Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas Crafts

This term I have taught children in Reception, Year 1, Year 6, and a group of teenage girls. The year 6 pupils have worked hard at maths and literacy, but with the others there has been opportunity for some craftwork and creativity. My students have made a castle collage, and various Christmas decorations [spinners, giftbags, peg angels, and baubles] It has been lovely to see their work on display


Most of these were relatively simple ideas, but the students have added their own touches to make them special. I shall certainly miss teaching them next term.


The classroom tree is decorated with peg angels, spinners, and card baubles.

I had 100 dolly pegs in the loft [I’d been collecting them over the years for a Holiday Club Craft which never happened]

And the spinners use old CDs [we had around 500 of them – old recordings, freebies, advertising ones] A simple picture, coloured and stuck on the printed side is a quick, easy and effective decoration.

The baubles were made from strips cut from old Christmas cards [2 shoeboxes full]

Everyone else sees this as a Christmas Tree – I regard it as a triumph of decluttering!

If you have some bored children, here is the instruction sheet for making the baubles. Old greetings cards, or coloured card, and a box of paper fasteners are all that you need [and some thread or cord for suspension]


The snowflakes and rocking horses were inexpensive felt shapes [from The Range, and Tiger, respectively] which were easily decorated with beads and sequins.

My own home may be minimally decorated this year, but I suspect that I have left a trail of glitter and sequins across the educational establishments of the county!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thankyou, Belvoirdale

I came home on Friday with a car loaded with cards, flowers, and gifts from children and colleagues at Belvoirdale School. The card from the Reception Classes was absolutely wonderful. Every child has made a unique fingerprint on the tree – and their names were written beside. Beneath the tree it simply said “Thank you for helping us to grow” – such things make teaching worthwhile!


I shall treasure this gift – I would like to frame it and hang it in my sewing corner when I get to Dorset. Thank you, friends!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Top Tips For Christmas 2014–#3


Two out of three is quite enough

and the three things are quick, quality, and quids-in

What does this mean? Well simply this, when you are preparing for Christmas [or other events like birthday parties, weddings, or the school end-of-year production] do not strive for perfection in all things, remember the two-out-of-three rule. You can achieve two out the list above, but, if you are being realistic, not all three. e.g.

You need to serve 100 drinks

quick, quids-in – go to Poundland for plastic cups [sacrificing quality]

quick, quality – go to John Lewis and buy 100 lovely wineglasses [sacrificing ‘quids-in’]

quality, quids-in – go to all your friends and ask them to each lend you half a dozen glasses [quality, and quids-in – but not quick]

glasses 3glasses1glasses 2

You want a dozen festive napkins on the table for the family Christmas lunch

quick, quids-in – go to Poundland for paper ones

quick, quality – go to John Lewis and buy beautiful linen

quality, quids-in Рbuy a remnant of Christmas fabric on the market, and spend the November evenings doing appliqu̩ reindeers, felt embellishments and blind-hemming

napkins1napkins2napkins 3

You get the picture – great things can be achieved – but somewhere along the way, you may have to sacrifice time, money or ‘taste’ in order to get what is needed. [n.b. This post is not sponsored – other shops besides John Lewis and Poundland are available]

Don’t beat yourself up about the one thing that you miss out. Good planning and advance preparation can sometimes mean you are able to achieve quality at a low cost – but often you don’t know long enough in advance to plan. And whatever you do, don’t judge your friends for the choice they make. They may not have the time, or money right now. And there’s no accounting for taste!

Two out of three is quite enough

I was talking to Bob about this principle, and he said “Oh, I have always known that” so I asked which of the three he had sacrificed when he married me. The conversation went strangely silent!


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas Crackers!

We’ve had a fabulous morning- people arrived early to set up lunch, so many people worked hard to make the service so special – especially the children’s nativity, and the mega-cracker pulling, and Paul operating the PC with his usual panache. And the jacket potatoes, selection of fillings and delicious desserts were brilliant, and served with joy and laughter by our fabulous young people.


And we sang one of my favourite Rend songs [thanks, Bob!]

Come set Your rule and reign in our hearts again.
Increase in us we pray. Unveil why we're made.
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
like wildfire in our very souls.
Holy Spirit, come invade us now.
We are Your church. We need Your power in us.

We seek Your kingdom first. We hunger and we thirst.
Refuse to waste our lives, for You're our joy and prize.
To see the captive hearts released.
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace.
We lay down our lives for Heaven's cause.
We are Your church.We pray revive this earth.

Build Your kingdom here. Let the darkness fear.
Show Your mighty hand. Heal our streets and land.
Set Your church on fire. Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere, build Your kingdom here.We pray.

Unleash Your kingdom's power, reaching the near and far.
No force of Hell can stop Your beauty changing hearts.
You made us for much more than this!
Awake the kingdom seed in us!
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ.
We are Your church. We are the hope on earth.

Build Your kingdom here. Let the darkness fear.
Show Your mighty hand. Heal our streets and land.
Set Your church on fire. Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere. Build Your kingdom here!We pray!

We are Your church. We are the hope on earth. We pray!

Pause In Advent # 3

lesley candle

I blogged about this candle last year – on Dec 29th-  explaining it was a gift from a friend, and that I intended to light it frequently, and not just keep it as a Christmas decoration. It would be a reminder to “be the light” for Jesus. I have  actually managed to keep up this resolution!

Every Sunday during 2014, when we have been at home for lunch, I have set the candle in the middle of the table, and lit it. I suppose it has become a bit like the Jewish Shabbat Candle for me – but it’s not just a ritual, it is something that challenges me to think about my faith, look back at the previous week and see how I have been the light – and also where I have failed, and missed God-given opportunities to share the Good News.

santa luciaYesterday was The Feast of Santa Lucia – a very important day in Sweden, where they dress in white and remember this first century saint and martyr. One girt wears a wreath on her head, which supports some candles** [no Scandi Health and Safety  there then!] to represent St Lucy/Lucia

It is said that this young woman went secretly to the Catacombs to take food to the Christians who were hiding there to escape the Roman persecution. In order to free both hands to carry the food, she wore the candles in her headdress, to illuminate her way through the dark caves. [these days, she’d have chosen an LED head-torch!]

As I thought about her bravery, I realised something important-0 she wasn’t just bearing the light, she was also bearing sustenance to those terrified people. ‘Faith without works is dead’ writes James in his epistle. Wearing badges that say ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’, insisting on the Royal Mail Christmas Stamps with Mary and baby Jesus on them [not using the ‘novelty ones’ as the Post Office lady calls them], opting for ‘Nativity story’ pictures on the cards, [not Penguins and Santa]…these are all good things – but we are called to do more than that – support a Food Bank, give a little extra to charity, invite someone who is on their own to come to Christmas lunch. You can think of things appropriate to your situation***.

**Fork ‘Andles?” said Bob when I was telling him about the Swedes

***I especially loved the suggestion made on Friday by the Headteacher “If you are on playground duty, give the children an extra 5 minutes outside – they will enjoy it, and your colleagues will appreciate a longer break too!”

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Bring Up The Bodies!


I did enjoy Sarah Lund, in “The Killing” – and I loved her sweaters. And similarly, Kate Davies wonderful knitwear popped up in “Shetland”, the Scottish police drama I watched back in March. Somehow I felt that encased in a warm Fair Isle or Scandi sweater, I could face anything!

One of my SILs [technically, should that be SsIL ?] gave me a gift token. And I decided to spend it on some lovely real wool for such a sweater. Not cheap Aldi acrylic blends, but the pukka sheep product 52-projects4

I dithered and dithered, and finally went out in October and purchased the yarn. Then it became a matter of pride to finish this one of my 52 projects in time for Christmas.

My pattern is a vintage Lister one from the early 1970s. I found it on eBay. I had a similar sweater to this, which Mum knitted me in Lister Lochinvar wool. That one had a yoke in shades of deep green, with bright white body and sleeves.  I knitted the jumper very carefully, making it slightly longer than the pattern suggested, and then I blocked it on a board.

I love the heathery tones of the random yarn [Sirdar] against the creamy Rowan wool. I shall wear it on Christmas Day and then for bracing walks in the Norfolk countryside a few days later. Hoping I do not unearth any bodies though! Here’s some photos.

scandi sweater

I have to say that it looks better on me than it does on a hanger. The pattern was especially good because you knit the front, back and two sleeves, then slip all the stitches onto a circular needle to knit the yoke. No complicated ‘picking up stitches’ – which I always struggle to do neatly and evenly. My only real problem was that I did the neckline ribbing and casting off whilst watching a particularly tense episode of “The Missing” and my tension went incredibly tight in sympathy. When I tried it on, it wouldn’t go over my head! I had to unpick the neck and re-knit it calmly. I quite fancy knitting a black one now, with white patterning – but I am a little bit too busy right now I think!

Some people think that giving a token is a ‘lazy’ gift – but for me this has proved to be a wonderful present, with hours of pleasure.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Hats Off To Renoir!

Do you know this picture? It is The Luncheon of The Boating Party by Renoir, painted around 1875


My friend Angela, who teaches French, plans to create a sort of ‘tableau vivant’ next term, using this artwork. She asked if I could keep a lookout, in the Grand Moving Declutter – did I have a toy dog, a straw hat, any plastic wine goblets…anything from this picture which I could pass on? Sadly, the two dogs I did have went to the Scout Rummage the other week – but I did manage to unearth this little lot for her…

P1000350Five straw hats, two shawl collars, a floaty scarf, a pair of gloves, a posy of flowers and two wine goblets. One girl’s trash is yet another’s treasure! I hope she sends me a photo next term of the results.

Some young friends of mine are pupils at Loughborough High School, where ten tableaux vivants form an integral part of the Carol Service each year. It’s a great activity, and one which has so many educational plus-points. I’m glad that my decluttering could contribute to A’s plan! [however I confess I did retain my favourite straw hat, and that one will come down to Dorset with me]

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cuban Christmas Cookies

Whilst at the WWDP Residential last month, we agreed that we should put an easy recipe in the Children’s activity materials. I found this recipe on the internet, and tweaked it a little. I made up a batch of the cookies this week, and they have been pronounced very good by Bob. OK, I know the Day of Prayer is in March- but they are simple to make, and fun to look at. Here’s the recipe for you now though , so you can make them as part of the festive season.
Torticas de Navidad- Cuban Christmas Cookies from Havana
INGREDIENTS [makes 36 cookies]
1 cup butter
1¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 cups corn flakes lightly crushed into small pieces, NOT crumbs
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins or sultanas
1 cup of glace cherries
Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas 5, line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Cut 12 of the cherries in half, and chop the remainder.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a small bowl [with wooden spoon or with electric mixer].
  • Gradually add the eggs and vanilla.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarb.
  • Add these dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and mix well.
  • Gently fold in the nuts, raisins, and chopped cherries.
  • Take a teaspoon of dough and roll it in the corn flakes.
  • Place the cookies on a baking sheet
  • Put a cherry half in the centre of each cookie.
  • Bake for 14 minutes, cool on a rack
No, I have not the faintest notion why they are [a] Cuban or [b] Christmassy. But they do taste very good!