Monday, February 08, 2016

Standing On the Cusp of Lent

Can you believe that Lent starts this week? Easter is early this year so Ash Wednesday seems to have come upon us rather quickly this year. With all the changes that have been happening in our home I have to say that I have not really paid much thought to plans for Lent this year. But this morning I have had a bit of time to reflect and actually, it's once again the perfect timing for focus and reflection on God, His goodness and His provision in all things, especially the sacrifice that Jesus made for all.

Here are a few of my plans for this week:

Shrove Tuesday: It's all about pancakes!

*Pancake Supper: Butternut Squash and Stilton Filling & pancakes filled with ice-cream and chocolate sauce for desert.

Ash Wednesday & onwards: Reflections

*We will be using Reflections For Lent 2016 as part of our devotions together. I think we will also discuss what we can do for others this Lenten season and how we can perhaps sacrifice and let go of some of those bad habits that have a tendency to creep into every life such as, speaking ill of others, holding grudges, unkind thoughts and words. 

I'm thinking that perhaps keeping a Lent journal is a good idea. Here we can write scriptures to ponder on, prayers, thoughts on situations that we find difficult and frustrating and how we can bring them to God.

I found this Lent Journal PDF online today and THIS one too looks interesting- I'm not sure I will use it all but it does have some interesting prompts to think about.

I'm keeping it low-key and doable this year. Nothing fancy or time consuming. As each week and day arrives I will asses and see if there is something I want to include. Day at a time :)

Anything planned in your home this year?

Friday, February 05, 2016

Five on Friday

Hello and happy February everyone. Do you know I had the very best of intentions to be here waaaay before now, but the truth is that it's been a bit of an emotional old week for me. The best I can manage this week is my Five on Friday link up with Amy from Love Made My Home.


I'll start with why it's been a bit of an emotional time for me. As we go through the life of parenting, we know that in raising our children certain things are bound to happen. As a homeschooling mom one of those things is that at some point my eldest would go off to college and it would just be my youngest and I at home. And so you try to prepare yourself for the event. It is a joy of course to see your little ones grow into responsible, kind and loving young adults, but there is a part of my heart that would just like to keep my girls with me always.

September this year has been the time I've been preparing for. My eldest will go off to college (still living at home mind you - thank goodness!) and things would change in our daily routine. But then something comes along and changes all that.

An Apprenticeship has been that 'something'. My eldest really wanted to try and get a hairdressing apprenticeship. She love the idea of working in a salon from the start as it would give her a realistic insight and work experience and thus an edge over those in full-time study. She also loved the thought of earning while learning.
So of course I encouraged her. She applied for a place on the apprenticeship scheme at college and got a place. She secured a trial day at a lovely salon within a 10 minute walk from home. The trial day went well and she was asked back for a 2nd trial day. It went equally well and she was offered an apprenticeship - immediately!
What excitement! She's happy, we are happy for her. I dropped her off on Thursday for her first full day of work and went home. We are all still happy.
DD2 and I sit down to do our Bible study. We discuss what we have read and how we can apply it and then settle down to pray. DD2 prays beautifully and asks God to be with DD1. My turn to pray, I start off - midway through my first sentence and I start crying. I cry some more and then I can't stop for a while.
Suddenly it dawns on me that in one day life as we have always known it has changed forever. No longer will there be three on our nature walks, three at read aloud, three doing things together. Now only two. It's a tough thing to come to peace with.
I have to say that today is better and I know that each day will get better still. Adjustment always takes time.


I started a new blog

Now I'm not going anywhere, Under An English Sky still stands as is and as it always has been. But I've been thinking about my blogging quite a bit lately. I love to blog - I just loooovvvvee writing, I find it very therapeutic. Sometimes I really do wonder though if my babbling on here is even remotely interesting LOL - but I write for me and I know that people come and go and that's ok.

When I first started my blog it was a place to record our homeschooling days and snippets of family life. As my girls got older I found that there was less homeschooling stuff to write about (although an occasional post still finds it's way here). I share allot about our family life and celebrating the seasons both natural and liturgical and lots of homey-type stuff. And I guess that is how this space will still be. 

I am naturally quite a organised person and see things in subjects, areas, blocks etc. And there is a part of me - a bit part - that loves writing, travelling, beautiful writing tools, stationary (lame I know lol) and lifestyle things like decorating and - not 'fashion' per-say but rather 'grooming' looking presentable.

Do you know that I studied fashion design at college? There is an interest there. Motherhood has most definitely tamed that side but I don't see why mum's can't look good on a budget, or why they should not bother because they are mums.

Now let me just say that for years and years I was more than happy for my own appearance to take a back seat because motherhood is all consuming sometimes. But lately I've noticed that my skin is needing more attention. Soap and water are just not cutting any longer. Before I just could not justify the 'spend' on the right products for my own skin when my daughters teen skins were going wild. I can always justify why I can put my own needs on the back burner and put my children's needs first - we all do that.

As I've been watching my teens grow up and fuss about their hair and make-up etc I was transported back 10 years and really felt that although I'm not someone to spend hours in front of a mirror - really, life is too short - I do want to take a bit of time to look good for my husband. To take care of my skin for me - because it was looking and feeling tired and dry and blah!

Anyhoo - I digress! My new blog is a place (a lovely sectioned off box) where I can discuss all these things. Planners, travel, stationary, health, beauty, lifestyle and writing. Not everyone's cup of tea and quite different from what I share here. But if you are interested in having a look you can visit me over at With Her Pen. I'm still building my site - it's with Wordpress so I'm undergoing a bit of a learning curve too.  


A cute picture of my cat who was less than impressed with having her cute little ears pinned back for a photograph. But she is just SO cute I couldn't resist LOL.


This is all about my Etsy store which is doing so well! Thank you to all who visit and buy from my store. My daughter and I have such fun making these things.

I've learnt so much over the past few months. I've learnt that packaging is important and that actually, I love packaging up and making it a delight to receive as much as I like making these things.

I recently bought something from another Etsy seller and her charge for packing was quite steep. I don't charge allot for p&p, I don't think you need to. You can make your package look pretty without a huge cost. I think I would rather just get what I bought for a fair price rather than pay almost the same again for the sake of pretty packaging. I hate opening my purchase and getting covered in glitter anyway!

Anyhoo, this week I made a custom cover for a lovely lady who needed to protect her fauxdori (a variation of a Midori Travellers Notebook). I love the colours she chose.

I had a marathon dashboard making session, so my Etsy Shop is has a whole new range of modern but pretty dashboards for Filofax planners.

and my daughter made - and sold out! - a number of sets of knitting stitch markers. Her work is so amazing! I can't believe how clever she is. Her attention to detail is just incredible. I think there is only one set of stitch markers left.


Back on Instagram! I was on Instagram, then off, then on and then I got KICKED off twice!

This is what I posted...

Yip - offensive isn't it? I think the problem came in in that you cannot post things that are not your own pictures. Although I have to say I've seen THOUSANDS of things that are clearly not self-taken pictures but rather shared quotes. 

'Fine', thought I, 'I'll just open another IG account'. Erm - no! IG flags your IP address from your phone. So I had to use an old phone to sign up to a new IG account. So far so good - but if I suddenly disappear off the IG radar again - well who knows!

If you are on Instagram and what to hook up with me there you can find me @shirley_ann_uk

I'll put a link or something up in my sidebar too.

So there we go - a rather looooonnnnnggg - Five on Friday post :) Have a wonderful weekend all.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Journaling in my MTN

MTN stands for Midori Travelers Notebook. I first heard of the TN last year and completely fell in love with it. After much too-ing and fro-ing in what to use it for and trying out various things, I have attained 'planner peace' as far as my MTN is concerned. 

Inside I have 4 notebooks. The first is a month to view. I use it as a bit of a 'summary' of the month. I note certain things and draw little illustrations in the boxes. I'ts wonderful to have an artistic overview of my month.

The 2nd and 3rd notebooks are where I document our various travels and outings. I love keeping a record of the places we have been and snippets from the day. In the first notebook I had started using it as my everyday journal, but it just didn't feel right.

 I am quite established in my daily journal habits and have a certain way that I like to lay it out and pretty it up. But as I look through the pages I see that I naturally worked it out, I began to share less of my daily thoughts etc and only document the places that we went as a family. Days out to National Trust properties, holidays, days out exploring the English countryside and villages - that sort of thing. I really love having these notebooks to look through, instantly I am transported back to that particular time.

The 4th notebook - which I have not used yet but will - is the Sketchbook insert. I umm-ed and ahh-ed over what to sketch in it. I already have a nature journal that I have been keeping for many years so didn't really want a cross-over at all, but I have always admired urban sketching which is capturing the time, place and moment you are in at any one time. So you could be on a trip in London having lunch and want to capture your surrounds, you would simply pull out your sketchbook and make a quick drawing, filling in with colour when you have more time.

So my Travelers Notebook is set to become (and it really is how I feel it was intended to be used) as a travel companion along my daily (and hopefully someday my international) trails :)

Do you keep a journal? Do you have a favourite brand of journal that you frequently find yourself drawn to? Do you take it on the road with you or does it stay at home? Would love to hear your thoughts and views :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Musings...

January and February are hard months to love for me. The excitement of the festive season has past, these two months are often the most dreary of the year, and those short days ... :(

These two months I generally have to work hardest at trying to appreciate. I make a concerted effort to get outdoors as often as I can during this time, even though we have miserable weather.

And around the home I fill vases, bottles and jars with flowers to brighten little corners up. I have two windows in my stairwell and both have got little bunches of daffodils. These happen to come from my garden but usually they are not in bloom around this time of the year. Usually a bunch of daffs are added to my weekly Tesco shop.

I love their bright sunny yellow, and their fragrance! So lovely. As I go up and down the stairs, catch their fragrance and see their sunny dispositions, it reminds me to think happy thoughts and have a sunny disposition myself :)

This week I couldn't resist these beautiful tulips...

Aren't they just beautiful? They are on the coffee table right in the centre of my living room where I can get maximum appreciation value from them :)

I have hung up my crochet flower heart wreath I made last year. I know it's a bit early but it seems a shame to only bring it out once a year for a day. Our Bible time this week is focused on love and love in action in our lives, so I thought that It was appropriate to hang it up in my hallway as a reminder to us all.

On the homeschool front...

I've been doing a little thinking about what is and isn't working and re-jigging things a bit. We follow the Charlotte Mason method in our home and one of the things things that we do is Picture Study. In our previous home all the artworks we looked at were pinned up on the wall in our dining room - which is where we did our work. But in our new home we are lucky enough to have a room upstairs dedicated as our school room. Only problem is that although we do sometimes work there, most of our learning is done throughout the house, of late book work has been happening downstairs in the dining room. So all our artworks have been pinned upstairs in the schoolroom and out of sight.

So this morning as I introduced our new painting, I suddenly thought that I should use the front of the refrigerator door as our 'art gallery'. That way we get maximum exposure to our artworks each term. I have to say I quite like evidence of our learning lifestyle scattered throughout the home - it's part of who we are after all.

This weekend is the Big Garden Bird watch in the UK. We participate every year and I absolutely love having birds visit our feeder throughout the year, it's a source of great joy to me. I'm always trying to think of ways to make my feeder more attractive to our feathered friends. When I was having a bird-feeder problem a few months back, I read that the more feeding stations you have in your garden the better. So today I set up a second feeding station. This one is set further away from the house and closer to the summer house and pond. Now I didn't want to spend money on more feeding equipment so after having a quick look on Pinterest for inspiration, I grabbed a water bottle out of the recycling, a couple of wooden spoons from the kitchen drawer, and made a new feeder. I hope the birds visit it!

Now I hope that all my American friends have kept safe and warm over the past weekend. Your snow blizzard was the hot topic of conversation on our British news channels! Your storm is set to hit our own shores tomorrow, but not as snow, rather as high winds and lots of rain. But as of this moment .... I am enjoying the calm before the storm so to speak. It's been a lovely day with a bit of cloud cover but right now we have lots of blue sky - a lovely afternoon :)

Hope you have a great start to your week everyone! 

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter Nature Walk

Well hello there! What a busy week it's been! Our school week has been severely interrupted with two days of interviews at college for DD1. I suppose it's par for the course when one of your children is in their final homeschool year and arrangements for the following year need to be made. We've managed to keep on top of the basics, Bible, Maths, English and today we had a lovely nature walk.

It's that nature walk that I want to share with you. We've had some pretty cold weather this week. Last night the rain rolled in and it really came down! This morning it was still raining but by midday the clouds had moved on and the sun came out - perfect timing for our nature time.

We walked down the road and into Long Timber Woods. It was soggy, but so pretty in the sunlight.

We were on the look out for winter weed seeds, but didn't find many in the woodlands. There were other things that caught our attention though. Moss, and lots of it - so pretty up close.

We found something not so nature-ish... a pair of sunglasses that were probably found along the track. Someone had thoughtfully picked them up and placed them just off the path.

The river is what captured our attention...

I have to say that it is impressive after lots of rain! We spent ages taking photographs and video clips. Just as we decided to head on home we caught sight of this...

Well we were really quite excited, we really wanted to watch them go down the river. So we waited around a bit and caught them on video. Of course now my eldest DD wants to do white water kayaking - these boys did make it look like fun :). So I'll love and leave you with our video. Have a lovely weekend everyone!