Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"I Know The Plans I Have For You,"

...said the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11 

I've been feeling like I have writer's block and it is really annoying me! There is so much I want to do and share but each time I sit down here to blog, I find myself just staring at the screen. I suspect it has something to do with our impending move. It's just shy of 3 weeks now! Life feels like it's been a bit of a whirlwind.


In addition to our move, my youngest daughter has decided instead of going to college for two years to get her A-levels, she would rather sit the American SAT. This does make more sense as we have used American curriculum resources and systems right the way through our homeschooling. After contacting her two university choices and speaking to their admissions team, both have said they would happily accept her with the SAT and a transcript of her high school years with a GPA of 3. We have all of that except the SAT which we plan on sitting early next year.



So last week was spent scurrying about resurrecting her CollegeBoard account, gathering resources for the year and trying very hard not to panic 😁. Fortunately, I have done extensive research into this route of qualification so it was simply digging up all that info and familiarising myself with it once again. I was very encouraged after having spoken to the universities admissions chap. He was just so helpful and knowledgeable. The Lord must have been making a way because he is a huge advocate for young people who have not gone the traditional English A-level route having himself gone to university on alternative qualifications.

DD2 Tackling Apologia Biology
So Monday saw us officially starting the new homeschooling year - we want to get a head start and practise and hone the skills needed to tackle the SAT. We have three University open days booked for both our girls throughout October and November so they are looking forward to that.

DD1 - Graduated Art School with a Distinction! So Proud 😍
I think I may have mentioned here that dd1 (above) decided to defer her university place to study Illustration for a year. She has decided to take a gap year and now that we are moving wants to apply to universities closer to our new home up north. I'm so happy that both girls have chosen to study at either Chester University or York St John in York. As a mama, it would be so nice if they chose to attend the same university so at least they have the comfort of knowing the other one is nearby. It's all very exciting so we shall see how it all unfolds over the next year. 


So, as beautifully illustrated in the photograph above, taken from my front garden, you have to have a little rain and 'unsettled weather' for a rainbow to appear. I feel our rainbow has appeared we are all glad of the extra time we have this year together as a family and as a mum I am excited to watch my girls make plans and dream about their futures. This final homeschooling/GAP year is the year we hope to see their dreams turn into a reality.

Blessings to you all today 😘

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I Am Yours


Who am I?
That the Lord of earth, would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
That the bright and morning star, would choose to light the way,
For my ever wondering heart.

Not because of who I am... but because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done... but because of who you are...

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapour in the wind
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am....
I am yours... I am yours.


Today I finish up my temp position at the university. I feel blessed to once again be where I belong...at home. It's funny, this year I have really had to face the question, 'Who Am I?' 

I wondered who I would be once homeschooling came to an end, wondered who I would be with young adult children, questioned my purpose and my way forward. 

Being a planner and organiser I felt I had to answer these questions, make a clear-cut picture of who I was and what my life would look like after I have moved through the transition of a life-season. 

All this time the Lord knew already knew the answer, all I needed to do was look to him. I am His

I have felt like a wave tossed in the ocean, like a vapour in the wind. But these last few weeks I have pressed into him and I can feel His peace envelop my soul. I no longer feel I have to carve out a new 'who I am'. I'm already who I am - I am his and that is enough. I'm still a mom, my fledgling children still need me albeit in a different way. I still have a purpose and a role as wife, mother and homemaker and I am happy and content to rest in that role. 


So who am I?


I'm a daughter of the King
I'm saved and redeemed
I'm a new creation in Christ
I'm a wife
I'm a mother
I'm a daughter
I'm a sister
I'm a granddaughter
I'm a friend
I'm a keeper of the home
I'm a writer
I'm a season keeper
I'm a homeschooling mum
I'm a lover of the simple, frugal life
I'm a lover of God's created earth and all the wonderful nature that makes it up.
I'm a creator and crafter
I am all that He created me to be...I am His.

Rest in who you are, who God created you to be and the roles and purposes He has ordained for your life. You are His.

Blessings to you all today...

Friday, July 27, 2018

Family Journal

I knew that this year was going to be one of change for us but it seems that change is coming from some unexpected quarters! 

Nos Mayo - Devon
 In a little over a month, we will be packing all our worldly possessions (well a removal company will be doing that 😊) and bidding farewell to Devon! I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am about this move. We are going back to Manchester 💕💖 where we started out 7 years ago and where we still have the best friends in the world and strong connections.

Dad and his girls
 My husband, as long-time readers may know, manages hotels and his company is transferring us back to Manchester. I have prayed for this for so long as Devon really has not been a particularly happy place for us. It's been tough trying to forge connections and friends and community. Overall, it just has not happened although the Lord did bless us with one amazing christian family whom we have become very good friends with. Happily, everyone in the family is looking forward to the move, even my youngest who hates change. She has some very good friends in Manchester that she has kept up with, in fact spent hours on coach travel this year visiting them and they us, so she is happy to be moving closer. It feels like we are going home after a very long holiday. It feels good.


I was washing the dishes this week and noticed the sweetest interaction between a mama bird and her fledgling under the bird feeder. This baby who is almost as big as it's mother followed her about begging for food. Dutifully the mother would peck something up from the ground and pop it into her fledglings open beak. I wonder at what point she decides to let baby find it's own food?


A bit of an emergency this week in our home. Somebody got herself into a bit of a scrap. Probably brought on by her snoopiness. She came creeping into the house early Thursday morning walking gingerly and clearly in pain. She had paint all down the back of her legs. What she's been up to only she would know. Wish I had a kitty-cam though because I am rather curious. So off to the vet we went. Fortunately there were no broken bones,just severe bruising of her pelvis. So she was given a very strong painkiller and spent the next 24 hours sleeping with her head on a little pillow (courtesy of my daughter) in a little space between the radiator and my box of undyed yarn. I'm happy to report that this morning she was walking normally although still reluctant to move too far.


This was last nights moon. I took this with my everyday bridge camera. No special lenses, just zooming in as much as I could. I love that you can see the craters. I think I'm going to have to paint his moon in my nature journal soon.




Do you know that tonight there is a lunar eclipse? I believe it will be visible over most of Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. I really want to watch this as there is no having to stay up super late etc. But sadly, it looks as though we might be clouded out.


Weeks and weeks and weeks of clear, hot weather and the one day that we have rain and cloud cover is the day that there will be a lunar eclipse! Murphy's law 😁.

Have a lovely weekend everyone and enjoy the lunar eclipse if you get the chance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Lost Cornish Garden

I have a Cornish 'bucket list' of things I want to see and do, I have crossed off a good deal of them but  one of those things was to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan.


We woke up on Sunday and as is our custom, we watched a gardening program as we sipped our tea before getting ready for church. We usually watch Gardeners World but this past week they did not record an episode as they were all at the Hampton Court Flower Show. Instead, BBC screened 'Heligan: Secrets of the Lost Garden'. It was the most delightful look at the gardens and the wildlife within them over the period of a year. We decided right there and then that we were going to hop into the car as soon as we were ready and drive down to Cornwall and spend the day at Heligan. We live about an hours drive so it's not very far.

Those kind of spontaneous trips are just the best don't you think? There is an air of excitement as you all bundle up into the car and set off on an unplanned trip. We haven't done one of these in a long time so we were well overdue.


The Woodland Walk was something I've always wanted to visit because they have these really interesting features. Above is the Mud Maid, a sculpture of a sleeping woman looming out of the ground. Ivy grows on her head, torso and legs, clothing her in living garments.


Then there is the Giants Head, part of which was originally a fallen tree that was just too hard to dispose of. I thought that these creatures that reside in the Ancient Woodland would be my highlight but you will not be surprised to hear that my favourite part was, in fact, the Kitchen Garden.


No matter which National Trust property we visit or which splendid garden we walk through, it is the kitchen and the kitchen garden that totally captivates me every time.


I love seeing fruit and veg growing because they are the very things needed to nourish and nurture your family, and that's what I'm all about, my family. I would adore a walled kitchen garden where flowering, medicinal and edible plants all grow happily together.


To harvest not only food but also plants that can ward off ills deeply appeals to me. It's been a while since I visited such a beautiful garden and while since I have felt so inspired. Visiting Heligans kitchen gardens seriously sparked that old familiar pull to dig in the earth, plant and grow. It awakened the urge to create and explore.


Something as simple as seeing the gardeners potting shed, or a stack of terracotta pots standing against a sunny wall waiting to be used is very comforting to me. I think it's because when you are in a potting shed, or in the garden, you are usually left alone to your own thoughts. It gives you time to ponder and think. As you fill your earthen pots with life-giving soil and drop a tiny dry seed in, you are connecting yourself with a life-cycle that really is quite marvellous! To grow something from seed and care for it, watching it grow and producing food that is good is a wonderful process to be a part of.


I love that the birds join you in your garden, often it's a little robin (my favourite) who hops near to see if any worms pop up as you dig over the earth. Look at this sweet little fellow above, it's a fledgling robin and he was not afraid of us at all - robins are generally known to be the gardener's friend because they love to be around as you did the earth, hoping for a juicy worm.


Look at these ladders propped up against the wall to make harvesting the fruit easier. I love that they popped boards painted with blackboard paint into the frames to prevent curious little ones from having a climb. Brilliant idea.


Now tell me you wouldn't want a green/glass house like this to grow your tomatoes or peaches in! I love that the shelves and walls are used to display little posies of sweet peas or a squash or two from the garden. 


I haven't grown nasturtiums for years! Why I wonder?? It's too late to grow them this year but they will certainly be a feature in next years garden!


After walking around the kitchen and flower garden we stopped at a tea room for an ice-cream and came across two baskets outside filled with picnic rugs. I LOVE this idea. I have a pin on my Autumn Pinterest board that is quite similar except it is filled with warm blankets. This winter I will definitely have a basket of blankets with a sweet sign as part of my practical decor.


Last little snippet before I sign off, this (above) is the head gardeners office - I mean seriously!!! How adorable, I totally want an office like this. In the eves just before you enter this office look who is living in a carefully constructed mud nest...


A family of Swallows! Mum and dad waited patiently while people popped in and out to have a look at the office, as soon as we were out they rushed to the nest to feed their little ones with insects gathered from the garden. These little babies were so curious about the stream of visitors though, they peered over the side of their nest, standing tall as if craning to watch us. What a delight!

If you would like to see the rest of the pictures from our trip to The Lost Gardens of Heligan then do visit my Flickr page where I have many more pictures from our visit. If you are ever in Cornwall I highly recommend visiting the gardens, they are simply magical.

Monday, July 09, 2018

A Round-up of Summer Harvest & Preserving Posts


We are hitting our garden produce stride at the moment and when you have an abundance of something, whether it is homegrown or in season and available in the supermarkets, I believe in taking every opportunity to preserve the harvest.

This is one of the great summer rituals that stretches into autumn. My preserving year usually starts with making Elderflower Cordial at the beginning of June and finishes with an abundance of apple, blackberry and pumpkin preserving marathons in October. By the time Bonfire Night comes round the preserving season has drawn to a close and I begin to look forward to making Christmas cakes and mince for mince pies.

Over the years I've written quite a few posts on making preserves and harvesting from my garden so I thought a single post with a roundup of those posts would be nice. I like revisiting past posts sometimes don't you? So as we once again ready ourselves for this season of abundance lets take look at some of those posts.



Summer Harvesting and Preserving Posts From the Archives:

* Late August Harvest 2017
* Storing Summers Bounty 2017
* Summers Bounty: Harvested and Preserved 2016
* Of Hearth & Home: Preserving Seasonal Produce 2015

This link is not from my blog but it is an excellent post to read if you are new to preserving or canning. Read 4 Ways to Preserve Your Summer Harvest

Recipes

Strawberry Jam
* Lemon Curd
* Elderflower Cordial

Most of my recipes and ideas come from the wealth of inspiration on Pinterest so check out my Preserving and Canning board for lots more ideas.


Recommendations


I have built up a lovely collection of necessary tools over my years of making jams and chutneys. I started off with a really good preserving pan and some recycled jars collected over time or foraged off friends. Slowly, I added some really nifty tools that I wouldn't be without now so if you are new to preserving and wanting to buy the basics this is what I would recommend:

1. Preserving Pan

A really good preserving pan is a must. You must use either a stainless steel pan or an enamelled one. Aluminium can react with ingredients like vinegar which can give your preserves an 'off' taste. You will also want one that can hold volume so something like this pan below would be perfect. For those of you who live in the UK, you will find places like The Range usually stock a great preserving line around this time of year.


2. Jam Funnel

This is such a help when bottling your preserves. Before I added this nifty little thing to my preserving tools I would spill sticky preserves all down the side of my jars and have to clean it up once it cooled. Using a jam funnel makes the whole process much more civilised.


3. Sugar Thermometer

I have to admit that I don't own a sugar thermometer. I'm sure that if I did it would make my job a whole lot easier and perhaps that will be this year's addition to my preserving tool-set.  I usually use the cold saucer method to check for setting point. Most often it works but last years jam was tipped over setting point and thus it is a stiffer, harder jam than I would have liked.



4.  Jam Jar Tongs

These are a must for handling hot jars! I use them to move around just sterilised jars as well as for handling filled jars while in the process of sealing them in a water bath. My first two years of preserving I did not have them and was trying to move hot jars with tea towels or oven mitts. I can't tell you how many times I tipped the jars over with this clumsy method and created a lovely mess for myself. Get the tongs!


5. Jars

Of course, this is a pretty important item to have. I usually recycle my jars like I mentioned but for chutney's and pickles you need to have new lids as the vinegar tends to eat away at the seals and lids. Don't reuse those. The glass jar is fine to reuse but buy new seals and rings if you are using Kilner jars, otherwise, you will need to invest in new jars each season for those more corrosive preserves


6. Wax Discs

This is used as an extra seal. You place them wax side down on the jam when it is still warm. The wax then melts slightly forming a wax skin which then hardens when the jam is cool. It is supposed to keep out the spores that can cause mould.


I hope that you have found this post informative but most of all I hope it has inspired you to give preserving a go. Remember, you don't have to grow all your own fruit and veg to preserve, take advantage of what's in season in the supermarkets.

Blessings to you all...