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Festive scene of red and white painted stars with numbers on, with the words "Advent Ideas for Everyone, including books, yoga, crafts, and random acts of kindness"

Advent Calendar Ideas For Everyone

Can you believe that Advent is almost upon us? I know it sounds a bit trite, but it honestly does feel like only yesterday when we were celebrating Halloween (and if you look at my blog you’ll see clear evidence of this, as that was the last time I wrote a post!) But here we are, heading into December once again, and that can mean only one thing – it’s time to crack out the Advent Calendar.

My memories of Advent as a child included a cardboard chimney with little boxes we pulled out to find a treat my mum had put inside for us. I even remember my sister and I naming one sweet as “yum yums” as they were a particular favourite of ours. I loved that Advent Calendar and have tried to find a similar one for years (with no such luck). I did try to make one years ago, but it was a bit rubbish to be honest. This year I’ve got a Santa’s Sleigh version that works on a similar basis, and I’ll be filling it with the leftover Halloween treats we never handed out, which reminds me I need to crack on with that as soon as I’ve posted this.

We also have the typical chocolate Advent Calendars too, as my mum always buys us all one. But sometimes it’s nice to complement them with other ideas too, isn’t it? Which is why I thought I would bring together some of my favourite Advent Calendar finds with you, in case you’re looking for a bit of inspiration this year. Do let me know if you try any of them, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Festive scene of red and white painted stars with numbers on them and words, "Advent Calendar Ideas for Everyone, including books, yoga, crafts, and random acts of kindness."

Guide to advent calendars available in 2018

If you’re looking to buy a slightly different Advent Calendar this year, Katie from Mummy in a Tutu has created a guide to a variety of offerings this year, including preserves, bath bombs, and gin & tonic. There really is something for everyone in the selection, so if you’re still stuck for ideas for someone who isn’t really a fan of chocolate then check out the selection over on Mummy in a Tutu.

chocolate-free Advent calendar ideas

Speaking of people who aren’t fans of chocolate (or who cannot eat chocolate for dietary/allergy reasons), there is a wide variety of chocolate-free Advent Calendars available these days. Beth from Twinderelmo has collected 20 chocolate-free options for Advent, including Haribo for those with a sweet-tooth, crafts for those who are more artistic, and activities for the more adventurous amongst us. Find out more about all these ideas over on Twinderelmo.

book advent calendar

This is such a brilliant idea, especially if you have book-loving kids. It might even be a great idea for getting reluctant readers to enjoy sitting down and reading with you! Claire from The Ladybird’s Adventure has put together a fantastic step-by-step guide to creating a Book Advent Calendar. Claire has listed a great variety of festive books which you could include, but even if you wrap up non-festive books it’s still a lovely way to enjoy Advent. Check out Claire’s tips over on The Ladybird’s Adventure.

activity advent printable

I couldn’t put together a post on Advent Calendar ideas and not share the free printable I created a couple of years ago! The idea is simple – you print out the 24 activity cards, cut them out, and either stick them in envelopes or hang them on the wall, and do one activity each day. It is always a favourite of Little Man’s, and the activities have all been chosen to be easy to do with limited time, energy, and funds. There’s even a full A4 page of supporting ideas for each activity, and some Pinterest boards to go with some of them too. Get your copy, completely free (with no need to sign up to anything) here. 

random acts of kindness ADVENT CALENDAR

If you like the idea of doing some kind of activity each day, and want to include the spirit of giving into this, then why not check out this brilliant Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar by Lauren over at Dilan and Me. The activities included range from something as simple as smiling at a stranger through to making donations and buying a suspended coffee at your local coffee shop. Check out the ideas over on Dilan and Me and either follow along or use it as inspiration to create your own list of kindness activities.

reverse advent calendar

Speaking of kindness at Christmas, another way you can give to others is to do a Reverse Advent Calendar. The idea behind this is that for every day on December you put something aside for someone else, rather than getting something for yourself. Reverse Advent Calendars tend to focus on putting food aside to send to the local Food Bank which, with so many people living in poverty in our country at the moment, makes a big difference. Laura from Savings 4 Savvy Mums has created a fantastic selection of resources for anyone wanting to try a Reverse Advent Calendar this year, including a list of food items that most Food Banks in the UK are keen to receive. Find out more at Savings 4 Savvy Mums.

cosmic kids yoga advent calendar

I cannot tell you how excited I was when this popped up on my instagram feed this week! As I’m sure you already know, Cosmic Kids are a huge favourite of ours. We regularly use their books and YouTube videos, so it is really exciting to find that there is an Advent Calendar this year. You can find the Cosmic Kids Yoga Advent Calendar here – make sure you bookmark it for easy access every day in December!

32 elf on the shelf ideas

Okay, so this isn’t exactly an Advent Calendar, but it is something that a lot of people take part in during December, so I thought I would include it here. Alana from Baby Holiday has created a brilliant post with 32 simple ideas for keeping the magic of Elf on the Shelf alive. Each idea is portrayed in an image, making them super easy to copy. Check out the post over on Baby Holiday.

advent at the north pole

And finally, as we’re talking about Elves, don’t forget that I have a whole series of Advent poems all about how Santa and the Elves are preparing for their big night on 24th. There is a video for every day in Advent (and an extra one for Christmas Day) over on YouTube. You can find the whole playlist here.

I do hope that one of these ideas inspires you, and that you have a very festive Advent!

Introducing Advent at The North Pole

Introducing Advent at The North Pole

Way back in 2009, several months before I decided to set up The Family Patch (at that time known as Amanda’s Patch, as we were still 2 years away from having a baby!), I wrote a series of poems called Advent at The North Pole, as a way of exploring what it would be like to prepare for Christmas if you were Santa and the Elves!

It was a fun project, which brought me a lot of joy, and I originally recorded the poems as a series of YouTube videos, however as they were done on my webcam, the quality of them was absolutely shocking. So for several years I have wanted to re-record them all. And finally, this year, I have.

The poems will be shared on both YouTube and the blog, so you can choose to follow them wherever suits you best. I do so hope you you’ll enjoy spending a bit of Advent with me, finding the magic that makes Advent so exciting. And to kick things off, here’s the first video for you – an introduction to the series. Enjoy!

Free Activity Advent Calendar

Free Activity Advent Calendar

I am so excited to share today’s post with you. For several years now I’ve wanted to create resources for other families to enjoy together. And I couldn’t think of a better resource than a free, printable Activity Advent Calendar for you to use this December.

I’ve always loved Advent so much – the anticipation and build up to Christmas is such a joyful time. But I also know that it can be super busy and rather stressful as an adult, especially when you’re trying to balance work and home life and still fit in all the extra preparations and events that occur during December. So I wanted to create an Advent Calendar that helps us, as busy parents, to spend some quality time with our kids each and every day, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

The Family Patch's Free Advent Activity Calendar Printable PDF

What’s included?

Within the Activity Advent Calendar, you will find:

  • 4 sheets, each with 6 daily activity cards to cut out and stick on the wall, hang on the tree, hide in envelopes, or however else you want to use them
  • A full A4 sheet to accompany each activity, with an explanation of why I chose it, some suggestions on ways to make it special to you, and even blog post and Pinterest board links for some of them

what kind of activities are included?

There are all kinds of activities included in the Advent Calendar, including: various crafts; donating to others; exploring the Nativity Story; celebrating the Midwinter Solstice; and generally having fun by watching films together, seeing the Christmas lights, and carol singing.

Every single activity within the Advent Calendar is easy to do with even the most limited time, resources, or energy! I know this because I planned them specifically to be this way (as a chronically ill parent, this is a real necessity for me!) To help make it even easier for you, I’ve left the activities unnumbered, so you can organise them in whichever order works best for you.

Can I adapt it to fit my own ideas?

Of course – in fact, that’s what I’m hoping you’ll do! I have tried to keep this Advent Calendar flexible enough to fit into your own family’s traditions, whatever they may be. But it’s my first attempt at doing such a large scale project as this, and so I would love to hear from you if you use the Advent Calendar – let me know what you like and what you were not so keen on. Your feedback helps me to develop further resources for the site. You can contact me via the blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

How Do I get my Free Copy of the activity advent calendar?

All you have to do is visit my Freebies page to download your completely free copy of our 30 page Activity Advent Calendar. It couldn’t be easier.

Healing Journey - Steps Into The Soul

Solstice Musings

Today marks The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the point at which the light begins to return to the world once more. This time last year I wrote a post called Solstice Reflections and reading back over it I am reminded of both major similarities and differences between this time last year and where I am today (it’s like a spiral dance).

spiral stone

Like last year, I have been very sick lately, pushing myself further and further until breaking point at the beginning of December. What is it about me and refusing to stop until something (usually my body) forces me to? But unlike last year, I am in a much better place both mentally and spiritually, if not necessarily physically.

I remember writing about how 2014 had been a year so tough that I felt like my soul had shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. Whilst that sounds horrendous, and it was in many ways, it was also a total blessing in disguise. It led me to choosing “Surrender” as my word for 2015 and surrender I have.

These past 12 months I lost my job, moved home, watched a loved one suffer greatly, found two new jobs, supported my husband in a new job as well, helped Little Man adjust to a new home and nursery, and begun to really find my feet with blogging again (two major highlights of which were reading this poem as part of the BritMums Live Bloggers’ Keynote and my recent post on the BritMums Blog about Endometriosis).

I could never have coped with all of these changes without first surrendering to the natural flow of life, which has taught me that no matter how dark things may seem, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time in my life, I learnt to accept what is and go with the flow rather than fighting a losing battle. And it has been great.

Going with the flow - water

But I still have a long way to go – this journey is far from over! Whilst I have moved with the flow, this year has moved at such great speed (how can it be December already?!) that my heart, body and soul all need time to adjust. Physically I am beat, and despite my best efforts, pushing onwards regardless has left me very weak. Which leads me to only one conclusion – my focus for 2016 needs to be that of Healing.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that recently I started reading a fascinating book called The Healing Power of The Sacred Woman by Christine Page. Within its pages I have discovered the need to really embrace that which fills me with joy, making time to express myself creatively rather than stifling that great spring of inspiration whilst putting everything and everyone else first. As the author states, it’s often those who are “too nice” who get ill… I feel very much like this is a message I needed to hear (from someone other than my mother – sorry, mum, I know you’ve been telling me this for a long time now!)

Whilst it feels totally against my nature to do so, I have decided it is crucial that I do it. Putting myself first doesn’t mean that I no longer care about others, but rather that I am beginning to understand that only through self nurture can I have the strength needed to truly nurture others (without burning myself out entirely).

So, how am I going to do that?

Do more of what makes you happy
The cover of the binder which currently holds my novel…

 

Well, my thinking is this – I need to take a serious amount of time “out” to focus on the healing power within me, which for me comes very much through the time and space to create and write. I am a writer, it’s what I do. My teachers knew it at school. My friends and family have known it for years. My blog readers have often commented on it, and so have colleagues from time to time. And when I think about it, I realise that I know it too and always have – writing brings me complete joy (regardless of the subject) and when I write I tap into a powerful force of nature, that flows through me, easing my soul.

Looking back over the year I can see that I have started to do this, sharing poems such as Yet Still We Stand and How Long Must We Wait this year, but would you believe there was a time, around 10 years ago, when I wrote something new almost every day? And that year I was happier and healthier than I think I have ever been!

So, for the next few months I want to focus specifically on this – finding time to write and be inspired by the world around me. There is a novel I wrote a first draft of in 2010 which I am longing to rework and expand, and there are opportunities to write stories and poems that reflect all that is happening in our lives. There is also Spirit Kid Network to begin building, a process which I hope to turn into a creative rather than business one. Already I know the way to release the blocks I created through trying to make it “fit” rather than allowing it to be what it is meant to be.

And in order to do this, I need to really make the time and space for it. In recent months I have chosen to sit in bed and read, rather than staying up late watching TV, but I still struggle for time. There are things I have to do – work, cook, clean, look after Little Man etc – but equally there are things I can cut back on. And social media is one of these things.

Finding the Gifts Within
Finding the Gifts Within

 

For years now I have been saying I need to step away, but it seems so much like “social suicide” to do so, especially as a blogger. But you know what, blogging began long before the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and I do think a break from those will do me good. I spend so much time scrolling through them, time which could be spent creating something or actually reading someone else’s blog posts and commenting on them! So that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to focus on the reading and writing and less on the sharing and tweeting, at least for a while. I want to find the “gifts within”, rather than relying on the outside world to feed my soul!

I’ve decided I want to be as symbolic as possible with this – today is 21st December and the Winter Solstice, in 3 months’ time we’ll reach 21st March and the Spring Equinox, or first day of Spring. That feels like a beautiful metaphor for this journey I wish to take – a hibernation of sorts, through the dark winter months, turning inward to find the source of my spark ready to burst forth with life once the Spring appears.

Let the Healing begin 🙂

Healing Journey - Steps Into The Soul

Beltane Altar White Spring Glastonbury 2012

Beltane Blessings

Beltane Altar White Spring Glastonbury 2012

Happy Beltane Everyone!

This past week has been one of many new beginnings for us as a family (a new home, a new nursery for Little Man, and two new jobs for me) and is the culmination of many months of preparation and waiting. It’s hard to believe that all of this was set into motion right back at the beginning of the year and is only just really coming to fruition, but I find it immeasurably satisfying to see how perfect the timing is.

Beltane is a celebration of union, of all the different parts coming together, and of the fruits of our labours beginning to come to us. It is a time of renewal, of new growth, and of preparation for the blessings yet to occur. We see this in nature, as the Wheel of the Year turns, and yet this year I also see it so very clearly in our own personal circumstances. And it feels good.

We had been hoping to make it to Glastonbury to celebrate Beltane this year, as it is 3 years since we were there with our dear friend for Little Man’s blessing. But I have to say that postponing our trip until later in the year so that we could move home and start a brand new chapter in our lives is more than worth it!

Today is a special day in particular – we hand over the keys to our old house, just as I begin my new job. How’s that for a new beginning? Having surrendered to whatever life may bring at the beginning of this year, it feels so special that life has brought us through the incredible uncertainty we faced at the beginning of this year and provided us with a beautiful fresh start at this glorious time of year.

It shouldn’t surprise me that I feel so connected to this particular time of year – after all my birthday falls in the same week as Beltane and we’ve chosen it as a special moment in our year before (for Little Man’s blessing). But what does surprise me is how much is happening this year in particular, and just how many things are really blossoming in our lives right now.

It’s not just the new house and new job either… they are external changes, but I can feel my heart changing too. Things that have remained hidden, or crushed, over the past few years are beginning to resurface and I find myself excited about embracing them once more. Like embracing spirituality, connecting with others, and celebrating these special moments in time.

And the more I open myself up to the possibilities, the more opportunities and encouragement I find. And Beltane is one such opportunity. We now live in an area where is is easier for us to connect with like-minded communities to explore our faith. We also have easier access to nature, parks, and our own little garden space with room for a veg plot! Celebrating the seasons and embracing their gifts is quite literally right on our doorstep, and we are determined to make the most of it.

For now, though, we will begin by creating our own little Beltane Fire to welcome us into our new home, and give thanks for the blessings that have already come to us. And the rest will all fall into place…

Midwinter Solstice

Solstice Reflections

Midwinter Solstice

Today marks the Midwinter Solstice, or the “return of the sun” and is one of the main celebrations in the Pagan Wheel of the Year. It comes just a few days before Christmas and is a time of celebration of hope for us in some of our darkest days.

I find this very poignant this year, as the past few weeks have really taken their toll on our little family. To be fair, 2014 has been one of the biggest and longest challenges of our lives, and I have felt utterly broken by it. But the past few weeks have pretty much pushed the very fragile nature of my soul into shattering completely. It has been like a metaphorical Winter of the soul!

And yet, within it all, a little light of hope shines. Hope that nothing lasts forever, and one day soon life will begin its upswing into the light and warmth of Spring and Summer. We’ve already seen the beginning sparks of this with the good news regarding TJ’s treatment plan, and having some time and space to stop still and breathe has enabled me to find my footing and begin to put myself back together again.

Sometimes, in life, things get so messed up that trying to fix one more crack is not enough… sometimes it is better to smash it all to pieces and rebuild with firmer foundations. Not that it always feels that way when it happens!!

I feel like 2014 has been my “breaking point” and I have reached that point where the old ways just no longer cut it. TJ and I have been through so much together (and as individuals) and we have had so very many cracks to try and fill and sustain and we finally hit that point where it felt like everything was crumbling around us and we didn’t know what to do. Looking back over the past 12 months I can see how we have had a slow crumble rather than one big crash, but the final push most certainly came over the past quarter.

And just when I felt like I had let everybody down and there was no way out, I began to see that there is an opportunity in all of this. An opportunity to build those firmer foundations, to find a more stable way of living and being, to rediscover the roots of faith that have sustained me in the past and the joys of life which help to balance out the challenges we face. In the midst of my own personal Winter I am beginning to see the light that lies just around the corner.

And whilst I long to be there right now, I am beginning to respect that life is a cycle and no matter how much we may wish to rush things forward, we need to allow things to happen in their own time. I am also beginning to finally understand that I cannot (and should not try!) to do it all alone. Everybody needs help and support and community around them and that is something I truly wish to embrace in a way I have never really done so before.

As much as I feel that 2014 has been our “breaking point”, I really feel that 2015 is going to be our “turning point”, the year in which we begin to find our feet, breathe a little easier, and set the foundations for the future. And whilst 2015 is still a little way off, today marks a significant moment in that process. It is a day that we set intentions and hopes for the year ahead, and look towards the light that is just around the corner.

Happy Solstice, everyone!

 

Handmade pumpkins

Handmade Halloween Home

Halloween Kids Art

Halloween is a big thing here at The Patch. We just love this time of year, the autumn colours, the cooler weather (and snuggling up warm in the evenings) , and celebrations galore. Halloween is the first, quickly followed by Guy Fawkes, and then it’s not long before the run up to Christmas. We all need reasons to celebrate during these colder, darker months and there’s nothing we need more in our family right now than some cheer during the harsher season.

I know Halloween can be a bit of a tricky holiday for some, and I thought about explaining how we celebrate it, but in the end I decided I didn’t really want to do that. What I want to do is share with you the way we have made Halloween our own this year.

It’s the first year that Little Man has really been able to grasp the concept of celebrating and the changing of the seasons, so we have had fun doing autumn and Halloween crafts with him. We’ve done lots of art, hung on the wall (under our Wheel of the Year display) as directed by Little Man himself (hence the higgledy piggledy nature of the display!)

SAM_1393

We have also made pumpkins… there’s the decoupage pumpkin we did together (or rather mummy did most of because Little Man didn’t like being sticky!) And the crochet pumpkin I made.

Handmade pumpkins

And then there are the actual pumpkins… as we have been ill lately, I am rather behind in Halloween preparations and so we haven’t actually carved the pumpkins this year. I am still debating whether to carve them when Little Man gets home from nursery or whether to simply cook something with them for tea, to eat whilst answering the door to the multitude of Trick or Treaters we are bound to get.

And talking of Trick or Treaters, this year I have bought some non-food related treats to put in the bowl, as inspired by my US friend Jen and the Teal Pumpkin Project. The idea is that some kids can’t take part because they have allergies and cannot eat the things we hand out, so it’s nice to have a non-food alternative for these kids. As someone who struggles with food intolerances (not even allergies!) I knew it was something I wanted to try and incorporate. I’ll print out a sign for our door so people know we do have food-free treats (you can get these online).

I scoured the shops and found these ghost bottles of blowing bubbles so decided they would be fun. To bulk up the treat bags I have added some monster stickers and Halloween balloons. Here’s hoping no-one has a latex allergy, hey?!

Non Food Halloween Treat Bags Teal Pumpkin Project

I wasn’t sure how many to get, after all the novelty of bubbles after lots of sweets may be tempting even for kids who can eat the chocolates we bought, but I didn’t want to be left with loads of bubbles afterwards if no one took them. So this is definitely a trial run! Any that are left can still be used next year.

We decided on treat bags this year as it means we can make sure all the kids get a nice treat. The food ones all include a small treat-sized chocolate bar or bag of cookies, plus a smaller chewy sweet and either one sticker or one balloon. I had so much fun putting them together – I think I may have overdone it and so sent a dozen to work with TJ today too!

We usually go all out for Halloween decorations too, but most are cheap ones from the supermarket that do not last. This year we wanted to add some extra special bits, so aside from our own handmade items we bought something too…

Handmade Halloween wreath from Ashleigh's

It is hanging inside our door (to keep it safe), hence the very orange photo as our hallway doesn’t have any natural light!

I bought this from someone I know through the HG world who has set up her own handmade business. Ashleigh’s Wonderland is filled to the brim with the most gorgeous handmade Christmas decorations and I cannot recommend her work highly enough. She made a few Halloween items earlier this year and I had to buy one of her rag wreaths. Just look at it!

Halloween Wreath close up

Isn’t it marvellous? She has added some truly charming details to it, like Halloween shaped buttons above. I love the colour combinations too… and we have two felt decorations to match!

SAM_1402

They’ve all been sitting in a bag for weeks now waiting to come out and I am so excited to see them hanging in my hallway. It will last us for many, many years and it only cost £20 which is an absolute bargain when you consider the cost of materials and the time it must have taken to make. Seriously, do check out Ashleigh’s other work and see if anything takes your fancy.

Finally, I couldn’t end this post without letting you see Little Man’s make-up for today’s celebrations. He’s gone to nursery with two little pumpkins on his face (the theme was orange and black) as I didn’t have time to sort out a costume for him. Isn’t he cute?

Kids pumpkin face paint

And that’s it from me. A quick peek into our Handmade Halloween Home, I do hope you liked it. Tell me, do you decorate at Halloween?

Seasonal Craft Activities… It Starts Here!

Halloween Kids' Craft

One of the things I have been most looking forward to since becoming a mum has to be getting to a stage when Little Man and I would be able to do some crafts together. I loved creating things as a child, and continue to enjoy it as an adult, so I couldn’t wait to explore this love with Little Man too.

He has enjoyed watching kids’ art programmes on tv for a while now and recently he has really started getting interested in scissors and sticking, rather than simply drawing with pens. So when he received more money for his birthday than he really needed for a few more toys and books, I decided it was time to head to the craft store and buy him some bits and pieces.

We took a trip to Hobbycraft and I swear I could have bought the whole store! I found it rather difficult limiting our shop to a certain budget and so decided to stick to a theme for our crafting adventures. And that theme was “seasonal activities”.

With Halloween coming up, we went with this pumpkin which we plan to decorate with tissue paper and glitter, as well as some leaf shaped foam pieces to use while exploring the changes in nature as we move into autumn, and some more tissue paper, scissors and glue for good luck!

SAM_1373

I couldn’t resist buying a little something for myself whilst we were there. I got this wooden sign and orange paint (I need to dig out the other colours we have stashed somewhere at home) and will try and find time to sit and paint this before Halloween arrives. It is a big celebration in our household, so any new addition to our decorations is always well received!

Christmas kids' crafts

Returning to the bits we got for Little Man, we decided to look ahead and buy a few bits ready for Christmas too. These baubles for painting are so adorable, I cannot wait to see what Little Man paints on them. And the wooden stamp set is for taking our handmade wrapping paper up a gear.

The plan is to start decorating the big pumpkin tomorrow – it is almost October after all. I may also have to try and crochet a few little pumpkins to go with it. I’m so excited.

Tell me, are you planning any seasonal craft activities?

Handmade Christmas Wrapping Paper – The Toddler Way

I'm really excited about Christmas this year. And our preparations have already begun…

Artist Wrapping Paper

Yesterday Little Man and I set about creating our very own Christmas Wrapping Paper. I bought some brown paper, unrolled it bit by bit, and he drew enthusiastically across the paper with a variety of coloured pens. 

I was a bit concerned that he wouldn't really take to this activity – a lot of the time when I give him pens and paper he just wants me to write numbers and his name for him over and over again rather than scribbling and drawing himself. Hence the early start. I thought if we began now, we'd have plenty of days to get it out and work on the next piece of the roll of paper. But surprisingly Little Man enjoyed it so much that he got through the entire roll in one afternoon and evening. 

And they weren't just little squiggles here and there either… he went at it like it was the best activity ever (even getting cross with me when it took too long to roll up the piece he'd just finished to get a new blank piece to work on!) Some bits were less "busy" than others, but some bits look like a whirlwind has passed through…

Wrapping Paper

I am so happy that he enjoyed it, as I had visions of having to scrap this idea and actually go out and buy wrapping paper instead. It gives me hope that he'll enjoy the activities I have planned for hism throughout December.

 

You see, I've created a sweet little Advent Calendar for Little Man, one with an activity each day, and I cannot wait until the weekend to share it with him. There are 24 envelopes hung on some ribbon with tiny pegs and each one has a number on it. As Little Man loves numbers, I hope this will entertain him. And each day we will open an envelope and find out what activity we can do, hanging the card inside up on the ribbon to show which have been opened and how many days we still have left to go. (I'll try and remember to share some photos once it is up).

Activities include things like 'make Christmas cards', 'write a letter to Santa' (I'll help with that one!), 'Go on a winter walk', and 'make mince pies'. I've had to be careful to ensure that I planned each day according to what is achievable: family activities happen at the weekend, messy activities happen on days I am home with Little Man, and we have short and sweet activities for the days he goes to nursery and they need to be done either over breakfast or just before bed. I think I have planned it all okay, but only time will tell.

Artist at Work

However, seeing Little Man's excitement yesterday made me realise that it really doesn't matter if the plan works or not, so long as he is enjoying himself!

Do you have any activities planned for your little ones over the Christmas period?

 

Celebrating Autumn: Making Smudge Sticks on the Equinox

Last weekend was the Autumn Equinox (or Mabon) and it was a beautifully sunny day. 

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As you know, TJ and I are very spiritual but we don't really follow any single religious path. But that doesn't mean we don't celebrate our own individual faith within the family. One of the ways we do this is to honour nature and the world around us as sacred, and so this year we decided it was high time we tried to celebrate the Autumn Equinox in a way that was special to us.

As our herb garden has flourished this past year, we thought it would be a great idea to make our own smudge sticks, utilising the abundance of growth in our garden rather than just letting it all die off for the winter without being used. I hasten to add here that we left more herbs in the garden than we took out of the garden, but we wanted to use some of it.

SAM_0069
TJ (with his aptly coloured hair!) cut some sage, rosemary and lavendar whilst I hung the washing out and wandered around the garden taking photos in the gloriously golden autumn light, and then we headed indoors to make up smudge sticks together whilst Little Man had his afternoon nap. 

It took us a while to figure out the best way to put the herbs together and we have yet to discover how well the different combinations of herbs smell together when burned, but we are more than happy with our homemade smudge sticks.

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Later that evening, we held our own little celebration using a ritual created for the Solitary Druid Fellowship, adapting it to suit our own needs, missing out bits we didn't feel reflected us personally and adding our own little touches. Little Man was more interested in the candle than anything else, so that had to be moved to a safe distance away from him, but all in all it was nice to mark the turning of the seasons by remembering all that has happened over the past year and thinking about the months ahead of us. 

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year (it always has been) as it is both a time of reflection and gathering things together for the cold winter months ahead. There is something very special about the last few rays of summer sun, the wrapping up in blankets in the evenings, and the preparation for celebrations such as Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas!!

When I was still at school, September was the month in which we returned to school and so it was also a time of new beginnings. And it seems to be this way again now, as I move into my new role with PSS (more on this in a later post, I'm sure!) And before I know it, October will be out and we'll be on to the next celebration. How exciting.

Tell me, do you love autumn or are someone who dislikes the end of summer?

 

It’s December!!

How on earth did this happen?

I went for an interview on 1st November, and now I've just completed my second week at work, TJ has the chance of a new job in the new year, and it's almost Christmas… um, where did that last month go? And how did so much happen so quickly?

This all means, of course, that I am way behind in preparing for the fun of Christmas. We'll be celebrating both the Winter Solstice and Christmas this year (TJ is off but I am working on 21st and I am off but TJ is working on 25th… confusing, huh?!)

Little Man is a tad too young to enjoy it all this year, but we're still going to have a blast. And then, come the New Year, I have some thoughts and ideas I'd like to put into place. So fingers crossed I find the time…

I couldn't let the first day of Advent pass by without a quick update, but really there isn't much to say other than we're all super busy, I am so far behind on Christmas prep that it is scary, and I'm too busy enjoying some "me time" after the past few hectic weeks that I can't think of much more to say. So, sorry for the slightly bizarre post, I'll be back soon with some more cohesive blogging!!

Happy Advent Everybody…

 

Happy First Birthday Little Man

It's hard to believe, but this time last year we had just met our beautiful baby boy. 

It was the end of 9 very long, hard months with a pregnancy that threw us challenges from start to finish. It was also the end of a difficult labour and I spent the next few hours throwing up, sleeping, being whisked off to theatre, and being monitored and gradually unhooked from everything I was attached to as my body stated to recover.

But to be honest, the thing that remains with me the most is the feeling of shock and awe as the midwife handed me my (massive) baby and I realised that the dream I had been holding on to for so much of my life had finally come true.

I don't think it sank in at all to begin with. It was so strange. I mean, I loved him with all my heart from the very first moment I saw him, but I didn't know him. And I certainly didn't know what being a mother truly entailed. I felt out of my depth and rather baffled by it all to be honest, especially when I was taken up to the post-natal ward at gone 11pm and suddenly left on a darkened ward with my sleeping baby. I sat and looked at him and thought "well, what do I do now?" 

It's so hard to think back and realise that we didn't know him then and he didn't really know us. We fell into family life very quickly. I mean you have to, don't you? But it was far from plain sailing.

This year we have had different challenges to face, but we've made it through the first year of Little Man's life and it seems so strange to think that there was a time when he wasn't in our lives. How can that be? 

Though I would never say that anything is worth the trauma of HG (because nobody deserves to go through that!), there is a big part of me that looks at my baby boy (who is outgrowing the title "baby" far too quickly for my liking!!) and feels that he really is worth absolutely everything we went through. I can't put into words how much he means to me and how blessed I feel to be his mother.

I'll try and post up a slideshow of his first year sometime soon. That's if I can figure out how to make one! But for now I thought I'd leave you with a photo from the day he was born.

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Happy Birthday, darling boy!

First Family Christmas!

Are you ready for a ton of gorgeous photos from our first Christmas as a family?

Here goes…

Good Day

We started the day in our pyjamas, and stayed in them the whole day!

We were all festive in our new red pyjamas. I had scotty dogs and spots on mine, TJ had Homer Simpson on his, and Little Man had a great fleecy number that he received from a very special friend.

Sarah, from BioGirl, sent us some of Henry’s clothes from his very first Christmas and so Little Man spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the sweetest outfits from his new friend Henry! Sarah has become a very close friend to me and knowing that she chose to send some of Henry’s precious clothes for Little Man when letting go of said clothes is hard means more than I can say. To understand just why it meant so much, have a read of her post here.

I do so hope that Little Man and Henry will grow to be internet buddies, just like their mamas! So, Henry, here is Little Man in the beautiful sleepsuit you sent for him to wear when Santa came.

So tired

It was so exciting that Little Man had to have a nap half way through opening his presents. But we soon got back on track and although slightly bemused by the whole affair (he is only 3 months old after all), he seemed to like this new toys…

Oscar and Daddy

a new rattle…

Oscar and Daddy 2

a musical mobile phone…

Oscar and Daddy 3

and several new books!

Little Man actually bought this book for his daddy for Christmas and poor daddy was so overwhelmed that it took him two days to get to the end of it!

Mummy received some books from daddy too and daddy got one from mummy, so as usual books were a big part of our gift giving. I get the feeling we’re going to need to rearrange the bookcases again!

TJ then decided to put the hat I had made for my sister on Little Man…

Oscar and Hat

He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first. But then he got used to it and decided he looked mighty handsome and he ought to make mummy take as many photos as possible before it was wrapped up and given to Aunty Debbie!

Oscar and Mummy

All in all we had a wonderful Christmas Day, our first as a family of three, and it wasn’t long before we were heading to bed with dreams of starting again the next day with my parents. I’ll post more photos of Boxing Day soon, but here is a sneak preview of how gorgeous my boy looked…

In My Shirt

Incidentally, since I am showing you the clothes Henry sent for Little Man I thought I might show you the awesomeness of the sweet boy wearing a dino hat I made for him. I completely forgot to share the photos when Sarah first posted them, but doesn’t Henry look so cool? If you’re interested in making a similar hat, I used the pattern found here, simplifying it to fit in with my time scale by leaving off the tail and spots, but I think it still looked great!

Ein frohes Weihnachtsfest!

A warm and hearty welcome to you, this lovely Christmas Eve eve! 

That's such a funny saying, isn't it? It reminds me of being a little girl, excited about the fact that tomorrow would be Christmas Eve and Santa would be coming my way. 

This Advent has been a rather strange one and I'm not sure quite why it doesn't feel more like Christmas, after all I have Little Man to keep me busy. But then again I think that is why it doesn't feel more like Christmas as I have never had a Christmas as a parent before!

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TJ and I were talking about this just the other day. He didn't enjoy Halloween as much as he usually does and I certainly am not enjoying this Advent as much as I normally do. And we realised it is because all the traditions we have just don't feel right now we are a family of three because they are part of who we used to be and not part of who we want to be for our son.

So it's time to start thinking about new traditions, maybe adapting the ones we already have and bringing in totally new ones too. Things like having new Christmas pyjamas to open on Christmas Eve, making mince pies together as a family, reading 'A Christmas Carol' each year, and buying Little Man a new Christmas decoration each year so he builds up a collection of his very own!

But one of the traditions I am really looking forward to starting is bringing in some more German-inspired joy to the season.

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As you may know, I studied German at university and although my German is nowhere near perfect I plan on teaching Little Man as much as I can while he is young. I would rather him learn to speak slightly flawed German than no German at all. I do believe that having knowledge of a second language is a real bonus, not just because it enables you to communicate with people whose language isn't the same as your own but also because it often gives you a greater insight into the way your own language works by giving you something to compare it with.

But more than teaching him the language, I want to teach him about the culture too. And what better time of year is there to celebrate this than Christmas? Starting on 6th December with St. Nicholas' Day by putting his shoes outside the door and hoping to receive some chocolate from St. Nicholas right through to singing German songs and baking German treats, I want December to be full of all the wonderful goodies that the German culture provides.

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We are lucky to have connections to people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, providing us with great ideas and gifts such as the three books pictured here.

The first, Weihnachtszeit, is a gloriously fun book filled with stories and info from the North Pole and lots of little pop-out sections to enjoy. There is even a section explaining how Santa finds GPS a fantastic help in finding all the children of the world on Christmas Night!

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This is the page on Santa's reindeer. Isn't it just lovely?

Then, of course, there is the little cookbook, Leckere Plätzchen für Weihnachten with tasty treats to make for Christmas. If you have never tasted German baking then you really having no idea what you are missing. I am so glad I spent time in Germany before developing an intolerance to wheat because I would have surely missed the wonderful breads and cakes I ate far too many of while over there. That being said, I plan on trying the recipes within the book with wheat-free flour because how can I resist such recipes as Lebkuchen and Honey Hearts?

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This page shows Bear Paws and Pretzels!

Finally, there is the book called "Es Weihnachtet Sehr" which I guess I would loosely translate to something like "It feels like Christmas" because I have no idea how to convey the meaning in any other way (anyone have any suggestions?)

This book is filled with short one-page stories, craft ideas, recipes and Christmas songs. It even comes with a CD of music to sing along to. I think my favourite page has to be, of course, the one which provides a German version of "Jingle Bells"…

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I have been showing these books to Little Man and singing the songs to him, but he is rather too small this year to take much of it in. However, he has been enjoying our "Was sagt die Kuh?" (What does the cow say?) game we've been playing, possibly thanks to the animal noises I'm making rather than anything else. I hope that I can continue to make it fun for him to learn a few bits of German through the year and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to figuring out that he hears two different words for each object.

I plan on sharing our journey towards learning a second language, and hope to even create some videos so that you too can join us. Perhaps by next year we'll all be singing these Christmas songs to and with our children, what do you think?

Halloween Fun

Halloween 2

Can you believe it is November already? 

I cannot say that this year has zoomed by because it hasn't. I spent the majority of January through to September feeling pretty darn miserable. But now that the pregnancy is over and my mind has pretty much blocked almost the entirety of my pregnancy experience it feels as if we were celebrating last year's Halloween just a few short months ago. It's like I have lost 9 whole months. Not that I'm complaining, this time of year (October to December) is my absolute favourite. But still, it's weird!

I also realise I have so much I want to get done before Christmas and so little time to do it that I really am going to have to prioritise. One such thing is sorting out this blog. I'll tell you more about that another day but it does make me realise how fast time is flying by and how much I want to do now my sweet boy is here with us.

But for now we're just enjoying having some fun. And that includes celebrating Halloween, which is always a big deal in our house as, for TJ, Halloween is as big a celebration as Christmas! In fact, Little Man had not one outfit, not even two, but three different Halloween outfits to wear! One was the skeleton you see above, which he wore when answering the door to the trick or treaters with his daddy. The second was a pumpkin outfit, which daddy took a photo of on his tab and which I must download to share with you all sometime. And the third was a sweet long-sleeved top with a cute picture of a mummy on (the Egyptian kind) which also had the words "I love my mummy" on. I'm not sure whether I actually took a photo of it or not. I probably did, but as I am switching between using my phone, the camera and the video camera to take photos and videos at every possible moment I'll  be darned if I can remember which one it is on!

Although I am cherishing every moment and do not want to wish the year away, I have to say that a part of me kept thinking "I cannot wait until next year" as Halloween will be even more exciting with a one year old toddling around in a cute little outfit. And it will be nice to have him sharing in the Halloween treats rather than trying to breastfeed him while eating my own lunch. I don't mind doing it, in fact I love breastfeeding my little man, but it seems such a shame when he is discreetly tucked away under my nursing cover when we have guests around. I'd much rather his grinning face shine out from the other side of the table while we were eating.

So that's that. Halloween is over for another year. Now starts the Christmas preparations. I'm going to need every second between now and Christmas as my little man takes up so much of my time (and rightly so) but it does mean that I need to get super organised to make sure everything is done on time this year and not finished in a mad panic on Christmas Eve as seems to be my pattern of late. 

TJ is off work this week so there is an extra pair of hands to hug the little dude, so I hope to get cracking on some of the Christmas prep as well as making the changes to and updating my blog with all the things I have wanted to write about but haven't found the time for. Because, let's be fair, I'd much rather be hugging my boy than typing on the laptop. Who wouldn't, when you get this sweet face to gaze at?

Sleepy

Life at the Patch – Beltane

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What a weekend we've had! First the Royal Wedding and then Beltane and now we have Tim's brother staying fo a short visit before he jets off to Australia.

Did you watch the wedding? We did, although we ended up having our picnic in the comfort of our living room rather than going out as planned because the day was grey and cold, and I was exhausted. It was just as good to watch from home though.

Then on Saturday we trundled off to one of the local woods around here and collected items to decorate the house with for Beltane… more on this tomorrow.

This, of course, led to a lot of thinking about the way we personally celebrate things throughout the year, our faith and how we wish to share this with our child. So this led to several posts this week focussing on aspects of this.

In fact, I have been thinking more and more about this aspect of my life and how it is often overlooked in the rush to keep up with life's events, right when I need it most. I want to bring this aspect of my life more into the fore, so don't be surprised if the posts here at the Patch soon start changing to have a more spiritual and family slant than before.

However, I didn't want to inundate you with all that for the whole week, so there is a short post on Thursday about some of the British comedies I have been enjoying rewatching recently. Everyone needs a good laugh once in a while, don't they?

So, all that is left is for me to wish you all a wonderful week.

Halloween Fun

Well, as promised, here are photos of the finished cupcakes…

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I must admit, I didn’t decorate all 44 cupcakes, but these were enough for our party! The party was small, just four of us in our late twenties and early thirties, but we had fun dressing up, stuffing our faces and playing Atmosfear, although ours is a much older version with a VHS rather than DVD!

We even managed to beat the Gatekeeper with 10 minutes to spare… a first for Tim and me, despite having played it three Halloweens in a row.

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Our table was a feast of all things we shouldn’t be eating…

The house was decorated to within an inch of its life…

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As was Tim (in other words, I attacked his face with a variety of white and grey eyeshadows to make him look gaunt and ghost-like and I wish this camera had picked up on it better).

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There were two cats at this party, but I do think the Tom-Cat stole the show… don’t you?

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone xx