Saturday, August 19, 2017

To Blog or Not to Blog...

I know that blogging seems to be waning in popularity these days. Instagram is taking over in popularity as it is quick to post a picture and caption where ever you are. Many bloggers that I used to follow have now stopped updating their blogs and are active on IG. 

I can totally understand the reasoning behind that. After all, writing a post takes a lot of time and effort. You will have noticed that my own blog posts have been less prolific than in previous years, although I do attribute that to things other than being pressed for time. But I have a few thoughts on blogging and it was brought on by the following.

This afternoon I was updating all my pins on Pinterest. I noticed that most of the URL's were all wrong which meant that no one would be able to find my blog. While I was there I decided to do a little housekeeping with my board that holds all of our nature studies that we have done over the years. This turned out to be a bit more labour-intensive than I had originally thought because I ended up having to go and pin everything straight from my blog in order to ensure that if one of the pins was clicked on, the reader would go straight to that specific post.

In doing all this, I began to realise something...I am blessed to have a treasure trove of recorded memories. As I was going through all the posts of our nature studies I realised what a wonderful education my children have had and how blessed all of us are for the times and things we have done and experienced together. As I scrolled through the posts vivid memories came flooding back. I remember little things that happened in those days. I remember joys, how I felt, what our walk was like, conversations we had. These posts, every one of them (nature-related or not) are memory markers, like pins in a map.

I remember for example, that the day we did our Sumac study, that the girls were not very interested and I ended up getting a little irritated at their attitudes 😏, yip! We certainly had 'those' days.

I have been blogging for 11 years, sadly I managed to lose the first 4 years of my posts when I changed my blog when we moved from SA to England. I hit 'delete' without realising that it was irretrievable. But on this blog, I have recorded many MANY happy things in our family, our homeschool, my thoughts, things that I would never have remembered if I had not blogged about them.

So I guess this is a little 'ponderous' post on the value of keeping this blog. I'm so very glad that I have recorded snippets of our lives here so that I can go back and be reminded. Last year my computer died a horrible death and all my photographs from 2015 and 2016 went with it (yes I know, I'm supposed to back them all up etc, but I didn't). I cannot get all those photographs back but I do have my blog where a good many of them were uploaded in posts and now exist on my google drive - and Flickr of course, I won't ever give that up.

We think that we will hold a moment in our minds forever, we hope to hold it forever, but life is busy and memories and moments get tucked away in the filing system of our minds, sometimes never to be retrieved. If you have ever considered keeping a blog, I want to encourage you to do so - even if it's just for you and kept on a private setting, because it really has turned out to be a blessing for me and I'm sure, in the future, you might find the same blessing of pouring over moments in your life that you had tucked away in the recesses of your mind.

Blessings and hugs to you all this lovely Saturday...

Friday, August 18, 2017

The August Garden...

Can you believe that we are more than half way through August? How the heck did that happen. It honestly feels like we were welcoming in the new month last week. Perhaps some evil fairy's have cast a spell over me and I fall asleep for a week at a time without realising it 😂

August has been a month of lots of time spent out in the garden, it's quite an exciting time really because it's just about time to harvest fruit from the fruit trees and get 'jamming' for the winter. 

Apples are just about ready for picking which means we need to go black berrying soon so we can make our much loved and enjoyed 'Bramble Apple' jam, and of course, I will definitely be making heaps of apple butter and apple sauce for the freezer. I often use apple butter to make pancakes. The Pioneer Woman has a great recipe for applesauce pancakes that my family adore.

My neighbour has also kindly said that I can go and pick plums from her tree, as they are ripening thick and fast, more than what she can cope with. Tonight I'll be trawling Pinterest to see what I can do with plums!

We have a family of 5 hedgehogs living in our garden and every evening they come onto the back patio to feast on the food that we put out for them - I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I wanted to share a few pics of these sweetie-pies.

These photographs were taken at dusk so they are little grainy. But this little fellow was quite happy with me following him around documenting his nocturnal activities.

I have a few garden pot drip trays that I have put into the garden beds and keep filled with water for the hedgehogs, I don't want them falling into our pond and not being able to get out, although I have put a rock into the pond so that they can get out if they do accidentally topple in. This particular evening I was thrilled to see that the hedgehogs are actually drinking from them.

As I was taking these pictures I looked back to the house and saw this little one staring at me intently...

😂 she's so funny.

Now...have you noticed that there are some trees already responding to the shortening days even though we have not yet entered the autumn months? We have two trees on our street that are beginning to tinge red and right in my garden I have one that is has a few leaves turning yellow already.

As you know if you have been following my blog for any length of time, autumn is my favourite season. I really do feel that I'm at my best in this season, I just come alive and feel energized. Does anybody else get that feeling that the just know that autumn has arrived? You can almost sense the time it turns from being summer to being autumn. There's a poem by Rachael Field that articulates that feeling quite well, I'll leave the poem at the end of this post for you to read, I'm sure that you will know it. 

Now autumn has not arrived yet but I can feel that it's on it's way, summer seems to be fading, the trees are looking dusty and a bit crinkled and faded. Not as fresh and vibrant as it was in earlier months. It's just a sense...

Anyhoo, it's this feeling of autumn approaching that has me suddenly itching to begin getting certain things in order, and one of those things was to sort out the garden shed. Seriously, it was a tip, how does it get like that all by itself I wonder? Hmmmm...😊. So one sunny morning, I hauled everything out of the garden shed, gave it a good sweep, purged all the bits and bobs that I've been meaning to take to the recycling centre for ever but haven't, and popped all the 'keepers' back into the shed. Do you know, it feels so good every time I have to go in there, a sense of order prevails!

Right. I'll love and leave you now. Here's the poem I promised...

Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachael Field.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "snow".

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "frost".

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with Amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Multi-Faceted Planning System

Seriously. Are there any others out there who love to plan and organise? I really do enjoy this part of keeping my home, days, weeks, months and of course our homeschool. If you not all that into planning, well I completely understand if you don't read my warblings all the way through :D

I have a multi-faceted system. Each facet supports the whole yet none repeats what is in place. I find those 'repeating' systems just too much to manage. I need my system to support my many roles and responsibilities, not burden me. So let's have a look at the first and most important planning tool I have, my life planner.

This year I've been using this ridiculously small diary, but here we are, 8 months into the year and it's just not cutting it. It looks like a pigs breakfast inside because I have no space to keep my running list of things I need to do each day as well as appointments etc. So I decided to once again invest in an Erin Condren Life Planner. I purchased one in December 2015 and although it was pricey, it met all my needs. I haven't found another planner that does the job quite so well. 

This time around I ordered an 18-month planner which makes the cost a little easier to bear. My EC planner holds everything pertaining to the smooth running of our home. Appointments, that running list of things that need to get done on a daily/weekly basis, anything I need to do pertaining to my yarn business. I also schedule my study times (I enrolled on an online legal secretarial course to brush up on skills I may need after my season of homeschooling). Birthdays, celebrations, seasonal and liturgical observances - it all gets plonked in this planner. 

My planner stays at home on my dining room table so I can refer to it throughout the day.

The second facet in my planning system is the File Crate System, designed by my friend Dawn from By Sun and Candlelight. I've been using her system for many years and I have to say that I cannot picture what life would be like without it - a mess most likely.

The File Crate System (FCS) is a set of 52 folders, one for each week of the year, sorted by season and hung in suspension files. These files become a catch-all or landing space for the paperwork that usually lies about the place (bills, doctors letters, prescriptions, crafts or recipes I want to try out). So for example, in this week's file, I have two recipes that I printed off that I have planned to make. One is a buttermilk pancake recipe that I plan to make for breakfast one morning and the other is a supper recipe I want to try out. I also have some bills that have come in, been paid and now need filing this week and a library return's reminder for a book that needs to be returned. You can read more on how the FCS works on Dawns blog.

The third facet of my system is a monthly wall calendar which I use for my meal planning. My current one has just finished and my new one only begins in January 2018, so at the moment I am printing off meal planning sheets from Mom's Toolbelt for each month. I've printed off enough to see me through to December and placed each of these sheets in the 'week 4' file folder from now through to November. When I pick up each month's final folder I will find this meal planning sheet in there and then do the next months meal plan. I plan all our meals for a month, that way I don't have to think about what we will be eating each day, I just need to look at my calendar and take out what needs to be taken out the freezer. My meal plan also forms the basis for my weekly shopping lists. I will be sure to do a detailed post on how I meal plan later on in the month.

Finally, I have my homeschool planning system.

I have my own homeschool planner as well as a file where I keep detailed lesson plans. The homeschool planner I am using this year is The Ulitmate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell. I've also purchased her Teens Planner for my daughter. 

Our planners record what lessons we do when. What we cover, read, watch and so on. I will record any test results here, all the nitty gritty day-to-day stuff. Again - I will do a dedicated post on my homeschool planning and one showing you this planner. 

My Homeschool binder is a huge A4 lever arch binder which stores detailed lesson plans and scope and sequences. Stuff I need to refer to when the time comes but not have on me at all times. For example. I have the Scope and Sequence for each of the three A-level subjects my daughter is taking. I know what needs to be covered before she reaches exam time.

I also have detailed lesson plans pertaining to our Bible Study, Nature Study, Composer Study, Artist Study etc. I cannot stress the importance of this file because if I have planned our lessons well I am able to guide, lead and teach my daughter without feeling like I'm scrabbling about. It's like going on a road trip. I know my destination, I know exactly which route to take and how long it will take to get there. There are no wrong turns, perhaps we will take a detour if we come across something interesting that we want to explore but we won't lose our way.

So there we have it, a peek into my planning system. I just want to stress that each of us plans differently, there is no 'right' way. Some people find that such planning does not work for them at all, rather it stresses them out and renders them 'paralysed'. For me, I need to plan because if I don't I am rendered 'paralysed'. Things don't happen when they should, other things get forgotten, having to think about meals on a daily basis drives me mad - I just want to get on with life and not have to get to the end of the day and have to be creative with cooking a meal. So this is how I do it - run my home, run my day-to-day. I feel more in control when I have a plan in place. 

Anyhoo, that's it for this rather long-winded post on planning. Have a lovely day and I shall see you back here very soon. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

England in Miniature

Growing up, one of my best-loved places to visit whilst on holiday 'by the sea' was a place called Mini Town. It captured my imagination, I absolutely loved seeing everything in miniature. 

When we moved to Devon two years ago, one of the places to visit on my 'bucket list' was the Babbacombe Model Village in Torquay. I had seen flyers round about the place and this place takes model villages to a whole different level.

Well, today (Sunday) I woke up and decided that it was the perfect day to tick off a bucket list destination. I wasn't raining after all so we need to grab the opportunity while we can.

We piled into the car and enjoyed the hours drive through the Devon countryside - it truly is a beautiful County. We got there nice and early, before the crowds. With tickets and cameras in hand, we moved through the entrance and were greeted by a view too marvellous...

It was like entering a little fairyland. The village is beautifully maintained, everything is in immaculate condition and the gardens are splendid.

Babbacombe Model Village has managed to capture everything that it is to be English from our traditional village, cultural landmarks and pastimes to a mythical medieval scene.

Even Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood had a spot to reside in this village!

Stonehenge even has the obligatory druids that visit each solstice, something we did not see while visiting the real Stonehenge 😊

As we walked around the village, I was reminded that all of this, every last thing in this village reflects what it is to live in England and because of all 'this' it is exactly WHY I love living here so much. 

It's quaint, and historical, and is so very English. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world.

Isn't this little fishing village adorable? They really do look like this. It could be any small fishing village in the UK!

Off to the right of this little hunt scene is a group of protesters with little picket boards. But what I loved the most was this bus...

The moment we entered the village we all said how much it reminded us of the fictional 'Midsomer Murder' countryside and villages. My youngest and I are big Midsomer fans. Of course, there are far too many little model people here for it to be Midsomer - half the population has been knocked off over the years, it's a miracle there's anyone left in the fictional Midsomer 😆

See this little cottage above? Apparently, it really did catch fire one night (it has a timed flame that shoots out of a pipe - special effects and all that). When the staff came in in the morning it was a little pile of ash. So it was rebuilt, no doubt with a better plan to keep it from burning down again 😄

So if you are ever in Devon, do pop by this adorable model village to get a great miniature picture of life in England. I have about 77 photographs, clearly, I can't share them all here but if you would like to scroll through and have a detailed look at our visit you can visit my Flickr album and view all 77 pictures.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Hello August!

Another month has arrived, I can't quite believe that we are in August already!

Look at what is happening in my neck of the woods...

...soon it will be blackberrying time! It is an annual tradition in our family to go blackberrying and cook up all manner of delicious things. Blackberry and Apple Crumbles and jams are amongst our favourite things to make with this hedgerow fruit. To be honest, I think this particular bramble is sitting in a sheltered, sunny spot which is why it is ripening now, most of the brambles are about three weeks away from ripening berries which is about right. Still, lovely to see.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you know I'm all about family, homeschooling, faith and of course celebrating the seasons and nature. 

I am always mindful of what is happening in the natural world through the seasons, but I am also mindful of what is happening in my garden on a day to day basis. There is always something lovely to watch or listen to. One of my daily routines is to take a little stroll around the garden in the quiet of the morning with a cup of coffee, before the day begins, and have a look at what is happening.

Yesterday morning we spotted a young hedgehog foraging for food. Seeing hedgehogs in our garden is not unusual, we have a family of 5 that come and feast on the food we put out for them every single evening. We delight in watching them.

What is unusual about this is that it was during the day. He seemed healthy and happy so I can only assume he is taking every opportunity to put on some winter weight. I spotted his small sibling this morning doing the same thing so we are making sure that we put food out every evening and morning to help them. They are seriously adorable. Hedgehogs, foxes and robins are my most favourite creatures of all.

My bird feeder is a hub of activity these days! We have a small flock of Long-tailed Tits that are constantly fluttering between our feeder and the surrounding trees. They are fearless and quite happy to eat while we are sitting outside nearby.

On the homeschooling front...

Planning for our new school year has been slow, in fact, I had the best intentions of sitting down and getting all our nature, composer and art plans done for the year, but it has turned out to have been much busier than expected and I have struggled to find time to just sit and immerse myself in planning.

However, I have kept my diary free of appointments and 'must-do's' next week so I will make sure that I have plenty of pretty pens, paper, our homeschool planners and coffee at the ready for next week. I really do love planning out our school year so the fewer distractions the better. I can fully immerse myself in one of my favourite things about homeschooling.

Now August has a few seasonal observances, some natural, some local to my area. Here are a few things we will be doing this month:

9th & 10th - Plymouth Firework Championships. We are going to see them the same way we did last year. With friends, from the roof of my husband's hotel, with a hot mug of hot chocolate - and our cameras of course.

12th - The annual Perseids Meteor Shower peaks in the UK. Sadly this year there is a full moon just before which means visibility will be halved by the light but we will still give it a go.

13th - 15th - My lovely friend from South Africa is visiting! So excited to see her, it's been almost 8 years since we last sat down face to face and put the world to rights.

26th - Exam results day!

28th - August Bank Holiday

Most of all, we are going to enjoy every moment of the summer holiday. We are going to visit a pick-your-own farm, have picnics (weather allowing), perhaps go to the beach. By the time September comes along and lessons begin, I'm hoping we will all have renewed energy and will be refreshed, ready to tackle a new school year.

Have a lovely weekend 😊