Journal

Rabbit finger puppet

These little finger puppets are a great hand work project for older children or a wonderful one for adults to make and use in storytelling with younger children.

Equipment

2 colours of felt, one white sheet at least 8.5cm x 10cm

One bright spring colour at least 8.5cm x 10cm

Thread

White wool (for the tail)

Instructions

Cut 2 white rabbits pieces and two coloured rabbits pieces.

Position the cut felt with the two colours pieces inside and the two white pieces on the outside of each side. (white, coloured, coloured, white)

Sew around the edge of the body with a small running stitch. Marked with the dotted line.

Sew one piece of coloured felt to the white outer felt, to create one ear, following the diamond line. Repeat to create the second ear.

With Pink thread create a nose by sewing over point a several times

Sew two small eyes (one each side) with blue or black thread at point c

For the tail make a small wool pompom, by wrapping the white wool  two fingers several times, tie in the centre and then cut the loops at both ends. Attach to point b.

 Gently add a small amount of wool roving to the head to make a nice shape.

Play!

How the Rabbit got his coat

Storytelling with children is really important – try this story out with your little ones – perhaps make a rabbit finger puppet to play out the story too!

A long time ago when the world was new and all. All the animals had coats of different patterns, different sizes and different colours. Some had long fur others short. Some dark and others bright as the sun. They were always talking, talking about whose coat was the best.

The most proud of all the animals was the Otter. She believed her coat was so much better than the others, she would not even live among them for fear for them getting her dirty. Instead she lived far, far up the stream.

In fact Otter had moved so far up the stream, so long ago, many of the younger animals had never even seen her. They began to wonder if her coat really was that fine. So one bright spring Morning, as the days got longer and the young hatched and sprang out of their warm nests, a great meeting was called.

The young ones, who had heard so much about Otter, were worried she would not come. No one even really knew exactly where she lived.

Now the Rabbit thought her coat was the best. She had fine soft fur, smooth as the pussy willow: but what good was it if Otter did not come to the meeting. People would never know her coat was the best. So she made up her mind to travel up the great river and tell Otter of the great meeting.

When she arrived she saw otter with a wondered soft brown fur coat, at once she knew that Otters coat was indeed the most wonderful. Otter was glad to see a visitor and asked her why she was so far up the great river. “ Oh”, said the Rabbit, “the animals sent me to bring you to a great meeting to celebrate the animal with the best fur, and as you live so far away they were afraid you might not know the road.” Otter thanked the Rabbit and together they set off to the meeting.

For three days and three nights they traveled down the river together, until they reached a pass where the thorns grow big and tall and tangled.

Rabbit began to collect sticks and dried leaves, and when Otter asked why she said it would be nice to have a warm fire to spend the evening by. After this Rabbit got a stick and whittled it down to a paddle. The Otter wondered and asked again what that was for. “I have good dreams when I sleep with a paddle under my head,” said the Rabbit.

Next the rabbit began to cut away the thorns to make a clean trail to the water. Otter once more wondered and ask what the Rabbit was doing. Rabbit said “this is the place where is Rains Fire, and it looks like the sky is angry tonight. You go to sleep and I will sit up and watch: if the fire does come I will call to you and you can run into the river. Better hang your coat on that tree over there, so it doesn’t get burnt.”

Otter did exactly this and then curled up and began to sleep. Only Rabbit kept awake. After the fire was only embers the Rabbit filled the paddle with hot coals and threw them up into the air shouting, “Otter, Otter it is raining fire! Run it is raining fire” As the hot coals fell all around the otter up she jumped and ran into the river.

Rabbit at once took Otters coat and put it on. Springing away as fast as she could. Otter has never yet come out of the water.

Rabbit sprang down the track to the great meeting. All the animals were waiting to see Otter. At last when they saw her they said to one another “Look Otter is coming, oh her coat surely is the most marvelous” But the Otter kept her paw over her face and his head down, eventually the brown bear lent close and lowered the paw. All at once everyone saw Rabbits nose. She sprang up to run away and as she started away the Bears paw struck her and pulled her tail off, but rabbit was too quick for them a ran away. And that is why Rabbit lives alone in the field, always watching, with a little white tail in her otherwise prefect coat.

Written from a traditional Cherokee Folk Story
by Stephanie Green

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

500g wholemeal strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
7g sachet fast-action or easy-blend yeast
50g sultanas
340ml Warm Water
100g white flour

Instructions

Mix the flour, salt and sugar  together. In a cup add half the warm water and all yeast together. Make a well in the flour mix and pour the yeast mixture into it. Mix in the bowl until dough is firm enough to turn out. Adding more water as needed. You want to create a sticky dough consistency. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Knead the bread by holding with one hand a stretching until it tares, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 mins. Dusting with flour when needed.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film to rise. Until the dough has doubled in size.

Take the dough and add the sultanas, knead again and leave to rise.

Take the white flour and mix with the water and a little dash of oil, mix and knead to make a strong dough.

Heat the oven to 220c.

Split the dough into 10/15 evenly sized rolls and roll into bun shapes. Roll out the white flour dough into a thin roll. Cut lengths of the roll and make a cross on the top of each bun. Secure in place by wetting just the top of the bun and then tucking the very bottom of the cross ends under the bun. Cook for 15/20 mins, until golden brown.

Easter – 21st April

A point of perfect balance.  As we reach Easter, night and day fall into perfect equilibrium; dark and light, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, all in harmony.  But the world is not in stasis and from this moment onwards the year is waxing and the light defeats the dark.  The earth is alive once more, and the Sun gains strength and warmth as each day gets longer.  With smaller children we can tell stories of the seeds that lay dormant all winter and now return to life and the image of the caterpillar transforming into the butterfly provides a wonderfully tangible experience of the concept.

Just like Christmas, Easter usually falls within the school holidays.  As well as the festival itself, the time leading up to Easter can be a wonderful opportunity to make decorations and tell stories to help children understand this moment and all our celebrations.

Bringing Easter into your home

Many Easter crafts involve eggs; a tradition that pre-dates the Christian festival.  The egg is the perfect self contained promise of new life; symbolising the rebirth of nature, the Earth’s fertility and in some traditions, the universe itself.  To blow eggs use a sharp needle to make a small hole at one end and a larger hole (around the diameter of a straw) at the other then blow firmly through the smaller hole as if to inflate a balloon.  Blown eggs can be dyed with tissue paper and hung on branches around the house, while hard boiled eggs can be dyed for a colourful Easter breakfast.  You might also like to make wind wands, kites or other ribbon fliers to celebrate the turn of the year towards the sun.

Easter trees

This tradition comes originally hailed from Germany but in my home we love it.

At the beginning of the month we cut a large branch from the garden and bed it into a big pot. This Easter Tree then lives as the centre piece on our dinning table.

It’s such fun to work with the children; we decorate eggs, make little rabbits, moons and flowers to hang on the tree. By the time Easter arrive the tree is full of little wonders.

This very simple idea becomes the centre of our spring celebrations; we are also lucky enough that the Easter Hare usually brings the children a basket filled with small treasures, which we find is a great way to escape the masses of chocolate which can overtake this festival.

Spring

The wheel of the year turns once more and as the equinox arrives. We reach balance between light and darkness, on the 20th. Ostara represents the first day of spring. Mother Earth awakens from her winters sleep and new life springs forth once more. We are surrounded by the energy of renewal and rebirth, transformation and healing.

My children love springtime. Every day there is a wonderful new discovery. Buds on trees, blossom busting in to life, baby birds and new flowers. These all help our children to see the cycles of life, to feel the earth breathing

This season is full of some of our favorite festivals painting bulbs, painting eggs, welcoming butterflies and dancing around the May Pole.

Spring Bread.

Nothing is better than sharing bread, especially round the table with little ones. Here is a special Spring bake, with lots of yummy extras to enjoy.

Ingredients

200g of Asparagus
Handful of Fresh thyme
Handful of Fresh coriander leaves
2 large eggs
100ml olive oil
1/2 pint of milk
30g black olives
150g sun dried tomatoes,
200 grated cheese

Instructions

Turn the oven to 190c. Prep a bread tin

Mix the flour and herbs in a bowl. Add the eggs and milk. Stir well.

Blanche the asparagus, (pop it into boiling water for 2-3 min) then cool quickly under cold running water. Leave to dry.

Put a handful of asparagus, olives and cheese to the side to use as a topping.

Add  the rest of the veggies and cheese and give it a little stir.

Pour the mix into the tin. Sprinkle the bits you saved over the top.

Bake for 35 min until the bread feels firm to the touch. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy! 

Conscious consumerism and simple living

In the modern world it’s all too easy to forget nature. It’s easy to have something else to do. It’s easy to overlook the delicate transformation which is taking place in the natural world around us. It’s even easier to drown in stuff, clutter and in our own busy, busy lives.

When our babies were little, it was really hard work to avoid falling into having too much. Birthdays and Christmas we got an avalanche of stuff from really well-meaning friends and family who we love: and without having conversations around how we felt about this idea we would have ended up with a playroom full of pink plastic. Now they are older I’m so grateful my husband and I had these hard conversations. It meant that growing up wasn’t spent endlessly fighting “stuff” (not to say that our place doesn’t get messy – it sure does) but we live in a rural cottage, with low ceilings and beams everywhere so too much clutter shows right away. Add into this mix as a maker I AM NOT TIDY… and I think I can fix any broken object and phew it was hard to keep it simple.

So we came up with a really easy concept: is it under 1m square and made of natural material?

For us that worked.

Luckily load of the people we love already gave the children amazing handmade textiles or toys that last forever: so it just made a really simple add on whenever anyone ask what the kids would like we would say… + so long as it’s smaller that 1×1 and made of natural material.

So why is that important?

Well because as a family we believe that its part of our job, as humans, is to look after the Earth. I read over on Calico and Twine one of my favorite mindful spots on the internet that their care for the earth is rooted “not in fear, but a deep love”: Y E S, beautifully put.

We also work from a position of love: to protect our Earth. I pour my energy into creating beautiful objects that are built to last and I want to surround my children with items that are beautiful and functional. Products that are not quick fashions, but investments that last a lifetime and beyond.  We believe in conscious consumerism rather than convenient consumerism.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Imagine if everyone bought one calendar not one each year. Imagine children had toys that their parents had before them. Imagine if no one ever wanted ‘LOL dolls’!

Albert Einstein said: “Look deep into nature; then you will understand everything.” We that’s what we do. The Robin doesn’t fret about having enough, she knows there plenty. Nature doesn’t stay the same: but it does follow tried and tested paths and patterns.

Is living seasonally stuck in the past?

Well we don’t think so. One of the most common corridor conversations I remember from the Kindergarten parents was equipping children for the future: one thing I have been sure of it’s that a 5 year old doesn’t need an ipad and a desk to become a success. I think in the early years becoming who we are, in our own bodies, connecting with the natural world and discovering with our hands, bodies and senses are critical. We must equip children to be true free thinkers: not indoctrinate them to become consumers because that’s the dominant rhetoric of our culture and time.

It’s about SOUL.

The old concept of having nothing in your house that you think not functional or beautiful is core to our family. I make beautiful soul filled, well-made, UK origin, long-lasting goods as my whole world at the moment so the idea that we would not buy with the same ethos is unimaginable. I think if we choose wisely we are rewarded by a calm, loving space that nurtures our family as we grow.

Top tips to simple living

  1. Tell friends and family what you are doing, set some ground rules for what can come into your home
  2. Go through and charity shop or gift anything that doesn’t look beautiful or serve a function
  3. Invest in well-made objects that will last
  4. What does your child really need? Can to take a minute and think about what the child really needs
  5. Does it have a place, this was a game changer for us: now nothing comes in that we don’t have a place for in advance.

We love living a simple, slow, seasonal life – it’s hard to fight off the consumerism of the world outside (and sometimes inside) my door. But ultimately if I can teach the children that they can make their own tools, grow their own food, make their own clothes and homes: as well as showing them a natural rhythm to guide them – then really – I hope – they will know who they are, their place in the cosmos, right and wrong and be truly free to choose what they want to do with their lives…. And at the end of the day – that’s my goal.

Bringing Nature Home

What goes on a nature table? Where do you keep it? What about when the children bring the twelfth conker and twentieth feather back from the woods? The simple answer is that a nature table can be whatever you want it to be.  Simple or elaborate. The important bit is that however you do it your children will feel a wonderful connection between the outside and inside world: indirectly bringing awareness of the seasons just by having space in your home.

Tips to Set-up a nature table a home.

Tip #1 Make it a special place not used for anything else. For us this is a mantel piece: the children call it “mummy’s special shelf”.
On here goes our collection of seasonal items, forest treasure, handmade wonders, woolen fairies.

Tip #2 You can add a postcard, this can change almost every week to reflect what your are doing – harvesting apples, splashing in puddles, playing out or cozying up by the fire.

Tip #3 A coloured cloth. Some use a coloured cloth as a simple table centre piece but I love this shot of season colour on our nature table. It softens the edges and can be shaped into caves or ponds depending on what you are creating.

Tip #4 Natural finds. Every time the children give me one of those treasures it goes here. The wonderful part is that each turning of the wheel on or around the equinox we clean it out: it reminds me constantly to clear out what no longer serves us.

Festivals

Why do we, across all religions – from ancient to modern – celebrate the turning of the wheel, the changing of the seasons? Apart from being traditions, they are a wonderful way to renew and refresh ourselves. It’s a great way to ‘touch base’ with Mother Earth. I consider the Earth, our home, as more than just a lump of rock and all her peoples can be united by the same truths. Divided languages, culture, religion but united and bound together by our common birth place. We are all human. We can all see harsh winters and glorious springs, play-filled summers and reflective autumns.

In today’s world we can choose to ignore these basic human truths: living outside of nature, inside technology. However our lives are richer and our childrens lives filled more deeply when we connect to these intuitive cycles:
“We need to find festivals at once religious and united with the life of nature which can also unite us simply as human beings” (John Davy – Lifeways).

When we begin to connect with our celebrations as more than merely traditions we naturally turn to festivals that came before and feel that connection to the past. It is then we can see how religious festivals were woven into the rhythms of the year, and how the rhythm of the planets and cosmos still beat now guiding us like heartbeat and leading us through each year.