Monday, July 08, 2024

July Home and Homeschool Links


Rabbit Rabbit! According to this old English and North American folklore saying, if these are the first words out of your mouth on the 1st of the month the rabbits will run away with your problems and you will have a month of good luck.


I always find folklore, culture and tradition interesting and I wonder what the origins of these things are.

In keeping with the topic, since March I have been watching a family of hares that have taken up residence in the hedgerows along the fields near our home. They can often be found in the early morning on our front lawn or in the horse's field in the late afternoon.


They are rather big, as big as my cats for sure and have huge eyes, ears and hind legs - all essential to avoid predators!

Now, a month or two ago I was browsing through past blog posts and thought that it would be rather nice to do a little round-up on the first of each month of past blog posts for that month that I have written over the years. 

So, Kicking off my peek-back-in-time of July posts I want to share my July Seasonal Themes and Planning post.

These are plans that I put together years ago, one for each month of the year. It's a list of seasonal observances, celebrations and ideas to do and enjoy together as a family to celebrate the year. Each year I print off my plans, update, add to and change a few things to keep them fresh, and voila! We have a list of fun things to do and observe for the month.

Summer Pinterest Board

Check out my 'Summer' Pinterest board that's packed with fun things to do and try over the summer. Don't forget to follow me on Pinterest, I'm an avid pinner and am always adding to my boards. 

July Nature Study



Nature Study had to be one of the highlights of our homeschool week. Every Friday we would have our morning basket time, do a bit of Maths and English, then spend a good few hours on nature study. We would read a living nature-related book, take a walk outdoors for at least an hour, then return home for lunch and nature journaling time. Here are some of my top July nature study posts:

OHC - Grid Study
OHC - Cuckoo Spit, Froghoppers and Other Things
OHC - The Great British Weather
Bee Nature Study

The Patriotic Homeschool



I have been a contributing author for The Curriculum Choice website for years. It's a great resource filled with reviews on curriculum and great posts that are helpful and encouraging. Do bookmark it as a resource.

Last year I hosted an authors post where we focused on The Patriotic Homeschool. This post is filled with some great ideas and good reads around this topic so please do pop on over if you are looking for some fun patriotic ideas. July is, after all, the perfect month to explore this theme in the U.S

So my lovelies, I hope that this post inspires fun and learning in your own July. I'm going to be re-looking at those plans, adjusting them to fit in with our now grown children and busy working lives. There is always an opportunity to mark and enjoy the season, no matter what season of life you are in. It's part of those simple things that make life and living beautiful.

Blessings to you all this week.

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Sunday Reflections: Make It Your Ambition To Lead a Quiet Life

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you - 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV


God gave me this verse and Deut 6:7 in 2006 when He led us on a journey that was very much 'counterculture' and not the norm. He blessed us and gave us the great privilege of homeschooling our children. He showed us how to live a quiet life that left the hustle-and-bustle of the world outside to a large extent.

This verse as long been one of my favourite verses and the desire of my heart and soul which I know was planted by God and very much in line with how He created me. I have always found fulfilment and peace in the simple things, in God's creation, in my home and role as a wife, mother and as a Christian.

It's funny, because I have been on this academic journey and done quite well (I passed the Bar Course BTW with a High Distinction!), yet I have felt a sense of disquiet over the past couple of years about pursuing a career in law.

Why? I wondered. 


Well, because it goes against my innermost being and who I was created to be. I absolutely believe that God has a purpose for each of us and some of us are purposed to be lawyers, doctors, teachers and so on.

But if I examine closely my nature and the inclinations displayed in my childhood, and if I pay close attention to the things that bring me the most peace and joy - those things which make me a better person who is able to reach into the lives of others and share God's love, then I can see where I should be placing my efforts and where I should be working.

Oh, God is faithful! He closes doors, opens others, gently places things in our paths and leads us along the way that we should go. We don't always recognise it when we see it. We try to take matters into our own hands and attempt to make our own way and shape our own destiny, often settling for so much less than what God has in mind for us.

We can be blind to what really ought to be quite clear. 

But once we are sure about the path God wants us to take, we will need to set aside all our 'but how's' and our 'but what if's' and our fears and step out in faith.


Stepping out in faith reminds me of that scene from the 'India Jones: Last Crusade' movie. He stands on the precipice of a great chasm. He needs to cross it to get to the room where the grail knight guards a room full of chalices, one of which is the Holy Grail, the cup of life.

He closes his eyes and steps out in faith. His foot lands on a solid rock bridge which could not be seen with the naked eye, and he safely crosses the great chasm.

Sometimes we need to step out in faith, even when we cannot see how we will make it to the other side and the unknown seems terrifying.

Isn't that what it means when we as Christians 'live by faith'? 


We trust God to show us the way. We trust Him to lead us, to make it clear so that we understand, and we surrender ourselves to Him in all areas of our lives, not holding on to the bits we feel we are better equipped to control.

I wonder what it is that you are grappling with right now

Is God calling you to something that appears impossible?

Are you standing on the precipice of a chasm, and you are not sure how you will get across to the other side?

Are you scared to step out in faith?

"I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11

We have all been there. We have all wondered if the decision we are making is the right one. Sometimes it is easier to keep the status quo and stay in our comfort zone, to stick with what we know works even if it makes us unhappy, even if it means we will not experience the wonder of seeing God's hand in our lives.

"Be strong and courageous" For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." - Josh 1:9

I want to tell you that this promise from Joshua 1:9 is true. 

In my own life I have seen God make a way where really...by the world's wisdom, should never ever have happened.

We stepped out in faith and obedience when God called us to homeschool.

We stepped out in faith and obedience when God impressed on my heart to keep teaching them in the way He had shown us which was absolutely not the way the education system works in the UK.

And He opened doors! You can read about it HERE.

Sometimes, we are like the Israelites


We forget God's goodness.

We forget God's provision.

We forget that He loves us and has a plan for us.

Instead of trusting Him, we wander around the desert surviving, but never fully living in abundance.

By not stepping out in faith, we deprive ourselves of seeing His mighty hand at work in our lives. We deprive ourselves of seeing a way being made where there shouldn't be one. We deprive ourselves of growing in faith and experiencing His peace and joy.

I don't know what decisions you have to make today...

But I want you to know that God is big enough to handle whatever it is. He is big enough to make a way, but you need to reach out, put your hand in His, and take the first step.

That is exactly what I will be doing today and every day (for faith is not a single action but a daily sacrifice).

Blessings in Christ,

Shirley-Ann

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Under An English Sky's 2024 Autumn Knitting Show Calendar

Now I know that we have only just squeeked into summer but some events need a bit of forewarning so that we can clear our calendars and treat ourselves.

I didn't think that I would get to take Under An English Sky Yarns to many shows this year. I had managed to secure a place at two most local-to-me shows which I was very happy about and I was wait listed for two of the bigger shows.

I honestly was not holding out much hope as these shows are very popular and my business is very small - although growing. As it turns out, I have been blessed with some last-minute places at two of my favourite shows!

I'm so incredibly happy becasue this is what I want to do - dye yarn, knit, craft and grow things!

 Autumn is a lovely time to treat yourself to a good-old craft show. I've been doing it for years and it is something I look forward each year. There is something about the dipping temperatures and shortening days that triggers an automatic reaching for yarn and needles! 

Of course we have so many lovely holidays to celebrate over the autumn, all of which cry out for new knitwear, and Christmas gifting to think about too. I always find a visit to a show provides a great opportunity not only to choose the perfect gift for a crafty friend, but also to be inspired by all the yarn, fabrics and threads that have been curated under one roof.

This year I am treating myself to a trip to the Festival of Quilts show in Birmingham and to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate. I'm going with a very dear friend so I'm looking forward to combining awesome company with yarn, fabrics and threads!

2024 Autumn Show Calendar

From a business point of view I am taking Under An English Sky Yarns to four shows and I would LOVE to say hi to all the friends I have met at past shows and meet new ones too! A girl can never have too many crafty friends!

So if you decide to treat yourself, this is where you can find me:

August

17th - Popup Wool Show - Hulme Hall, 23 Bolton Road, Bebbington, Port Sunlight, Wirral, CH62 5DH

September

15th - Yarn Gathering - 10am - 4pm - Daniel Owen Centre, Mold, Flintshire, CH7 1AP

28th - 29th - Yarndale, 10am - 5pm Saturday, 10am - 4:30 Sunday - Skipton Auction Mart, Gargrave Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD 23 1UD

October

19th - 20th October - Bakewell Wool Gathering, 10am - 4pm, Lady Manners School, Shutts Lane, Bakewell, DE45 1JA

I've included links to each shows website so you can have a look at what each show has to offer.

Yarndale and Bakewell are big shows so if you prefer something a little quieter then the Popup Show and the Yarn Gathering may be more up your street.

That just about wraps up this post. I do hope that you will visit one of the shows and if you do, please make sure that you come and say hi.

Now I'm off to plan my knits for the show - what will you be knitting to wear?

Monday, June 24, 2024

Episode 3 of my Podcast is now live!

Hello Lovelies! 

I am working on a whole lot of new blog posts but I just wanted to pop in and let you know that I've just published a new episode of my podcast on Youtube.

If you like it please will you give it a like and consider subscribing to my channel. I would so appreciate it and of course we get to chat face to face!


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Meal Planning Tips and Tricks you Need to Know to Avoid Making Boring Food PLUS Free Meal Planner!

Say it with me: I will not eat the same boring meal 5X a week.

This is exactly what tends to happen when your grocery shop is poorly planned, and it probably means that you are shopping without any plan at all.


As a busy homeschool mum who not only had a home to look after but children to teach, and each with their own extra-curricular activities to keep up with, I learned early on that to avoid wasting money on take-out or having to cook meals that were quick but boring, I had to implement a meal planning system into my homekeeping routine.

This became a little monthly ritual which I looked forward to (and still enjoy today) and which saved me countless moments of angst at wondering what to cook for supper. 

It also helped me to be a better steward of our financial resources. My husband worked hard to support us as we followed God's calling to homeschool our two young children and it felt good to be dilegent in my role of managing the home and our resources.

Meal planning will not only help your family save money but it will also keep your fridge, freezer and pantry well organsied and reduce waste.

I have created a pretty, meal planner for you to download and use. 


There will be an autumn meal planning page coming out later this year as I love to keep things seasonal.

Don't forget to subscribe to my blog - it's a great way to keep in touch and to get the autumn meal planner when it is published.

Now, if you are new to meal planning this isn't a post on bulk cooking - that is an entirly different post. I'm not going to give you some strict and over-organized plan. I mean, who needs that! 

This is a post on making a few small changes that will not take great swathes of time and effort - I don't want to overwhelm and burden you. 

I aim to give you tried and tested tips and tricks that have worked for me over the years and that you can impliment right now, before your next grocery shop. 

Hopefully it will set you on a path to being a bit more organised and having fewer moments of horror when you open the freezer door and realise that you have nothing for dinner which everyone is expecting in an hour!

Now, grab your grocery shopping list (I have a little notebook that lives in my handbag) and gather your cookbooks/pinterest boards etc. Oh, don't forget your cup of tea or coffee!


Grocery Cupboard Staples

I like to begin my monthly meal planning by doing a quick stock take - this is a glance over the shelves of my pantry to see what running low or I am out of. 

There are certain products in my grocery cupboard that I always keep in stock. These are things that typically can be thown in to the slow cooker that make up a good base to a myriad of dishes. They are also things that I like to have on hand should I want/need to throw together some muffins or need to bake bread etc.

Here's a list of what I stock:
  • Canned chopped tomatoes
  • Baked beans
  • Tinned soups for casseroles (chicken, mushroom, chicken & Mushroom)
  • Pouched or canned tuna - perfect to add to all sorts of things for a quick lunch
  • Popcorn (the type you pop yourself). This is a great quick snack option with not too many calories.
  • Rolled Oats - I use oats in baking (so many yummy things to make) and to make porridge for breakfast.
  • Peanut Butter - apart from it being a traditional toast topper, I use peanut butter in baking (cookies and puddings) and cooking family favourites such as Chicken Satay Noodles.
  • Have a dedicated baking shelf: Strong all-purpose Flour, Self-raising Flour, Baking Powder, Bicarb, Eggs, Sugar, Vanilla Essence, tins of peaches, condensed milk, evapourated milk, caramel and golden syrup. You will generally be able to whip up something sweet and delicious if you have these staples on hand.
If I see I'm running low or run out on any of these staples - it goes on the grocery shopping list.

Getting Down To Planning - My Top Tips

Alrighty, lets get stuck into this. Youv'e got your free printable meal planner in front of you and all your cookbooks whether online or hardcopy. I would recommend grabbing your daily planner too.


  • Look at any upcoming events in your daily planner. What events are coming up this  month where cooking won't work with your schedule? You will want to plan something super easy for these meals. I like to do 'take-out at home'. This is something like crumbed chicken, oven chips, and a salad. I can make the salad the night before and the chicken and chips can be cooked from frozen.
  • Choose the day of the week you will do your grocery shop - pop that in your daily planner.
  • Now fill in your family favourtie meals on your free printable meal planner. In my home we have homemade burgers every Friday - so that's all Friday's sorted. We also like to have either homemade pizza or a comfort meal like mac & cheese on a Saturday, so those are plugged in. Sunday's is always a roast lunch so I fill that in.
  • Next I plug in all those meals I know that go down really well and that we like to eat on a regular basis such as lasagna, sausages & mash etc. I try not to repeat meals within a two-week time period so as to avoid falling into the boring meal trap.
  • Update your shopping list with the ingrediants you need for your regular family favourtie meals.
  • Plan in a 'Left Overs Day'. I always find that there is a lot of meat and veg left over from our Sunday roast. So I like to plan to use that food and prevent wastage. I may plan a roast dinner quiche and salad for the Monday. Or a roast dinner pie perhaps. Plug in your left-over days into your planner.
  • Now go through your cookbooks. Are there any new fun recipes you  have been wanting to try? How about an old favourite recipe that you totally forgot about - this happened to me just this week! This is the perfect time to try out one of those seasonal recipes that you pinned on your Pinterest board! Yes - we all have them...hoards and hoards of delicious looking seasonal meals that we never every cook. 
  • Plan for Treats. I like to plan in a baking afternoon. I would rather bake all at once than weekly because I am not someone that really loves to bake for the joy of baking. I like to indulge in it periodically. So I will make a traybake cake, various muffins, a couple of dozen various cookies and then portion them out and freeze them. They freeze and thaw well. My grandmother told me that she used to bake and ice cakes and freeze them just like that. When she was expecting company she would take a cake out of the freezer the night before.
  • Schedule a baking day into your daily planner.
  • Update your grocery list with the ingrediants you will need to make some of your favourite cookies and cakes.
Tip: I keep one or two months of meal plans for each season in my master homekeeping binder. That way I then have a rotating stack of meal plans so if I go through a difficult life season, I can simply work from a tried and tested plan from my archives.


The Grocery Store

We now have our meal plan and our grocery list and it is time to go shopping. 

When my children were small they would often come shopping with me as I didn't have anyone to watch over them while I was out. I chose a time when they would be their freshest. I would task each of them with things to find within the same grocery isle which made shopping a lot quicker and because they were involved, we avoided any shopping meltdowns.

If you are able to slip away and do your big shop on your own, here are a few things I try to bear in mind with regards to my meal planning.

  1. Number 1 top tip - do not visit the grocery store on an empty stomach. I'm sure you are well aware that when you do this - all manner of unplanned yummy convieniance foods find their way into your shopping trolley.
  2. Avoid Pre -Prepped vegetables unless you are insainly busy. They will always cost more and have a shorter shelf life. 
  3. The exception to this rule is frozen veg. Frozen veg is fantastic to throw into a stew, casseroles and slow cooker recipes.
  4. Follow a 5,4,3,2,1 pattern:
    • 5 different fruits and veggies - These should take up the bulk of your plate so your shopping trolly should reflect this.
    • 4 protiens that you really like - for me it's chicken, salmon, minced beef (mince, meatballs etc), and sausages. 

      TIP: buy meat in bulk if you can and process/portion it all at home. This will save you a huge amont of time and money in the long run! Plus - there is nothing nicer than seeing your chest freezer lovely and full! You will always have something on hand should you need it for unexpected visitors or life events!

    • 3 carbs - We like potatoes, couscous/rice and pasta.
    • 2 Healthy fats- I use olive or coconut oil for cooking and we love avocados so we always have them in the fruit bowl.
    • 1 indulgence whatever that is for you. It may be chocolate or crisps etc. Everything in moderation and it is nice to sometimes have a treat that we didn't or cannot make at home.

Preperation & storage


Very briefly, part of succesful meal planning is having your planned meals as prepped as possible. This will save you time and energy at the end of a busy day. 

I have recently come across The Batch Lady on Instagram. If you have not heard of her do check her out! She has so many great time and money saving tips when it comes to meal planning.

I purchased her new book which is full of really delicious freezer meals to pre and freeze ahead of time. I've worked my way through 2 weeks of meals and every single one of them has been a hit with my family.


It literally took me an hour to prep the meals and we have had an interesting and varied menu - it feels like we have been eating in a restaurant withouth all the time consuming prep that you would expect to go into preparing such interesting meals.

She also has some fantastic FREE summer meal plans for you to download and use. So if you feel that your life season simply does not allow you to take this time to meal plan then just download one of The Batch Lady's prepared meal plans. She has about 12 weekly meal plans in her summer list. That's 3 months worth of plans!

Honestly, you will want to bookmark her website! She has other seasonal plans too!

The time spent prepping these meals was so worth it. Plus - my nerdy nature just loved standing back and gazing at all the neat, full freezer bags once they were all in the freezer. 

My Recommeded Meal Planning Purchases (Pictured Above)

  1. The Batch Lady Grab and Cook Book (Best cook book I've bought in years)
  2. Resusable Food Storage Bags (20 bags)
  3. Adjustable Food Prep Bag Holding Stand (not entirely necessary but very helpful).

Have a Wonderful Week and I'll See You Back Here Soon!


Well lovelies, I hope that this post is in someway useful. I'm sure that most of you are seasoned meal planners but I am always reminded to be a Titus 2 woman and to pass on what I have learned through my years of motherhood, in running a home and being a Christian wife.



If you have any meal planning tips please do leave them in the comments for others to pick up and use. 

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