaves, Autumn Pond Study, Autumn Tree Study and Pumpkins. Looking ahead I notice that in February one of the weeks covers Candlemas - how exciting! In my own home I tend to weave natural and liturgical things together so this is right up my street. The equinox's and solstices also have their chance to be looked at in this curriculum. There is just such a lovely gentle rhythm to this program.

Lynn begins her book with a lovely detailed conversation with her readers on how to use the book. She gives a comprehensive overview of what your nature time will look like. So you will know what to look out for on your nature walk.

 * She gives you reference reading from The Handbook of Nature Study
* She has suggested poems and additional books for you to read with your children
* and of course  a nature activity to complete together

She's even included:

 *Picture Study suggestions
*Extension activities to do together that cover other CM areas of study such as dictation, copy-work, how to set up and keep a nature journal, science. 

Honestly, this is SO-MUCH-MORE than just a nature study program.

I wanted to share some {not all, there has to be some surprises when you download your copy :)} of the topics that are covered over the year:

* Christmas Plants
* Winter Sky Study
* Caterpillars
* The Moon
* Museum Trips
* Winter Solstice
* Nesting Birds
* Garden Snails
* Wild Flowers
* Black Garden Ants
* Plant Life Cycle

I hope that that whets your appetite for this exciting curriculum:)

An added bonus to this curriculum is that Lynn has set up an 'Exploring Nature With Children' FB page where people can share pictures of their families nature adventures. I think its a fabulous support feature as you can join up and be part of this community of like-minded people.

Discount Voucher- As I mentioned above this PDF curriculum can be bought for the regular price of $15.00 BUT Lynn has very kindly offered my readers a 15% discount voucher valid until 15 November 2015! Isn't that wonderful? 

You can buy your ebook on Lynns Blog HERE. Type in the code SKY15 for your discount.

Disclaimer {got to have it} - Just to let you know that I have not received any compensation for this review. All thoughts are my own and I am genuinely excited about this product :)