Monday, September 11, 2017

Cosy Days on the Way!

Hello lovelies! This post is all about seasonal bits and bobs and some lovely autumnal yarns so if you are a lover of yarns and all things knitty then stick around.

Autumn is happening! It's everywhere, leaves are turning, there is a chill in the air and the days are noticeably shorter. If you follow me on Pinterest you will have seen that 'autumn' and general coziness is definitely on my mind at the moment. My lawn is already strewn with leaves, the 'big-continual-leaf-pick-up' has started! 

This weekend I paid a visit to my local garden centre to pick up two beautiful pots of 'mums' as I do every September. They flank my front door, a cheery welcome to all who come knocking. I adore the burnt orange flowers. In fact, I have a few skeins of yarn in my shop that I dyed up called 'Pumpkin Pie' that is fairly close in colour and reminds me of my chrysanth's ever time I look at it.

This year, in the hopes of prolonging the flowering of my mums, I have decided to snip blooms regularly and bring in little posies to decorate my home before I put up all my autumn decorations in a few weeks time.

As you might know, if you have read my blog for any length of time, my eldest daughter is at art college, she is so creative and I love seeing what she comes up with. Every so often, when she has time, she makes some of the cutest little stitch markers for my Etsy Shop. She made this adorable little autumn inspired set...

and one set of the very popular cinnamon swirl buns...

Aren't they just so cute?! I love the icing and texture of the pastry, they really do look good enough to eat 😋.

And if you are looking for some lovely autumnal yarn squishiness have a look at some of these OOAK's (one of a kind so when they're gone they're gone!) that came out of the dye pots last week...

Apple Orchard - every possible apple colour in one skein! I can just imagine it knit up into a pair of cosy socks.

Woodland Glow - Oh so pretty! If you visit the listings you will see that each yarn has a little story behind the inspiration. This one brings to mind a walk I went on around this time last year. The sky was blue and the leaves of the woodland all turning burnt orange, yellow and reds. 

Then we have the autumnal plums and blackberry purples. This yarn above is called 'Blackberry Brambles'. I was inspired by the stains that are evident on your hands when you go blackberrying.

And what about this lovely 'Elderberry Punch'...

Oh's so hard to let all these lovelies go, but seriously, I couldn't knit long enough to use up all this squishiness 😆.

What seasonal observances are you seeing at the moment? Do you find that the cooler weather and shorter days wake the urge inside to create?

Blessings to you all today...

Monday, September 04, 2017

Monthly Meal Planning

I mentioned in my rather long multi-faceted planning post that I did my meal planning on a monthly basis. I also promised that I would be back with a detailed post on how and why I do this, so here it is.

I've been meal planning for years and it serves two purposes, the first being that it helps me keep to a budget. I know exactly what I need to buy in my grocery shop and therefore don't go putting things into my shopping trolly that are not needed.

Secondly, I know exactly what we are going to be eating each day, I don't have to think about it at 5 o'clock after a long day. I guess it saves on brain power and gives me peace of mind in this area. As mom's we are always thinking of what to feed our family so by meal planning I am cutting out a lot of needless thinking 😁.

I do my meal planning the day before my husband's salary get's paid into our account so that's usually around the 29th or 30th of each month. I'm going to lay out my planning process so here goes:

I use a calendar to plan out my monthly meals and this calendar hangs in my kitchen. The first thing I do is gather my calendar, favourite recipe books, recipes I've printed off in the past and I have my Pinterest board up with stacks of recipes that I have pinned and want to try out at some point.

I then fill out our 'regulars' for example, Fridays are homemade pizza or burger evenings. We alternate, one Friday it's burgers the next it's pizza. Every Sunday it's a roast dinner. So that's already 9 days out of 30 (in the case of September) planned for.

Next, I open my planner to the month @ a glance and see if there is anything I need to be aware of. This month we have friends coming over for dinner a few times so using a brightly coloured pen so that it stands out I write that into my meal planning calendar. I, therefore, know that I need to sit down and plan out a menu for that evening.

Still using my planner I check to see which are our busy days and therefore require an easy crockpot meal. I take into account activities that might have us out of the house in the afternoon. We have some favourite crockpot meals which I have shared the recipes for in my Crockpot Chronicles series of posts if you are interested to see what sort of things I cook.

Once that's done I plug in some family favourites. I try to keep Saturdays as a pasta night because it is easy to throw together if we have been out enjoying the day. It's also one day in the week where I choose something easy and quick to reduce time spent in the kitchen. My 'day off' so to speak. 

That brings me up to needing to find 4 more meals. So far every meal except the roast dinners and pizza/burger nights have not been repeated. So we have a varied and exciting menu that no one should get tired with.

With only 4 more meals to plan for, I refer to my Pinterest board and find some new things to try. This month I'm going to try 'Low Syn Chicken Korma', 'Beef and Potato Pasties', 'Grilled Apple Cider, orange and thyme Glazed Pork Chops', and 'Meatball Bombs'. I mark all the recipes that I use from Pinterest with a 'P' on my calendar so I know where to find the recipes.

Finally, I use some of the other columns on my calendar to note down things I want to bake in the month, freezer meals I want to make so that I have something to pull out should the wheels fall off my day and a list of lunch options that I can draw on for those of us who are home during the day.

I then pin up my calendar onto the inside door of my grocery cupboard so that I can easily refer to it each day. It's as simple as that. That whole planning session took me about 30 to 45 minutes and is going to save me hours of 'wondering-what-to-cook' time. 

Last note on my meal planning. There is flexibility within this plan. I will swap and change meals from within the same week if, for example, a day has turned out to be a bit busier than expected and we need something quick and simple to cook. Because I shop weekly and my shopping lists are drawn up from my meal plan I know that I have all the ingredients for each meal that I have planned for that week so swapping out meals is no problem for me.

Wishing you every blessing today...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Goodbye August

It's hard to believe that today is the last day of the month! August has been lovely, we've had some lovely weather, lovely friends visiting us from afar and lovely seasonal observances to enjoy that are unique to August.

August Collage
We've enjoyed watching a family of hedgehogs fatten up for the coming winter, we stayed up late to catch the Perseid's Meteor Shower, We enjoyed Plymouths annual fireworks extravaganza, the long, warm summer days, and gathering in free foods from the hedgerows and trees surrounding us. It's been a good month. 

I feel that I have finished off the month in the way I hope to go on into September, feeling peaceful, content and productive. On Sunday I finished off this adorable little cross stitch which I will finish off in some creative way yet-to-be-determined and add to my autumn decor.

This is a free chart that I have on my Pinterest board if you are interested.

This week we started back at lessons so I spent Bank Holiday Monday putting the final touches to our learning plans. It was a glorious day - actually quite hot so I was glad to sit in the shade of the Hawthorn tree sipping coffee and doing one of the things I love best - planning.

While I was sitting here I heard some rather strange noises coming from the shrubs, upon investigating I found this little fellow tucked away sleeping. Perhaps he was having hedgehog dreams.

And last but not least, I finally got round to making my Apple Bramble Jam yesterday. Oh my goodness! Our family LOVES this jam. All ingredients save the lemons and sugar are gathered from the hedgerows which is half the fun and seems to make the jam taste better.

I used 400g of blackberries, 400g of apples, 500g sugar and the juice of one large lemon. Bring to a gentle rolling boil and let that cook down until the fruit has broken up and you have a thick sticky mixture that has reached setting point. Then ladle into null jars.

My fruit made three and bit jars - three for the grocery cupboard and a bit to enjoy right now on home baked scones. This is my youngest daughters favourite jam, in fact, she will only eat this apple bramble jam 😋.

Now I am super excited because... tomorrow marks the meteorological start of autumn! I am simply giddy with happiness. The autumn equinox (perhaps the official start of autumn) is only 22 days away, there is no doubt that signs of the season are already creeping in. I am completely tempted to crack open all my autumn decor but I will restrain myself and only do so in celebration of the equinox as is our custom. Until then, I'll be content with pinning beautiful and inspirational pins on my 'All Things Autumn' Pinterest board and keeping my hands busy with another autumn inspired cross stitch decoration to add to my autumn decor stash 😀. 

Blessings to you all this lovely last day in August.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Walk Through The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Hello again my lovelies! This week we started back at our lessons so I thought that I would take you on a photo-tour of the planners we are using this year.

I started our homeschooling years (The first five or six in fact) by making my own planner. I really enjoyed doing this because I was able to customise it to suit my needs completely. I love that I can be as creative as I want to be with these.

Then one year I tried 'The Well Planned Day'. I loved it. I loved the additional bits that helped me keep tabs on other areas of my life. I loved the articles peppered throughout. Very nice! I used this for three years. This year that's just finished I actually cut my Well Planned Day off the spiral and put it in a binder, adding other sections to it, again, customising it to suit my needs. However, there were three things that put me off buying it again. 1) There were a few wrong dates printed in the 2016/17 planner. I was disappointed at the lack of attention to detail. 2) They cut back on the report cards that they used to always have although I do believe they may have rectified that for this next year after all the complaints they received. And 3) I just don't need the place for as many students as they allow, I only have 1 student now so it was time to change.

After deliberating over various planners and of the pros and cons of once again making my own, I decided on Debra Bell's Ultimate Homeschool Planner. I also bought the Ultimate Planner for Teens so that my daughter and I can sync our weeks. 

After receiving my planner, perusing it at leisure and setting it up I have to say...I LOVE it! I think that this is the planner I will use to see out our homeschooling days (2 years) unless I am tempted by something else for our final year. Let me show you what it is that I love about it.

The cover is a sturdy plastic which I love because it means it is protected from spills and very durable. Both the front and back covers have a pocket to catch those stray papers.

The next four pages are calendars from 2015 to 2023, this is because this is a perpetual undated planner. These pages made of much sturdier (light cardstock) that the rest of the page which a good quality paper weight kind of quality.

The planner does not come with tabs and I have to say that I do love tabs so I have added them to pages that I want quick access to. Year @ a Glance, Goals and then the monthly overview pages which are all at the front of the planner before the planning pages.

After the calendar pages, we have the user guide (pages 6-17). I really appreciate these pages because there are some really helpful tips on how to use this planner to its max plus some great tips for the planning process. I'm a planner and there are tips in here that I have totally taken on board. 

After the user's guide, we have a one-year planning grid...

This is where I have marked off the holidays for the next year as well as any important days (liturgical and seasonal) that I wish to keep.

Turning the page we have the Student Goal Setter, enough space for 6 children. 

You can set Character and academic Goals here. Turning the page we have the pre-planning pages which consist of a Family Priorities page and Resource list pages enough for 6 children.

I've used one resource list to list our resources naturally but then I've used the other lists (because I'm not homeschooling 6 children) to plan out our Nature, Artist and Composer study plans for the year.

Next, comes 12 double-page monthly calendar pages.

As you can see you will need to write the month, dates and year in yourself - not a big deal for me. There's space at the bottom for you to make notes, for September I've written a seasonal quote for September taken from Chambers Book o Days which I use in my seasonal planning.

There's also a sidebar on the page for additional notes, I'm using mine to jot down ideas for field trips or activities relating to any significant events relative to that month, for example, we live just outside Plymouth which is where the Mayflower set sail from so I'm planning on taking DD to the Mayflower museum on the date it left England nearly 400 years ago. These monthly pages are the ones I have added tabs onto.

After the monthly planner pages, we have the weekly planner pages. I keep my place using a very cute and seasonally relevant paper clip that my daughter makes. This month it is a pumpkin, next month it might be a pinecone or an acorn.

Each week begins with a two-page spread that you use in your 30-minute weekly planning session to map out your bible plan, Battle Plan, Prayers and Hospitality/Outreach goals. There is a quote/prayer/inspirational quote to ponder on on this page, a new one each week. On the opposite page, there is space to record any memorable moments, achievements and evidences of grace in your children's lives.

Next, comes the actual nitty-gritty planning pages which form the bulk of the planner, the Weekly Planner. There are 6 boxes across by 6 down. Nothing has been filled in so you can really structure this in a way that suits you best. I have the subjects we are studying across the top and the days of the week down the side. There is enough space in the 'days' boxes for me to record any appointments or observances that I want to remember for that day.

I am currently using the bottom block as a notes column to note the aim I have for each week's subject. For instance, under the 'Bible' column I have written that "I want us to grow in wisdom, knowledge and character. To put God and His Word first each day".

On the right-hand side of this double-page weekly spread, you have a sidebar with space to note down 'Notes', 'Supplies' and 'Appointments'. I might use a sticker to change the appointments heading to 'Meals' perhaps.

After the Weekly Planner pages, we have double spread each for Records/Grades...

Reading lists...

Field Trips/Outside Activities...

After that, there is a 'Checklist for Raising an Independent Learner which was interesting to read, an article on how to motivate the reluctant learner and a very page on Learning Styles and Thinking skills which my daughter found interesting to go through and identify with.

After that, there is a 'High School Planning Guide' which is useful if you are at the beginning of your high school years and want to map out a rough plan from 8th through to 12th grade. This isn't really applicable to us living in the UK as our educational system is totally different.

Finally... there are a few pages for Year-End review notes. I've used these to note down nature notes - by that, I mean noting down where I see things blooming/growing etc that I will want to use when we do our nature study work. So when we look at the Horse Chestnut tree in September I know where we can go and see it as I don't have a Horse Chestnut tree in my immediate neighbourhood. I've also noted down useful websites etc for various studies that I don't want to forget.

So there we have it, a walk through of my homeschool planner for this year. Please do note that this is definitely a Christian themed planner with a Godly focus and scripture throughout, so if you are looking for a more secular planner this one might not be your cup-of-tea.

That's it for this post, wishing you all a wonderful day...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Being Intentional with God

I have a confession to make. I have not been as intentional with God over the past two years as I should. For various reasons, circumstances have led me out into that spiritual desert that I believe all Christians will visit at least once in their spiritual walk. My excursion to the desert has been prolonged it seems through my own bad attitudes towards trusting God with various things I have struggled with since our move to Devon.

Trust. Why do I have such an issue with trust? It's so easy to say, 'I trust you, Lord'. I'm reminded of the lyrics of Matt Redman's song "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord"...

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful 
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your Name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your Name

Trusting God when we are in times of abundance and peace is easy, it's when we are in the desert places that we need to CHOOSE to say, 'Blessed be your name'. Not so easy to always do. 

While scrolling through my Pinterest feed (I LUUURVVV Pinterest) I came across a pin on how to make a prayer notebook. Now being a planning type person I don't need to read about how to do this but the article's title peaked my interest so I clicked over to the blog - Intentional By Grace - to see what she had to say. After all, what could it hurt, I was feeling the need to get back to being intentional with God and being a practical girl this looked like something that might be helpful.

What really touched my heart was the link in this post to her sharing about her prayer life being in a mess. While I'm not in the midst of toddlers anymore, I felt that my own prayer life was a little disconnected and that my own life was feeling chaotic because, well... life seems to be moving at break-neck speeds, hardly enough time to gather one's thoughts. I might not have toddlers but I do have teens who have their own equally demanding needs.

If you are struggling with being intentional with God, please do go and read Leigh Ann's post, 'My Prayer Life is a Mess', it's so encouraging!

Anyhoo, I actually did decide to put together my own prayer notebook to help me be more intentional in spending time in prayer and in the Word. While I still don't manage to do my quiet time every day, I am being more intentional and actually spending more time in prayer and in God's Word which is what I so desired to do. Here's a little peek into my prayer journal.

I used Moms Toolbelt's Bible journal note booking pages for the divider covers. 

The sections I created which are relevant to how I want to use this notebook are:

Personal Journal
Bible Study
Quiet Time
Memorising Scripture

Personal Journal: - I put some blank lined note booking pages behind this divider so that I can write down any thoughts here. I find that journaling is a great way for me to make sense of my thoughts and clear my mind. 

Bible Study: - I'm using the Good Morning Girls 'Job' Study right now so I printed off the studies reading plan, the books overview, and the study questions. I also placed sheets of lined notebook paper so that I could use the S.O.A.K method whilst studying this book. You can find out what the S.O.A.K method is on the sidebar of the 'Women Living Well' website.

Quiet Time: - I have various short Quiet Time resources that I use - not all at the same time. Sometimes I like to jot down something that stood out in that time so I have lined notebook paper behind this divider.

Prayer:- I have printed off a copy of 'A Mothers Prayer', 'The Homemakers Prayer', and '31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children'. I like to have these prayers to remember, I'm sure I will add more as I find them. I have also placed some Mom's Toolbelt note booking pages in this section so that I can keep a prayer list of people and things I want to pray for as well as record any answers to prayer.

Scripture Memorisation: - I have some Mom's Toolbelt Scripture memorisation note booking pages in this section. "I have hidden your Word in my heart so that I might not sin against You." - Psalm 119:11

Affirmation: - This is where you note down confirmations and affirmations that you might receive during your quiet times, Bible Studies, you receive in prayer or someone shares with you. I don't want to forget them. For example, the affirmation I received through a conversation I had with a friend with regards to homeschooling through A levels. I shared my story in my 'Homeschooling Thoughts' post earlier this week.

Resources: - I have a few sheets of paper in this section that I can note down recommended books, podcasts or Youtube videos that I want to watch, listen to or read. My sister has given me a list of books and videos that she has found beneficial to her spiritual growth so I want to get some of those. 

Gratitude: - A few sheets of paper in this section to record all those 'small things' that God sends my way to appreciate and that makes my heart sing. Cultivating a grateful heart is something we should all strive to do. It brings peace to our spirits and makes us aware of all our many blessings.

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