Friday 1 February 2013

A Happy Goodbye...

~ by Emi and Kendal

So, how's everyone been?

Kendal and I thought we'd fill you in on what we've been up to in January, and then share some news with you.

So, my life... Where to begin? Let's start with Ru and Pixie.

Pixie has been pretty unwell with horrid cough after horrible cold, with Ru catching some of it too. This has pretty much been Snot House, I can tell you. On the positive side, she's had her first haircut, started Mama-Baby ballet lessons, and her speech has EXPLODED! We've had spontaneous cuddles accompanied by a cute little utterance of "Aaah voo!" - love you. If there's ever a moment to make your heart melt, that's it. There is a lot of new-found love for dolls, spending hours dragging Petal (her Mama-made Waldorf doll) around with her. Every animal is a horse and oddly, they all say 'miaow'. I also discovered that at 16 months old, Pixie's hair is long enough for me to French plait. More than that, it has been amazing to watch her learn. Such a different child from her brother, such a beautifully separate entity, such a delightfully unique soul. I am blessed with being able to see her life unfolding little by little every day...

Ru is just... always so completely Ru. His bright, effervescent self shines startlingly brilliant light into all the dark corners of my life. I am thankful for him. He is loving nursery, and loves to talk about his friends at school, especially Alfie, with whom he has a special bond. He's completely toilet trained... well... was toilet trained. We've had a couple of accidents this week, I think due to him being on the back end of a bad cold. He'll get it when he's ready, I just know it. We've had some fantastic new outbursts, learned from school including "That's not FAIR!", "If you keep doing that, I won't be your friend!" and "That's a pain in the ass."

Oh ok, that last one he learned from me.

Seriously though, I am exploring the new world that is fledgling friendships, learning the Small Person politics with him... It's tough to hear him say "So-and-so says that he won't be my friend anymore" but we're slowly getting a grip on it.

He's also really loving his role as Big Brother and Protector of his little sister. During half-term, a little boy pushed her over on purpose at a group we go to, and he was straight over, stood in between them declaring "That's my Pixie. You are NOT allowed to push her!". He adores her, just as much as she loves him. She has a serious case of idolisation.

As for Stephen, he's enjoying his job as a delivery driver for a big supermarket. I think he's relishing the pride of working hard to support his family. He's a good man. Our relationship is as strong as ever.

Myself... well... that certainly is a different story.

From a business point of view, MamaPixie is exploding with wonderful things! We have a photoshoot for the May/June 2013 release collection, 'A Whimsical Summer'. I'm also going to be attending several fairs, including one with my lovely friend Sarah. Stephen has joined me too, taking over the wooden side of things. On top of all that, we also have an expanded product list, including some VERY new quilted wings. I am always grateful for the brilliant customers we have, as each one brings Stephen and I closer to our dream of buying our own, very special home.

From a personal stance, things have been... difficult.

The reason we decided to take a break over January was at my request. I have mentioned before my on-going struggle with depression and during the latter part of 2012, I started taking anti-depressant medication. With the depression being dealt with, a lot, a LOT, of anxiety has come to the surface. Previously, I didn't *want* to leave the house. Now, it's terrifying to even consider going to Kendal's house 3 minutes walk down the road alone. I am unable to leave the house without Stephen being with me. I felt so bad that I even cut off my long pink hair and dyed it brown. I think that's the point I knew something was more than a little off.

Some incredible support, not least from Stephen, has been helping though. I've been reminded of the existence of amazing souls. Emma coming all the way from Derby just to spend a few hours with me. Hannah being a wonderful rock. Offers of help and support and love from my wonderful online Green Parent family too. There have been other good things too. I finished Ru and Pixie's handmade Waldorf dolls. I completely re-sorted and reorganised the attic and my storeroom. I taught myself to knit. I painted.

Most of all, I'm VERY proud to say that after not leaving the house alone in months, I have attended two half-hour Mama-Baby ballet classes with Pixie this year, just me and her. Fair enough, Stephen dropped us off, and picked us up, but for me, this might as well have been climbing Everest.

Tiny baby steps.
Just one.
Then one more.
Then another.
Then another.
And then one more.
I'll get there.

My word for the 2013, my focus if you will, is the word 'build'.


Not only to build up MamaPixie, but also to build up myself, to be the best that I can be.

In order to do this, I need to refocus my life. With MamaPixie being so successful, I simply cannot see a way to fit Crafty by Nurture in there as well. Without this blog, I will have more time to devote to my business, to my husband and children, and maybe even a little to myself. *Definitely* some for myself. I know that similarly, MamaMake's success has Kendal very busy too, both of us scuttling around like little industrious bees, (even though preggy Miss Kendal should be taking it easy... tut tut and a finger-wagging for you. *stern face*)

For the large part, it has been a pleasure sharing with you, whether that was baking and cooking, crafting or just speaking from the heart about something personal to me.

You will be able to catch up with me on the MamaPixie Facebook page, as well as over on my own personal blog, if you fancy it.

I wish all of you the best for 2013, along with more joy and happiness than you can handle!

Much love,

Emi, x


Well, the last two months have really flown by. Time has no meaning anymore to me - my pregnancy hormones have completely distorted any sense of what day or even month it is. But it has been a busy, busy time, that's for sure, and one that has led Emi and I to figure out what our priorities are for this year onwards, what we do and don't have time for, and sadly, what we have to let go of to make a little more room for the things that are most important.

I am pretty much as busy as I have ever been. Which is somewhat crazy considering I have a toddler and am nearly 7 months pregnant. But, such is life. There is a lot of it. Life, I mean. And I know that in two months time I simply won't have a choice but to stop, to rest, and to enjoy that strange, unreal newborn haze that lasts quite some time.

Aside from enjoying getting to know the newest member of our family, our goals this year are simply to move ever closer to the kind of life we imagine for ourselves. Namely, an unschooling, homesteading kind of life. Our evenings are spent filled with conversation about it and our days are spent working towards that. We hope that soon, Howard and I will both be able to 'work' from home. For me, that means MamaMake and writing, and for Howard, that means being a full-time author/writer.

I started MamaMake just over a year ago, two months after I'd learnt to sew, with the idea that maybe, now and then, I might sell some things I'd made. Looking back on the last year I was totally surprised to tally up just how much I'd ended up making for others - how many orders we'd had - and how busy it had kept me. When you love doing something, it truly doesn't feel like work, and I couldn't believe, for example, that I'd knitted nearly 40 elf hats in one year. How on earth did that pass me by? Are there really 40 little people walking about with something I've knitted. What a heart-warming thought!

Joining ranks with Sam has meant that MamaMake has become a proper business - We launched our Spring Line at the beginning of January with the same intention as we've always had - to add a little 'handmade whimsy' to people's lives, and since then have been kept very busy sewing, knitting, talking to customers, planning our seasonal items and coming up with new ideas for the future.

I've been writing more at Ava and the Snowman which gained an unexpected amount of support last year and which has led me to a variety of other writing ventures which I am so excited to be a part of this year. Writing will always be a huge part of my life and with AATS, I feel like I finally have a lot to say on a topic (parenting, unschooling etc) that I never, ever get bored of.

Howard has just finished his novel and is working diligently on the editing stage, and we are both trying to prepare ourselves for what it will be like to have two (two!) children. Even if that is only painting some furniture and sorting out our garden. (Oh if you only knew how little I know about gardening and how thankful I am I have a friend who is going to tell me exactly what I need to be doing come Spring!)

As for Ava, she is blossoming into this amazing little two year old who continues to be the best person I've ever met. This is such a great age. I know she may yet go through a tantruming or rebellious phase but so far our days are filled with the most incredible conversations and delightful time together. Hearing all about her thoughts on things (this morning she requested a 'tin of tomatoes' for breakfast!), her memories (I never knew a two year old could remember so much) and the things she learns every single day, is just the most incredible parenting experience so far. She is completely smitten with the idea of Ezra, draws pictures of him constantly, talks to my tummy and gives it cuddles, and is obsessed with watching birthing videos and trying to figure out how Mama is going to 'poo Ezra out'. Hmmm.

She is a very sweet, very gentle and very creative little soul and I count my lucky stars every day that I get to be her Mama. With little over two months to go until we meet Ezra, I am finding myself getting a strong idea of who this little man might be, in the same way I did with Ava (and was oddly right, too). I really can't wait to meet him, to see our family fill out a little more, and to get on with living together and moving forwards in the ways we want to.

When I am not doing MamaMake things, or writing, I am trying to give myself time to practice hypnobirthing, to do meditations and to enjoy the pregnancy yoga I've been attending. To prepare myself for, fingers crossed, a homebirth, and to just make room in my head and heart for what is going to be a huge and life-changing experience for our family.

Like Emi said, it has been a true pleasure to share this space and parts of my life with you, and it has been amazing to receive your support and feedback in return. For now, I will be busily sewing or knitting away at MamaMake (I've become obsessed with knitting of late - and discovered I am a complete and utter yarn snob!) or at Ava and the Snowman, where I will be writing a lot more, trying to articulate what it's like going from one to two children, and continuing to explore our unschooling adventures.

Thank you, sincerely, for being here with us.

Wishing you all love and happiness,

Kendal x

'...and it was nearly done, this frail 

Traveling coincidence; and what it held 

Stood ready to be loosed with all the power 

That being changed can give. We slowed again, 
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled 
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower 
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.'

from The Whitsun Weddings, by Philip Larkin

Friday 21 December 2012

Seven Days of Yule

 ~ by Kendal

Today is Yule – that is, it’s the Winter Solstice. Not being pagans, we’ve never celebrated Yule before last year, when we began to take more notice of the passing seasons and the varying ways we could celebrate their influences in our unschooling life.

Like many people, we found our own way to celebrate both Yule and Christmas – for us, the days around this time of year are about celebrating what has passed and what will come, and more than anything, it’s about giving thanks for as much as possible.

Yule is traditionally celebrated as a symbol of joy and hope amongst the darkest days of Winter, and it often signifies a passing over from one year to the next – when the days will get longer and more light will once again come into our life.

It appealed to us for many reasons. We too wanted to find a way to acknowledge the darkness and beauty of Winter, whilst looking forward to the light and possibility of a new year. The emphasis Yule has on simplicity and on handmade gifts, and on giving thanks for those around us, held a particular attraction

And so this year, since we wanted the whole of December to be as magical and festive as possible, I came up with the idea of Seven Days of Yule, where we would, as a family, spend the seven days leading up to the Solstice taking time to consider all the things we are grateful for – whether that be things in the past year, or things happening right now. Everyday we would try to make something – something simple or handmade, and every day we would take time to talk about what we are most excited about right now.

Today, I’d like to share our Seven Days of Yule with you, in both words and images.

Saturday 15th December

On the first of our seven days, I was grateful for the time to make for those I love. It was a busy, full day and I was so thankful for that – for the time spent listening to music and sewing. For my husband whose endless patience and generosity allows me to have as much time as I need, whenever I need it. To Sam, the other half of MamaMake, for guiding me through more knitting and for throwing around more exciting ideas about our new line.

Sunday 16th December

On the second of our seven days, Ava was rather unwell so we had to cancel the plans that we’d made. I was disappointed at first – the gifts I’d made were undelivered, the food I’d bought uncooked. But I spent a lot of the day snuggling my little one and getting some rest – not something I have been giving myself a lot these days – and I was grateful for that. Thankful for the quiet moments, which were unexpectedly needed today.

Monday 17th December

Today, the third day, was such a good day. Ava’s cold disappeared by lunch. I gave my house a good, deep clean (much needed after the making and lurgy of the weekend). In the evening, we saw good friends and exchanged some Yule gifts with them. We ate delicious food and talked about our babies and how ridiculously nuts we are about them. It felt perfect to be with such people in this kind of time, when the warmth and comfort of your home provides the perfect setting for laughter and the excited frothing of ideas. Ava got to play with Ivy, who she adores, and I got to snuggle with baby Billy. And my Yule gift from them was 43 vintage patterns from the 60’s and 70’s. It was a perfect night, all in all.

Tuesday 18th December

On this day, my quest to be mindful was a challenge, for sure. But I was thankful for the opportunity to be productive, for the three bubble dresses finished and handed over to customers. For the reversible trousers for a lovely little girl finally completed. For the cloak wrapped and crown made in the evening. And I was grateful for the in between moments with Ava, where we played and made. Yes, it was busy and oh so tiring, but nothing is as satisfying as the feeling of producing something you’re really proud of.

Wednesday 19th December

On our 5th day of Yule I was thankful for time spent with friends. We played and talked about our growing babies (the ones who are toddlers, and the ones in our tummies) and I discovered how hard it is to hug another pregnant lady. It was a much needed break from all the making that has been happening.  In the evening I did nothing but eat chocolate, talk to Howard, and write. My body needed to rest, and I needed to listen.

Thursday 20th December

Today we watched Mary Poppins and danced, ate butternut squash, chickpea and spinach dhal for dinner, then I made Ava’s Solstice jammies out of some warm fleecy cotton. I finished her apron to go with her Christmas gift – a wooden kitchen – and I made list upon list of all the things to get done before Howard’s two week holiday begins tomorrow.

Today we played a lot and painted and drew.

And I was thankful that, for the first time, Ava felt Ezra kick in my tummy. And thankful for the two weeks we will get to spend together, over this magical time, as a family.

Friday 21st December

Today we lounged in bed for a while and snuggled.

Then we came down, made tea and Ava said hello to the world.

Soon, we will be going for our Solstice walk, where we will gather twigs, berres, pine cones. We have plans to see friends in town and to collect some bits and bobs for our Yule feast tonight. We will bake this afternoon and I will do as much cleaning and sorting as possible. We will light a candle when Howard comes home from work that will burn through our Yule meal, which we will share with good friends. We will light this candle every day until Christmas.

After dinner we will give Ava her Solstice present – Mama made jammies, a new mug and special hot chocolate, and her Solstice book this year – ‘A First Book of Nature’

Today I am thankful for the past year, the first half of which was incredibly hard and challenging, and the second half of which has been exciting, lovely and full of hope.

Today I will think of those hard times and let them go. They belong to another time now. Today I will think of all the things we have to look forward to next year. The things I might write. The things I will make. The excitement of working with a talented friend to propel our business forward. I will think of what it will be like to be a bridesmaid heavily pregnant, and then to be a bridesmaid with a small baby, celebrating the weddings of both these dear friends.

More than anything else, I will think of the people I am thankful for, and the hope that I have more time to spend with them next year. I will think of who Ezra might be, and how incredible it will be to meet him and to watch him and Ava grow together. I will give thanks for the gift of family and friends and the people who are constant in my life, who remains close, no matter how far they may travel.


In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
              where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
              Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
but he's restless—
         he has an idea,
              and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
as long as he stays awake
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
              he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
              while the clouds—

which he has summoned
from the north—
         which he has taught
              to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
              of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
              into snow.

Mary Oliver


We’d like to wish you all a wonderful Yule and Christmas, and give our sincere thanks to you for reading these past few months. We will be taking a break in January to restock and regather ourselves. In the meantime, you can catch up with Kendal at her other blog, Ava and the Snowman or see some sneak peaks of MamaMake’s new line launching in January. You can catch up with Emi and see what she is working on at MamaPixie.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Crafty Tutorial: Felt Woodland Elves

~ by Kendal

First of all, let me apologise for the lack of post on Monday. I have been so crazily busy over the last few days, making unexpected MamaMake orders and working on our new line (so many bubble dresses, tutus and elf hats!) not to mention trying to finish gifts for Ava and family and friends, that I have barely had time to eat, let alone make something scrumptious to share with you.

But these little guys, oh my. They have really won my heart. They are whimsical and simple and a little strange, and best of all? So easy and quick to make! Plus, if you know me at all, you’ll know I have a bit of a thing for pointy hats. Is there anything cuter?

All you need is felt and embroidery thread and some kind of stuffing. Wool roving works best, but annoyingly I didn’t have the time or skills to find it locally, so I used ordinary cotton stuffing which also worked well.

How to:

1. You need to make a circle quarter. I did this by tracing a large dinner plate onto felt and then dividing into quarters. The radius was roughly 4 inches

2. You want to squish the quarter in half and then cut a semi-circle out where the face will be about 1 ½ inches down.

3. Thread your needle (I used all 6 strands of floss) and starting at the point which is the top of the hat, begin using a simple whip stitch down the hat. (I started on the inside to hide the knot)

4. Once you reach the face, bring the needle through one side only so it’s on the inside of the hat and tie a knot. The hat is done!

5. Start below the face in exactly the same way as before, and continue a whip stitch down the body. When you get to the bottom tie a knot in the inside again.

6. Next take your wool or stuffing and roll it up around your pointer finger. Place it inside the gnome and position it so the face is nice and smooth.

7. Once you’re happy with the stuffing, thread your needle again and use a simple running stitch to define the neck. Leave a 2 inch tail at either side and tie it. Then pull on the ends until the neck is gathered in. Make a bow and cut the tails.

And that’s it! If you want to, use the bottom of the elf to cut a circle in some matching felt, big enough to close up the bottom, and use a blanket stitch to make a base. They stand up well without a base too, but if your Littles want to play with them, I recommend a base!

They take about 5 minutes each to make, look great on Seasons tables and are just…adorable. We will be making some version of them for our Seasonal lines at MamaMake – they are the perfect amount of whimsy and otherwordly. With just a touch of nostalgia. Great for brightening up your Winter nature scenes!

Friday 14 December 2012

Father Christmas? No thank you!

 ~ by Emi

The Christmas tradition that I remember most vividly from my childhood was to do with Father Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we would put out a mince pie, a glass of milk (we don't want him drinking and sleighing now!), and a carrot for Rudolph. Oh, and a blue Smartie for the mouse. You didn't leave a blue Smartie for the mouse who shrinks, climbs through the keyhole, unlocks the door, and lets Father Christmas in? Well, how else does he get into houses that don't have chimneys, eh?

My little sister and I would wake up in the morning and discover that only crumbs remained of the mince pie, the carrot and Smartie had been nibbled and the milk had been drunk. Proof, in our eyes, that Father Christmas had truly been. That, and the massive pile of gifts under the tree.

This would happen every year, even long after my sister and I knew the truth about the man in red. It was one of those things that I planned to do with my children.

That is... until I actually had children.

I remember my first conversation with Stephen about the big man, and tentatively saying "I don't know if I want to tell Ru about Father Christmas.". To my surprise, Stephen agreed with me.

As parents, we try to lead by example to our children. We try and be calm in the face of crisis, whether that be a broken washing machine or a broken crayon. We try to be gentle with others, affectionate to those we love, giving Littles positive behaviour  to model their own on. We don't tell untruths either. Herein lies the issue.

Whilst I loved the magic of Santa sneaking into the house and delivering gifts when I was a child, the prospect of telling what is effectively an extended lie to my children for what could be upwards of five or six years seems very wrong. It just doesn't sit comfortably.

Don't lie, children, it's wrong. But a man in red delivers your gifts every Christmas.

How can I expect my children to be truthful when I am telling them a pretty massive lie? It really is a difficult one, as we want to encourage and embrace the special magic of this time of year, but do it in a way that doesn't involve telling a child about the absolute real existence of a fictional character. But also doing it in a way that doesn't then upset other children who do believe. And that's just the start of it. What then of the Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Any fairy? How far do you go with being truthful about what's real and what's not? It's a toughie, I can tell you.

Then we have the bribery side of it all.

"Be good or else no presents for you!"

I was regularly threatened in November and December with the prospect of no gifts. I was made to eat all my dinner with a swift comment of "Well, I'd better phone Father Christmas then and tell him not to bring you anything.". I was coerced into tidying my bedroom with a "He doesn't bring presents to children with messy rooms.".

Scary stuff.

It really is bribery. Do it or ELSE.

Don't get me wrong, I am so not above bribing my child on occasion. We've all done it. However, this whole thing of only good children getting presents seems like an awfully scary threat to a Little. Even his nursery teachers have used it to get him to 'sit tidily' and to clean up.

When you really think about it, it's not bribery... it's actually a threat. And the prospect of threatening my kids isn't a fun one, I can tell you.

I think, what makes me most uncomfortable though, is this withdrawal of gifts. We tell our children that we love them, and that gifts are given with love but woe betide you if you are naughty! No presents for you. And their little head links no presents with no love.

Stephen and I are finding it especially difficult this year as Ru is really at an age where he understands that Christmas and Yule are special. He's also 3, and very impressionable. We've already had him ask "Who is Father Christmas? So-and-so at school says that he gives presents. Will he bring me some? My teacher says I have to be good or I won't get anything."

Oh, my Small Boy.

In the end, my response to his question was very simply... no.

My Small Sweet Boy, some people like to believe that Father Christmas brings presents for them on Christmas. And that's ok. It's a lovely story and a lovely idea. Yule and Christmas are about being kind to those we love, and letting them know that we care about them very much. We give presents to remind them that they are very special to us. Your presents come from your Mama and Daddy and Pixie who love you SO much.

For me, the idea that we give gifts to those we love, but that those gifts, and thus our love, are conditional really makes my stomach churn.

My love for my child doesn't diminish when he refuses to tidy up. Nor does it diminish when he pushes his sister, or sits on the cat, or throws his trains at the window.

I want him to tidy up, because he knows that we take pride in our home and it makes us all happier when we have space and room to play and create. I want him to not push his sister because he knows that it makes her feel sad and could hurt her, the same for why he shouldn't sit on the cat. I want him not to throw his trains at the window because he knows that he could hurt someone or break something, and know that we treat our possessions with respect and kindness.

I don't want him to do these things out of fear that he won't get presents. That doesn't seem like an awfully good life lesson to learn at all. I don't want him to keep the idea in his head that gifts, and our love, are conditional, based only on his behaviour. All children need to know that they are loved unconditionally, no matter what they do.

I have absolutely no doubt that in many homes, Father Christmas is welcomed and celebrated as the Bringer of Presents, and that this person is both magical and benevolent, loved by all. But the argument that by not 'doing' Father Christmas, that I am taking away the magic of Christmas for my children, then I have to say that, with all due respect, I think that that argument is wrong.

The magic of this time of year, whether you celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Yule, is in US. Yes, it is great to get presents, but the real special magic is in seeing the joy on someone else's face when they open their gift that we made specially for them.

It's in those bedtime hot chocolates with extra marshmallows.

It's in sitting in the dark with only the twinkling tree lights for company, sharing what our favourite part of the day was.

It's in making decorations together as a family.

It's in seeing birds in your garden enjoy the feeders you made them.

It's in being woken up to look out of the window at the spectacle of a world made unfamiliar by snow.

It's in sleepy snuggles under a cosy duvet, and secret present wrapping, and a new dress made by your Mama, and special books, and a trip out to see the lights, and making cinnamon cookies and gingerbread men, and the sequin you find in your hair from crafting earlier in the day, and celebrating one another.

It's in experiences.

It's in memories that he and his sister will remember and share with their own children one day.

It's not in a portly gentleman in crimson who breaks into your house, eats your food and leaves presents.

It's in LOVE.

That's real magic.

“We do not need magic to transform our world.
We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”
  ~ J. K. Rowling

Monday 10 December 2012

Crafty Tutorial: Wintery Cloud Dough

 ~ by Emi

Today, in the midst of a VERY busy festive period, happily making away for MamaPixie orders, friends and family, I am going to share with you a little something that kept both my children amused for an hour. An Hour, I tell you! A whole glorious hour in which I cleaned my kitchen, filled my washing machine and made bread. With the whole 'no tv' thing still very much in play, an hour to clean was a sending from the skies!

What is this magical activity?

Wintery Cloud Dough.

Oh yes, baby.

And it's made from items you probably already have in your house!

Plain flour and baby oil.

That's it.

Oh, and some glitter.

Literally, we're going to mix 8 parts flour to one part oil. Throw in a whole bunch of glitter so it sparkles like Glinda the Good Witch's dress and mix.

It forms this wonderful substance that smells divine and has a very odd consistency. Whilst looking like sand, you can compress it to form more solid structures.

I'm finding it a particular challenge right now to find activities that both 3 1/2 year old Ru and 15 months old Pixie can BOTH do, without one or more of them getting frustrated with themselves or their sibling. This worked a treat.

Not only is a brilliant sensory activity, but again, like so many Crafty by Nurture activities, can be adapted for different themes. Pink and red glitter and you've got Valentine's Cloud Dough! Bury chocolate coins in there with some rainbow sequins and you've got St Patrick's Day Cloud Dough!

I do warn you though, this is likely to get all over your floor but the baby oil makes it smell luscious, so it's not too much of a problem! I wouldn't do this on carpet, so if you don't have laminate flooring, BIG sheets of plastic will be needed or wrap up and head outside to play!

And now, if you don't mind, I have an absolute ton of work to do, as well as a baby whose bottom I suspect, if the smell is anything to go by, needs changing!

"When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
we hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
and etched on vacant places
are half-forgotten faces
of friends we used to cherish,
and loves we used to know."
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friday 7 December 2012

Have yourself a mindful little Christmas

~by Kendal

We get out of bed and put our feet on the carpet, pulling on cardigans, slippers, dressing gowns. We tear through the cold morning air until we are down in the kitchen, heating on, kettle on, porridge on. The cold blue light of winter mornings spills across our living room floor and we huddle up to keep warm.

My mind runs across the usual thoughts. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. What we have on that day. And then, because it is December, and the countdown to Christmas has begun, it also flits through all the many, many things we have to do still. My elving list is long, and for everything I tick off, another thing or two is added.

Such is the way at this time of year, with all the pressure of Christmas and with the added pressure of hoping to make this another homemade one. It is easy to get carried away, and I say this as a person who quite gladly lets herself get carried away when excited. Because although I find it relatively easy to buy less than I was bought, and, to concentrate on fewer, good quality, open-ended toys, as opposed to a multitude of fillers, I don’t find it easy to remain calm and centred at this manic time of year. It just doesn’t happen without effort when you have children, especially when you do your best to make as much of the presents, decorations and general festive warmth that fills your home.

We start our days with the best of intentions. We go to town, and we get hot chocolates. I try not to think of all the things waiting to be done, the lists I write over and over (as if list writing itself will somehow reduce all the making that waits for me). We go to the library and I do my best to just focus on Ava, running around organising books into piles only she can figure out. I try to relax.

But there, in the back of mind, I have what appears to be a rather incessant inner voice that keeps repeating things like… felt, lace trimming, lilac yarn, what size needles?, sweet potato dhal for dinner, maybe I could finish X’s Yule present tonight, I have to send off those orders tomorrow, more brown paper, oh-crap-when-are-we-going-to-the-farmer’s-cart-again?, I need to print out photos for X’s album…and so on and so on.

It is always a challenge to stop this barrage of thoughts and focus on what is actually going on in front of me. It is the most challenging thing in the world to be present and mindful at the best of times, but in December, with all the pressures of Christmas and present giving, it can be downright impossible. Howard says I don’t know how to relax. I tell him that sitting on the couch and embroidering a Yule gift is relaxing. After all, I could be sewing, or painting, or cooking, or making salt dough ornaments, or….and there my mind goes again, spiralling in on itself and drowning under a weight of ‘must-dos’ and ‘have tos’.

Yet, here’s the alarming thing. I know that what Ava will remember most about this time of year, if I get it right, is the true magic of winter – the cold frost that blankets the ground as we walk into town, the warmth of a hot chocolate sipped inside a coffee shop covered in Christmas lights and playing yet another Dean Martin Christmas track. It might also be the stockings hanging on the fireplace, or the Winter Tomten that graces our Seasons Table and will every year from now on, but these things will be incidentals.

I know this, because what I remember about Christmas is not the sacks of gifts I was given with the best of intention (honesty, I can barely remember a single one now aside from the ‘big’ gift I actually asked for and wanted each year). What I remember is Christmas at my grandparents, the smell of honey-roast hams and roast beefs resting in the pantry. The special chocolate truffles made every year upon my request (Okay, a lot of these memories are food related – what can I say? I love food). I remember the conversations around the dining room table late into the night, and the card games we played – my grandpa through in the living room watching TV.

I remember all the making that happened, the busy fingers that sewed and knitted and were constantly moving alongside the chatting. The warmth of fleecy pyjamas and books in bed. The Christmas films I’d always watch and the feeling of being completely wrapped up, completely warm, safe and cherished. And that is really what I want for Ava, for all my children. I want her to know the deep magic of being part of something that is all about family and togetherness.

I know that all of the things I need, or want, to get done, are not really for her at all – they’re for my idea of what Christmas should be like – a kind of picture perfect, Martha Stewart ideal that looks glossy and always smells of cinnamon and spices, with a freshly baked tray of something always ready to come out of the oven.

So I remind myself, gently yet forcefully, that what is more important, is the time Ava needs to me to snuggle her under a duvet on the couch watching Lost and Found. I remind myself that if I don’t manage to knit everyone I know an elf hat for Christmas, it’s okay. People like gifts in January too. And if I don’t manage to make Ava the three pairs of fleecy trousers I have cut out, all in time for Christmas day, she won’t care at all. She won’t even know.

I try to prioritise. I try to take a breath. If I can (and I should, always) I do a mindfulness meditation, reminding myself how much easier everything as a parent is having had that small amount of time to meditate on what being mindful is all about. I bring myself back to the present. I study Ava’s face. What is she thinking? What would she like just now, what does she need?

I make her a cup of tea and bring her through some grapes and oatcakes, without being asked. (I remember how lovely it was as a child to be looked after without having to ask for it) I let that voice with its ongoing list occupy my mind for a second, long enough to acknowledge it there, to pay it heed, then I let it go. I breathe it out. I tell myself the list will be there later, when I need it. Or, if I’m finding it hard to let it go, I write it all out again for the millionth time. It’s there. I’m here. I can just be, for a moment or two.

And once I start this, it becomes easier to see the bigger picture. All the things that need doing are mostly just things that I’ve invented. There’s something else more magical, more quietly spectacular to do – and that is just to be with Ava. To relish these passing moments we have together.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to ditch the list. To remember that perfect isn’t the goal, and nor is it even attainable. What Christmas and Yule should be about is all of us, who we really are, coming together and celebrating each other. And in those moments of being together, of being present with one another – I know that it will be as perfect a Christmas as it can be.

Because there is time, yet, to think about the fullness of this year, so nearly behind us, and to contemplate what it is we want from next year, within the long slow days of January and February. There is time to do more making, in a moment. Time to figure out the meals, the parties, the festivities ahead of us now. But there is only this moment, this very moment – ‘the still point of the turning world’ - to give to the ones who matter most. 

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Crafty Tutorial: Winter Waldorf Stars

~by Kendal

Good Wednesday to you! Today, I am off on a hen do to London and back and may, by the time you're reading this, already be there. It's going to be a very long, but very exciting day (although this will be the longest time I've been away from my Little Miss, so I'm a tad nervous too - 18 hours apart!)

So I bring you a very simple and easy tutorial - how to make Winter Waldorf stars. I made my first Waldorf star in summer, but didn't quite get it right (I didn't realise this until Emi pointed out my obvious mistake) Since then, I've made a lot more, and I just love them.

My good friend Anna mentioned how, at her Steiner school, they'd make white ones at winter and I thought, 'What a good idea - I must try this come December..' (Anna will kindly be writing a post about her experiences of Steiner education in the weeks following Ezra's birth)

So, here it is!


Tissue paper

(You can use tougher material, like kite paper, or even card, but I usually use tissue paper and it works well)

How to:

1. First cut your tissue paper up into squares. 8 to be exact.

2. Take your first square, and fold it in half.

Then fold it in half again. When you open it up, your square will be divided into four little squares

3. Fold each corner into the center until you have a smaller square.

Then, fold two of the sides into the middle, like so, making a kite shape.

4. Repeat this 8 times until you have 8 kite shapes.

5. Using some craft glue or pritt stick, put a little on one half of the shorter side, as shown below:

6. Stick 2 of the kites together.

Then, repeat with all remaining kites, until you get a beautiful big star shape. (Note, on the last kite, you will stick it on to the previous kite, and then stick the first kite onto it, thereby completing the round)

7. And...there you have it! A Waldorf star!

Now, stick them onto your windows (or if you're so inclined, your walls...)

And see how pretty they look as the light shines through. The perfect simple Yule decoration!

'For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.'
Vincent Van Gogh