Monday, January 04, 2021

Homeschooling Help & Encouragement

 Hello my lovely friends, I hope that your year is off to a GREAT start! 

I wanted to pop in and have a little chat about homeschooling. As you know we have completed our homeschool journey. Both our daughters are now studying at university after having graduated from our homeschool. One took the American SAT route and the other a slightly different route, gaining university entrance through an art and design course she did at college. Both girls are happy and doing well in their respective courses.

But I see just before Christmas I had the privilege of being able to come alongside another homeschooling mum who is trying to navigate her way through the high school years of homeschooling. What a blessing! My heart was just so happy to be able to share with her our journey and how to progress along a path that is different from the traditional English way of gaining entry to UK universities. 

In sharing with her I was reminded of the beautiful journey that our Lord led us on. Of the privilege, I had to raise and educate our daughters in a way that was God-led and as a result to see Him open doors for our daughters in the most amazing way. I will always have a heart for homeschooling and honestly, I wish that I could have had many many more years of homeschooling. I should have had lots more children 😄. Being a wife, mother and home educator has been and is the most blessed calling I have had.

I realized in speaking to her that although our own journey has concluded there are others who are following and need guidance, help, and encouragement. So you will still see posts of that nature here on Under An English Sky. I hope that now that we have successfully completed the journey that my insight and experience will prove to be of some use to those that follow. If there is anything, in particular, you would like to know then please do leave questions in the comments and I will work on posts addressing those things.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is the heart behind this blog because for the longest time I have felt very much 'at sea' with some of the huge life events that we have lived through. Nothing awful but things like house moves, the girls graduating, you know...seasonal shifts. They are not comfortable and for a long time, I have not felt at peace. For all that 2020 brought, one thing it did bring was the space I needed to reconnect, to ponder, and get comfortable with this seasonal shift.

My outlook on life is returning to the pre-seasonal shift as I am learning to accept the changes and growing comfortable with them. So back to the heart behind this is very much a heart for the Lord Jesus and for my role as a Christian, a wife, a mother, and a homemaker. I write about ordinary moments and of things that warm my heart and home and will continue to do so.

If you read this this months newsletter you will have noticed that 'Hope' is a bit of a theme for me going into this new year. And hope is something that encourages us and gives us something to look forward to.

"For I know the plans I have for you", delcares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Isn't that such a wonderful thought? That our Lord has plans for each one of us that will give us hope and a future no matter which life season we are in. 

Well my lovely friends, that's about it for today. See you back here very soon!

Friday, January 01, 2021

Goodbye 2020!

 Hello, my lovelies! Can you believe that we have stepped through the doorway into a new year? It seems so strange to be here. 2020 was a long year - yet it seems like we have been stuck in that strange state of limbo that Sleeping Beauty found herself in. One minute she was enjoying her birthday party and the next she's waking up and it's 100 years later! I'm sure we can all relate a little to that story this year.

Are you wondering why we are here...on blogger? Well, let me tell you. I asked a little while ago which platform you preferred to read my blog on. Some said here, some said the new platform, and most said that they didn't mind which.

I've spent a bit of time pondering on it all and really delving into why I keep this blog and my motives behind it. And the plain and simple truth is that I love to write. I love to share my faith with others. I hope that readers are encouraged when they visit this blog.

I love to write about faith, family life, homemaking, crafting, and homeschooling. Everything that is dear to my heart. I desire to encourage others in their walk to raising Kingdom children and walking a faithful, simple life.

To serve those purposes this platform - good old blogger - is all I need. WordPress is fab but I feel it's aimed at people who are hoping to make a living out of blogging and it has costs that reflect that. Making a living out of my blog is not my intention so I have decided to let go of my WordPress site when the two-year subscription I paid for expires in March and rather continue my writing and recording of life's simple pleasures and moments right here. Thank you for being patient with me while I explore different things.

I have re-routed the domain here so no need to change anything and if you still subscribe here then again - no need to change anything.

Yesterday we took a walk through the forest - our final 2020 walk of which there were not enough. We've had very cold weather in the UK since Boxing Day and although Chester has remained snow-free it seems that snow has fallen all around the city which is slightly annoying for this snow lover.

Thankfully we only have to drive 10 minutes outside the city to get our snow fix. I love how the ground crunches underfoot, how the air is so cold that it makes your breath catch and your limbs tingle - you know you are alive!

Even the lake was frozen. The last time I saw a frozen lake in winter was when we were living in Chesterfield a good 6 years ago! In fact, we've had very mild winters in the UK since 2015 with a brief snowy interlude when the 'Beast from the East' arrived for 3 days when we were living in Devon.

 As you know I love, love, LOVE the seasons and how different and distinct each is. Mild winters, therefore, are just not my thing. I don't want prolonged blizzard to weather it's just that I feel winter should be wintery - frosty a bit snowy, that sort of thing. So needless to say I'm rather happy with the current state of weather affairs. 

After a walk that left us chilled to the bone, we came home, made a nice hot cup of tea, and fire. Bliss.

The highlight of our walk was meeting this little fellow. He landed on a branch along the path and we stopped to take his picture. Well, it turns out he quite likes people and he bravely hopped closer and closer until he was hopping around my feet and looking up at me. 

I've never had a robin do that before. He was utterly enchanting and totally made my day - small things.

And now here we are, 2021 stretching ahead and 2020 finally behind us. Looking back and looking forward. Although 2020 has been an exceptionally challenging year - one which I hope our planet will not see again in a hurry - there have been blessings too such as finally buying our first home here in the UK and getting to work 9 months of the year at home and landing a part-time job which I start next week! It has not been all doom & gloom.

For me, 2021 is a year of hope. Hope that the vaccine will go a long way to getting COVID under control. Hope that we can all get back to meeting together and enjoying visiting, hugging, and fellowshipping together. 

In this month's newsletter which you should be getting shortly, I have gone into more depth on my thoughts on hope and 2021 plus I have a little challenge for you! If you do not receive the newsletter and would like to receive it please do sign up below.

And so my lovely friends here's wishing you a very happy New Year. Let's step into the new year with hope and trust that better days are to come! I'll see you back here very soon.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Garden Notes

We have a little graveled raised bed thing in our garden. I'm not sure why it is there or what it was used for. At some point, we plan on getting rid of it but for now, we are using it as a bit of a staging area and have filled it with pots of autumn flowering plants.

Can you see a little someone in our hedgehog home? Yip, we found this little fellow sleeping under the woodpile. I'm so glad that we have hedgehogs in our garden, in all the time we were living on the farm I didn't see one hedgehog. In fact, I was really surprised at how little wildlife there was on the farm, although to be fair, we did see a few hares which you don't get in suburban areas.

We have seen this little fellow a few times now since we caught him napping. I must keep an eye on him and perhaps weigh him to see if he will survive the winter. He is rather small you see and hedgehogs need to be at least 600 grams before hibernation. In the meantime, we are putting down cat pellets to aid his weight gain. 

 Last night we saw him nose-to-nose with our little black and white cat. They were sussing each other out in a friendly manner. My husband put some cat food out for the hedgehog and cat and hedgehog happily shared it. Isn't it amazing how animals can co-exist together?

DH and I paid a visit to the garden center today and stocked up on a couple of pots of mums - because you know my home is never without them in the autumn and spring bulbs!

One thing I noticed about our garden when we moved in at the end of March is that there was not a single spring bulb! So today we bought a 7kg bag of daffodils, 25 bulbs of snowdrops which flower in January/February, and a couple of bags of tulips which I will plant in pots.

I bought a couple of bags of compost too as we have two beds where the soil needs a bit of reconditioning before we start planting. One of these beds I've earmarked to fill with hellebores. I just love the hybrid variations that you can get and as soon as I see them back in the garden center I will definitely be buying a good few. They bring a lovely splash of winter colour.

Now, Autumn is a hop, skip, and a jump away. I have lots of posts planned but they will predominantly be posted on my new bloggy home - Under An English Sky - so please make sure that you have either bookmarked my new web address or subscribed to it by signing up for my monthly newsletter. You can sign up on my new blog. Septembers newsletter will be going out on the 1st so make sure you sign up before then so that you can get your copy delivered into your email box.

Anyhoo lovelies, have a lovely weekend - we've already lit our first fire of the season believe it or not. Somehow it seems quite wrong to be doing so in August...but only 3 more sleeps and we slip into autumn which makes lighting fires quite acceptable 😂

Sunday, August 16, 2020


 Hello, my lovely friends. Can you believe that August is marching along and that we are but a hop, skip, and a jump away from Autumn? Oh I know we still have a good few weeks of lovely summer weather but my thoughts are already turning towards autumn because September and October are bulb planting months and preparing the spring garden. This is the thing with gardening, you always have to think ahead!
This past weekend we had some stunning weather and we spend time enjoying it in the garden. On Saturday we enjoyed a lovely lunch under the gazebo. The soft breeze brushed over our warm skins and we soaked in the peace of birds singing, bees buzzing and butterflies softly fluttering from flower to flower.

We spoke about our gardening plans over the next few weeks which was all about getting ready to plant our spring bulbs. New beds need to be dug and soil in one raised bed needs to be reconditioned with a healthy dose of compost. We also sadly said that in the next month or so we would need to think about dismantling the gazebo and packing it away before the autumn storms begin rolling in.
I'm expecting the autumn garden to be a very busy time - we are surrounded by deciduous trees and all those leaves are going to keep us occupied every weekend once they start falling. The garden brings us much joy. We are not fantastic gardeners by any stretch of the imagination but we do like to potter and perhaps we learn a thing or two as we go along. 
My sweetpeas are producing teeny tiny bouquets at a time. I don't think I will grow them in pots again, I must be doing something wrong but they are not flowering as prolifically as I would like. I don't know if it is my potted plant skills which are not great or the fact that the seeds were who-knows-how-old. Next year's garden will be much better as I now have time to plan and plant of course!

After lunch, DH mowed the lawn and I pottered about dead-heading the flowering plants. The foxgloves have now finished and set seed although there are a few late-season small spikes which I left. I cut all the seed heads off and gave them a good shake over the bed then watered. This is going to be my foxglove bed for years to come so the more plants that self-seed the better. They have quite a long flowering season, the bees love them and I find them utterly delightful.

Once I had washed up after gardening I decided that a cinnamon pear cake would be wonderful with a cup of tea. I discovered this recipe a few weeks ago when I needed something quick and easy to bake to serve to a friend who was coming over for tea. It is such an easy cake to throw together, it doesn't look like much but it is utterly delicious in its simplicity. The original recipe calls for tinned apples but I only had pears so that's what I used on both occasions.

The recipe will be in my next newsletter which will be going out this week. If you want to sign up for it you can visit my dedicated craft and home blog HERE

Oooo, I nearly forgot to share this sweet little picture of a small hedgehog we found whilst gardening having a nap in the woodpile hedgehog hotel. We were thrilled to find him here. We have spotted signs that we have hedgehog activity going on in the garden, and seen one run across the lawn once but to have one taking a nap in our's so very exciting!!! Foxes and hedgehogs are my favourite British mammals 😍.

Right, I'll love and leave you now and hope to see you all back here very soon.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Weekend Adventures :: Speke Hall Liverpool

 Hello, my lovelies! How lovely to be back here talking to you. Since starting back at work my time is stretched and no longer all my own. I'd love to spend more time blogging, creating, and dyeing yarn but life is always a bit of a mix isn't it?
I wanted to take you along to a National Trust property we visited recently. We haven't been exploring nearly as much as we would have liked for obvious reasons and National Trust is only offering timed and limited tickets to their properties which you have to book online. They release their tickets each Friday and each Friday comes and goes and I forget, remembering a little too late when all the tickets have been snapped up.
Amazingly, I managed to get myself together one Friday and booked tickets for us to visit Speke Hall in Liverpool. Thankfully the ended up being beautiful, you always risk drippy weather here in England, its the nature of living on an island.
We decided to take a picnic along with us which I'm so very happy that we did. It was simply marvelous! The first picnic of the summer - hopefully, we can squeeze in another before the autumn arrives!
Speke Hall is a wood-framed, wattle-and-daub Tudor manor house. It really is very impressive and very wonky! The house was not open due to covid so we enjoyed walking through the gardens and viewing the house from the outside.

This is what I love about England, would you just look at that picture, the atmospheric summer sky, the greenery, a building hundreds of years old that has presided over countless lives of people we will never know. Witnessing the passing of time and private moments of ordinary lives. It's all quite amazing and I feel incredibly blessed to be living in a land with so much history. I'll never ever tire of it and I will never lose the appreciation I have to live here.

Walking around the house in the peaceful gardens, I imagined what it must have been like to live in this house as a little girl. I'd imagine that Alice in Wonderland would have had similar lovely gardens to play in and it would be a garden like this that she would spy the white rabbit and follow him down the rabbit hole.

Yes, my imagination has been molded by great British authors for when I read these books this was exactly what was conjured in my very fertile imagination!

Along the outer edges of the garden surrounding the lawn in front of the house were these magnificent hydrangeas. A tumbling wall of them. Right then and there I decided that this is what I want in my own garden. I love hydrangeas and have three much smaller shrubs. Three is simply not enough! 

They are quite an old fashioned flower, aren't they? I remember them being prolific in my grandmother's garden and I think that is perhaps why I'm always drawn to them and roses. They are a link to my family, my past. If you haven't noticed by now I'm quite a traditional 'old soul'. I'm absolutely convinced I was born in the wrong era 😂. I love everything old, slow and simple and would be quite happy checking out of the modern world and exchanging it for a Georgian, Victorian, or at a push, Edwardian existence.

So, in a bid to build my hydrangea collection I have taken slips of my current three bushes and am propagating 6 more. I fully intend to take a walk around my neighbourhood and ask for slips from my neighbours as there are quite a few varieties that I wouldn't mind adding to my garden.

Propagating Hydrangeas

Anyhoo, I have meandered off track, back to Speke Hall...after having wandered around the gardens we settled down on the lawn in front of the house and enjoyed a wonderful picnic that would have satisfied the Famous Five on one of their adventures or perhaps the Secret Seven who always seemed to have the most delicious spread at their secret meetings.

Iced tea, scotch eggs, cold grapes, pork pies, and chicken and salad wraps were enjoyed by all. We sat chatting about this and that and resolved to try and get in a few more picnic days in National Trust gardens before the end of summer.

I feel very blessed that our adult daughters still love 'exploring days' with us and that they want us to keep these times together. I love that they still love visiting these properties and don't find them old and boring. I love that a simple picnic can still bring so much joy. The best things in life are absolutely free!