Friday, December 28, 2018

Looking Ahead: 2019


Its that time of year again where we look back over the year we've just journeyed and forward into a year that holds a world of possibilities. We all have things that we would like to leave behind and things that we want to do better in the new year.  

This week between Christmas and New Year is the week I always take to re-evaluate and set goals. I shared my process on how I do this in December 2016, click the link to read that post for a practical way of approaching the new year.

This year I want to share my seasonal living and homeschooling goals with you. Let's start with seasonal living...

In 2013 and 2014 I did a series of posts where I shared my monthly seasonal plans and themes that I put together to mark and celebrate the years seasons and events. I use these themes each year but adapt them for the new years dates, events and choose different crafts and bakes to do with the children. Now that my girls are grown we don't really do the crafty things anymore but we do like to bake together and I still like to bring in the seasonal rhythms of the year in small ways.

Seasonal Themes and Plans Archive


January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August & August 2012
September & September 2015
October


As I read through my archives I remembered all the fun times we had, all the precious memories we have created. These plans are a snapshot of my two daughters childhood and boy, have we had fun. Why not establish a new tradition in your own family and instill a love for seasonal living by planning some simple activities and observances into your days?

Homeschool


As we move into our last 6 months of homeschooling I want our weeks to be blessed and for us to take time to enjoy some of the important pillars that our homeschooling has rested on. It is so easy as you focus on your SAT's to leave out the 'fun' stuff and be all consumed with SAT preparation and academics. 

Some of our constants have been Nature Study, Read Aloud, Music Appreciation and Artist Study. It's these things that can so easily fall by the wayside and there have been short periods in our homeschooling when they have done so. But is never more than a few weeks until I begin to notice that our homeschool is not quite the same and I pinpoint why and fix it. 

"it's the 'together' things that have been most significant"


Let me tell you something...a large portion of our most precious memories have come from the time we have spent together on these 4 subjects and from our Bible and handcraft times. The academics are just that, academics. They have not lent many opportunities for forming precious memories together, nor have they been particularly memorable. We've enjoyed learning of course but it's the 'together' things that have been most significant.

So it is with this knowledge that I am determined to make time to continue these things in our day. To continue to make room for conversation, shared experiences, shared wonders and appreciation for God's natural world and the arts. These are all as valuable as any academic subject and I don't believe they should be sacrificed in the name of academics. 

I will post our Nature Study, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation and Read Aloud plans in early January.


Time spent outdoors is never wasted irrespective of age. From experience, I know how healing being outdoors can be. I have seen how an attack of the 'grumpys' can be banished from the homeschool day by putting down the books and getting outside... read CLEAR THE COBWEBS, a post I wrote in March 2013 describing just such an occasion.

There is a growing bank of evidence that confirms what most naturalists have known for years, spending time outdoors is excellent for mental health and coping with stress so don't give up your nature study time as you move into your homeschool high schooling years.

I've decided not to set any other life-related goals for 2019, I'm simply going to concentrate on what is most important to me; my family; my faith; and my home. Whatever else comes along I will face at that moment... 2019 is the year that I choose to let go of all my plans, put my hand in Christs and let Him lead.

Blessings in Christ...

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Country Life

I ADORE living in the country. I know that some would find it a nightmare but not me. I love being close to nature, watching the gentle rhythems of the natural year reveal its treasures each and every day. Today we woke to a thick mist engulfing the countryside, hiding the hedgerows, trees and fields from our view. 


Slowly, it dissipated during the course of the morning. By noon only wisps of mist remained in the lower reaches of fields and valleys.


The beauty of skeletal trees stretching their arms towards the heavens are stark against the crisp, clear sky. Such beauty.


As I stood quietly at the top of my drive looking over the fields beyond, I noticed three little sparrows bathing in the puddles left by recent rains. Happily, they splashed in the muddy pool oblivious to the occasional car passing by on the road just a few feet away from them. This is what I love about nature... the life that goes on mostly unobserved.  Generally, people busily rush through their day, never stopping for a moment just to be still, breath and observe the natural world around them - that saddens me because there is great peace to be drawn from nature.


Turning to go back into the house I heard the clattering of horse hooves coming down the road. I paused, waiting to see what all the commotion was about. Behind me the horses in the field were restless, ears pricked looking towards the sound. Low and behold...a hunting party went on by.

They waved and greeted me as the trotted past with their hounds running ahead of them. I must just add here that fox hunting is banned in England, Scotland and Wales. Nowadays the hounds follow a chemical trail laid across the countryside.


Anyhoo, it was interesting to see them all go by and of course, they all look terribly smart. Traditionally hunts take place on Boxing Day so I wonder why they were all out today?

I'm going to leave you with a lovely poem befitting of Christmas Eve but before I do, I just want to wish you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas. I'll see you after the festivities...

Christmas Carol
by Kenneth Grahame

Villages all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow and snow betide,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide:
Joy shall be yours in the morning.

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away, you to greet-
You by the fire and we in the street-
Bidding you joy in the morning.

For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison-
bliss tomorrow and more anon,
Joy for every morning.

Good man Joseph toiled through the snow-
Saw the star o'er the stable low;
Mary she might not farther go-
Welcome thatch and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning.

And then they heard the angels tell,
"Who were the first to cry noel?
Animals all as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning.



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Monday, December 17, 2018

A Homespun Tree

Our tree is up and it looks beautiful in all its homespun glory.


I absolutely love this years tree, in fact, I think that it has to be my most favourite yet.


We made these little fan rosettes from pages of sheet music. I think these are my favourite because they stand out from afar and add such interest.


These card baubles were made by my eldest daughter a few years ago and we put them on the tree every year. This year I feel that their presence is enhanced by the other handcrafted tree decorations. 


And of course, the little cones that we were busy with last week. 


We dehydrated orange slices (which took ALL day in the oven) but I have to say they look so sweet. I love the way the Christmas lights shine through the orange slices like stained glass. There is so much I love about his tree and best of all it was just about all handcrafted around the dining table with my daughters.


We've done away with the rest of the Christmas paraphernalia and it feels good. Clutter-free, simple, relaxed and just right. We've finished all our gift shopping and all the tasty Christmas fare is in the freezer waiting for our celebratory meal. My daughter is busy printing our Christmas wrapping paper with her original designs and with only a week to go I am feeling relaxed and happy that we have 'done' Christmas the way we wanted. We've kept it simple and within budget. I don't feel like I've been swept along in the Christmas madness.  Lovelies...I pray that you are experiencing the true peace of the season that comes from seeking Jesus and from the love we share with others. I'll leave you with this beautiful video that I have shared with you in the past. 


Wishing you all a calm and peaceful week. Blessings in Christ...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Citrusy Mince Pies



Hello lovelies! Today is a beautiful, clear, cold December day here in Cheshire. I'm trying very hard to ignore the political debacle that has been raging in Westminster over the past 24 hours. Honestly, I'm so sick of hearing about Brexit and all that goes with it. I feel like fleeing to some tiny cottage in the Welsh hills that has very little contact with the outside world and is free from the irritating press, the over-zealous Christmas marketers and those jostling politicians 😄 . But seeing as though I cannot do that, I'll escape to my country kitchen instead and get lost in the heady scent of orange zest and citrusy mincemeat.


Once December rolls in, mince pie season is officially open. I bake at least a dozen mince pies a week. This year I decided to something a bit different with my pastry, I added some orange zest. Oh my goodness! This simple addition takes an ordinary mince pie and turns it into a luxury mince pie!


My kitchen smelled so Christmassy as I was zesting the orange, and don't you think that those beautiful golden flecks look so pretty? I know that you can buy mince pies for very little but after a taste test of sorts, my family agree that homemade, especially with this luxurious addition to my pastry, tops what can be bought in store. The added bonus is that homely feel that comes from freshly baking festive treats that drifts from the kitchen through the rest of the home.


I've created a recipe card for you to print off if you fancy giving this orange sweet shortcrust pastry a go. I've doubled my normal recipe which means that you should be able to get about 24 mince pies out of it. I usually only bake a dozen at a time to ensure that we always have fresh mince pies to nibble on. I wrap the excess dough in cling wrap and pop it into the fridge as needed. If you don't go through mince pies as quickly as we do then you can wrap the excess dough in cling wrap and pop it into the freezer instead. Just take it out to thaw a few hours before you want to bake up a batch of mince pies.

Of course, you could double the recipe and divide your dough into 4, wrap each ball individually and freeze. That way you can just whip out the dough, thaw, roll and get cracking with your mince pies rather than have to make dough every week. It's a great time-saver.

linking up with:

A Wise Woman
Raising Homemakers


Yield: 24 Mince Pies

Citrus Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

prep time: 15 minscook time: total time: 15 mins

ingredients:


  • 450g flour
  • 4ml salt
  • 200g butter
  • 50g castor sugar
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks
  • 60 ml water
  • Zest from one orange

instructions:


  1. Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into 1.5cm cubes and distribute evenly over the flour. 
  2. Rub the fat lightly into the flour with your fingertips, lifting up the mixture while rubbing to keep as cool as possible. 
  3. Add the sugar and orange zest and mix in well.
  4. Beat the egg yolks together and mix in the cold water, then make a well in the centre of the flour and stir in the egg and water mixture with a knife to produce a soft dough.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead gently until it is pliable and free from cracks. Roll out to the required thickness.
    * Halve the ingredients if you will just be needing a base for a pie.
    * It is usually baked at 180 degrees C
Handy Tip
  1. I place all the ingredients in a food processor and using the blade fitting, pulse the dry ingredients and the butter together. I then add the water and run the food processor until all the ingredients are just combined. Makes for a quick, no-fuss pastry
Created using The Recipes Generator

Monday, December 10, 2018

Trust in the Lord


I am working my way through the 'Pilgrim Psalms' or 'Psalms of Ascent', these are Psalms 120 through to 134. Today I was reading Psalm 121 and as I allowed it to sink into my heart I was convicted of having lived a large portion of my life from a place of fear. Fear of losing those I love to some awful tragedy, fear of terminal illness, fear of being unable to control what life has to throw at you.

I realise that a large part of this fear has come from having lived in a country where horrible things happen. Where horrible things have happened to people I know and care about. My own husband was held at gunpoint and he listened as they discussed whether to shoot him in the head or the back. For me staying there was an invitation for harm to touch us personally at some point. I'm glad we left.

But all this sank deep into my heart and caused me to live from a place of fear. I have read those words from Psalm 121 many times and I struggled with them. Struggled to truly surrender the safety of my loved ones into Gods hands. I knew that I could trust God and that I should unconditionally hand my loved ones over but I just could not. Instead, I kept my focus on all these horrible things just as Peter took his eyes off Jesus whilst walking on the water (Matt 14: 25-30) and instead, looked at how huge the waves were, and began to sink.

Over the years this fear has wound it's choking, venomous grip on many areas in my life. However, over the past months, we have had to deal with a health issue in our family and I realised that whatever the outcome, I had no control anyway, no matter how much I worried or tried to find a solution. Mercifully the health issue has turned out to be something treatable, nothing life-threatening.

Today I read Psalm 121 and pondered on the scriptures. How can I truly surrender my fears and trust that God does indeed watch over us; will not allow our feet to slip; that He does watch over our lives and all our comings and goings?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6

The words of this scripture committed to memory many years ago bubbled up. One sentence, but one that can be broken up, pondered on bit by bit, applied and practised.

* Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
    -What does it mean to trust with all my heart?
    - What does that look like in action?
    - What is my attitude toward trusting God? What has it been what should it be?
    - Actively surrender each moment that is driven from a point of fear.
    - Am I actively waiting on the Lord and being patient for an answer in His time not my own?

* Lean not on your own understanding
    - What is the source of my own understanding of the situations and decisions that I face?
    - Is my understanding based on Gods Word or on the customs of the world?
    - Before I act, clarify my understanding of things through Gods Word

* In all your ways acknowledge him
    - Am I seeking God when making decisions or seeking a solution?
    - Am I praying, reading Gods Word, seeking the wise advice of fellow Christians?
    - When I get an answer am I thanking God for His faithfulness?

* And he shall direct your paths
    - This is a promise that I can claim and trust.

I shall leave my thoughts there and look forward to seeing you back here soon with some more Christmas crafty posts.

Blessing to you all today...