Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Endings and Beginnings

Art, Promenade Play, Engagement.

Pics on the prom, Granma and MG, Lost Tooth, Calligraphy.

Giant's Seat, Book Day, Rocket Building.

Den Reading, Meccano Helicopter, Working Together.

Marshmallow Popcorn, Leighton Moss.

Edinburgh, Garden Games.


Chanda's Visit, Lunch Date, Wedding Dress, Granma Time.

Emma's Visit, Wedding Day, Music Time.

Helping, Half Term Fun, Garden Clearing.

Birthday, Statue of Benedict, Making Memories.

Benedict Baking, The Tomten.

Here's to another year of learning and growing.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Christmas caught up with me this year and this past week has been a bit of blur.  There have been times when I could have cheerfully hid under the duvet only to resurface somewhere in the middle of January!! Despite folk shopping til they dropped I found it incredulous that Selfridges were boasting the biggest online sales on Christmas Day! As usual the shops were heaving with shoppers on Boxing Day too so sadApart from the occasional pint of milk or loaf of bread from the local co-op I have stayed well clear.

Our Christmas Day morning consisted of a cooked breakfast of ham and cheese omelettes, followed by heart shaped ginger biscuits, served with Christmas tea.  Benedict and Pip opened the presents that were under the tree and whilst they were ploughing through the Lego sticker books, I steadily worked through my packing list for our stay at Kathryn's.


As expected the journey to Kathryn's was uneventful as the roads were virtually clear, unlike our visit to friend's on the Saturday before Christmas!  A journey that would normally have taken 40 minutes took three times as long and we were crawling along the motorway at 5 miles per hour as opposed to the usual 70!!

 Opening presents at Kath's.

 Mary Grace on her sit and ride scooter.

 The fold up table and chairs from the caravan came in very handy as overflow seating!

 A very hungry MG tucking in!

It was a lovely shared effort between myself, Kath and my Dad.  The portion sizes were just right and that meant most folk were happy to snaffle a second small helping of their favourites!

After lunch we visited Dave's Mum and Dad and stopped for a light tea of soup and trifle.  Once home the littlest ones were settled and Benedict stayed up for a little while watching some old Christmas shows from the 70's!  Good old BBC usually manage to weave in some re-runs during the course of the Christmas break.

On Boxing Day morning we spent some time with my parents and then arrived at Dave's parents in time for lunch.  Dave's mum did a sterling job of organising, cooking and serving lunch for eight:

 Conveyor Belt Cooking!

 Turkey, Sausages wrapped in bacon, carrot and swede, brussel sprouts, roast potatoes, my left over nut roast and braised red cabbage.

The weather was particularly grey and there was a constant stream of rain throughout the day.  Grandad kept the kids entertained and when it was time to go home, Kath very kindly took Benedict and Pip with her and MG so that Dave and I could have some down time with his parents.  Mind you we did our bit later in the evening when, Kathryn went out with some friends once MG was asleep!  

On the way home on Saturday we spent some time with Sara, Tom and the Grange clan!  Tom's mum bought me some lovely wool, Dave was given some home made sloe gin, Benedict a meccano style steam engine and Pip a flower fairy craft.  

A view from their lounge window courtesy of Benedict and look blue skies!

We arrived back home just in time for a quick tea and whilst I was unloading the car, Dave kept Pip busy with a dinosaur make:

A funny, scary Pip!

Yesterday I spent the day at Leighton Moss with Pip and my friend Sallie.  We were greeted with beautiful blue skies, but boy was it cold!  We sang the song, "We are going on a bear hunt!" and Pip also followed Bertie Bittern's Christmas Trail:

 Clue number three, there were nine in all.

 Frosty Toad Stools.

A rare sighting of the Pipling bird, found roosting in the Tim Jackson Hide!!

Today has been a day of cooking and planning.  With a bit of luck I might just manage an end of year photo review tomorrow :-)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Dave: What time did you get to bed last night?

Me: The same time my waters broke, six years ago!  Midnight :-)

 It has been a very full on happy day and Pip enjoyed every moment from start to finish.

 Birthday table waiting for the birthday girl.

Opening cards and presents.

Playing with a magnetic puzzle a present from my mum and dad.

8:35am and x marks the spot!


Cookie Decorating.


Birthday crown making.


Party food: ham and cheese sandwiches, crisps, crackers, pineapple and cheese sticks, mini sausages, hot tomato and chilli soup for the grown ups, fruit jelly and ice cream and mince pies with christmas tea.


Playing the "roll a snowman game" which is very similar to the beetle game  which was popular in the 1940's game.

Playing with the hama beads.


Sparkler fun before bed.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Making and Baking

In amongst another bout of sickness for me, I have been busy with advent crafts, Pip's birthday prep and edibles which were shared at last Saturday's make and cake.

 24 mini advent stockings for Kath and Mary Grace.
It was a close call but I managed to get these in the post before the 1st December!

 Cooking with Benedict.

 White chocolate, peppermint shortbread.

 Cinnamon rolls for St Lucia day.
These were a real hit with the kids and I did manage to find the English translation for the St Lucy song, but both Pip and I were not well enough to sing it!  Maybe next year :-)

 A family favourite ~ star mince pies.
We also dropped some of these off to our homeopath, who was involved in an accident on her bike and suffered several fractures :-(

In addition to all the regular house hold stuff, craft making for the shop and Christmas prep, there was a note from school late last week concerning a CAFOD fundraiser.  It was a wear a Christmas jumper day and make a donation to this Catholic charity.
Cue mum working hard in the loft room, but the smile on girlies face was worth all the effort:

 A Walking Nativity!
'Cos Jesus is the reason for the season, right?!
And the extra bonus was winning first prize in her year group.

Every year I try to keep things low key but every year I get caught up with all the external pressures and like others I feel frazzled with it all.  I wouldn't mind but in the real sense of the word, Christmas is actually more than just one day!  It is a season lasting from the day itself to the epiphany on the 6th January, so a whole twelve days of celebration.  So I am trying to find a small oasis of peace in uplifting music, wise words and appropriate programming, in short trying to make the most of advent.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

St Nicholas Day

Our St Nicholas activities were spread out over two days since Pip was away for most of the day with her Rainbow group.  In addition to a book each and chocolate coins Benedict and Pip woke to these two helpers sitting by the hearth:

 Two Jule Tomten

Pip's book was this one and Benedict's was this one

Pip and I made our St Nicholas biscuits after lunch today:

 Look who is helping ...

 ... her new friend.

 Santa and his sack.

 The finished yummy biscuits.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Icon Writing

On Tuesday I made my visit to Hyning to partake of the last part of The Journey Course, the theme was The Hermit's Cell and the day was led by Sr Mary Stella.  Our brief was to paint/write an icon of The Theotokos, Our Blessed Mother, The God Bearer.  The session began at 1pm and finished at 6:30pm when the bell sounded for supper in the monastery.  There were two tea breaks and the chance to attend vespers in the chapel if you so wished and the evening was rounded off with prayers and a meditation on the annunciation.

 The icon studio nestled in the grounds.

 Down the path and in through the door...

... tables, chairs, paper, wooden blocks and paints.  The smell of an art studio and I am immediately transported back to my art classes in high school :-)

Sr Mary began with an overview of the history of iconography and the arrangement of icons within the orthodox church.  Since her studio was only a single storey building she was unable to arrange them in the traditional fashion but as best as she could, she remained true to the original layout.

 On the left side of the tryptych, from left to right: Saint Peter holding some parchment to represent his teaching roll within the church and a set of keys to denote his authority, Saint Michael The Archangel and The Theotokos, Our Blessed Mother with her hands extended in a gesture of humility and intercession.  Sr Mary said that Our Lady is the best volunteer going and if we need any help she will always intercede for us to her Son and who knows a son best but his mother!

Jesus the ruler of all, takes centre stage.  
The blue of his robe denotes His divinity and the red of his tunic represents the blood of humanity, therefore truly God and truly man.  His hands are extended in a gesture of blessing but He is also pointing to The Holy Book, The Word of God.

The facial features of an icon are painted in such a way that they always point to heavenly and not earthly things and you cannot help but be drawn in by their gaze.  The image of Jesus is not exuding vanity, his nose is quite long and narrow and Sr remarked that, "He is not interested in sex, drugs and rock and roll!"  He is wanting us to focus beyond his appearance and likewise His mouth is quite small, as He has very little say since The Book tells us all we need to know. 

To the right of The Pantocrator are from left to right: St John whose cloak is blowing in the wind represented by the Holy Spirit, The Angel Gabriel and St Paul, one of the authors of holy scripture.

Sr said that you always keep your first icon as a remembrance of how far you have progressed so here is a recent rendition of The Pantocrator:

By now it was time to begin the writing process.  A prayer to St Ephraim was said, Sr gave our first set of instructions and some beautiful music wafted over us as we painted in silence in that room.  The first tea break was a welcome breather but by the time a second cup of tea was on offer many of us declined, preferring to work with the image in front of us. The bell for vespers rang and some got up to attend and my friend Sallie, went for a walk as dusk was looming.  My prayer was in my hands and I relished the peace and quiet of the studio and the  pitch blackness outside.

 Sr Elizabeth, very kindly let me take a shot of her icon as it really spoke to me of "peace"  Sallie and I both agreed that this icon depicted a person rooted and grounded in prayer and as a contemplative that was so true!

 All our icons lit before prayer time.  We all had the same design brief but each one was so different from the other, we painted something of ourselves in that image.

 My icon.
 Each night, I light a candle in front of her and ponder those outstretched hands offering me help and guidance and goodness on most days, all help is much appreciated!

The Journey Course has been such a blessing to me and it was with a sadness that we said our goodbyes to one another in the cold night air.  As with all journeys though, as one finishes there is the promise of another and so come January I will be back in that little studio on a Wednesday afternoon, you see I have found my calling and it all really is good x